Bloomberg‘s critic sees the bright side of bad times: good art emerges and bargains abound:
Historically, depressions are bad times to sell art and good times to buy it. A national emergency is the best of all moments to build a collection. Peggy Guggenheim bought a lot of hers just as Germany was poised to invade France in 1940. Everybody, including the artists, wanted to get out of Paris — except Peggy, who toured the studios, picking up bargains.[ . . . ]
It goes without saying that most disasters are also opportunities for someone. Art prices are likely to dip. How much is hard to say. For those still with funds, the next few years might be just the time to begin a collection.[ . . . ]
That brings us to the other point about art in hard times. Slumps and depressions are difficult conditions for those trying to make a living from selling art. They also create the right conditions for new movements to develop.
The Abstract Expressionists — Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko etc. — came to prominence in the 1940s and 1950s. But they actually started in the 1930s. Indeed, it’s possible America wouldn’t have had a postwar avant-garde if it hadn’t been for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s job creation plan, the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Without it, the radical artists would all have succumbed to malnutrition or sought other careers.
As it was, those leaner years proved a good time to incubate new ideas. Similarly, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud — those twin stars of recent auctions — were the cultural progeny of World War II and the austere period that followed in the U.K.