Alexandra Peers opens New York Magazine this week identifying the rotation of names in the Contemporary art market as auction houses look for under-sold artists whose work can excite the market:
Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s gavel-wielding chief of contemporary art, says, “It is no accident that we focused on artists with longer careers” in choosing the lots this time. (Only six were born after 1959.) “We asked ourselves, ‘What artists haven’t been hyped up too much, haven’t had auction records?’ ” If significant works by some younger artists like Matthew Barney (age 42) or John Currin (46) had come up for sale, Sotheby’s would have taken them “in a second,” he says—but they didn’t. (That said, Sotheby’s slate, featuring a 1988 Kippenberger, is still “groovy,” he adds.)
Top dealers like PaceWildenstein and David Zwirner are going old school, too, showing Alex Katz and Alice Neel as collectors stream into town. Even Phillips de Pury, known for its support of young hot artists, has an auction featuring Baldessari, Judd, and Guston. The house had six Damien Hirsts in its evening sale last May, but none this time. Also MIA: Tom Friedman, Mark Bradford, and Hernan Bas. The downturn has doused collectors and dealers’ willingness to experiment, says private dealer Paul Quatrochi, who’s put his own holdings on the block recently, unsuccessfully.
From this, Peers says there’s more than a “classic boom-bust cycle” at work. Murakami, Hirst, Cecily Brown, Dana Schutz and a bunch of Contemporary Chinese artists are being punished for having been too prolific. By this she means that artists with multiple, easy-to-recognize work are seen as difficult to buy with the lurking danger of work losing its value.
That may be true. And the absence of much work by Andy Warhol would also suggest that high-volume artists are harder to sell in smaller market. But we also saw the sales of several artists like Gursky and Struth slow to a trickle even while the boom lasted.
But an anonymous commenter on New York’s site adds these observations:
2. In the younger-than-50 sweepstakes at Sotheby’s, a huge and hideous Dan Colen monolith (atop purple-dyed tallis) is given place of honor – you elevate what you are given – next to a Cecily Brown triptych, both thrown into a room with better known work.
4. In the Sotheby’s day sales, a couple of decent Vik Muniz (including a picture of chocolate), three Tom Friedman (two photos, one faux Brancusi endless column out of Dixie Cups), various Kelley Walker, Wade Guyton, an Aaron Young gold plated fence (just bought last year). Also lots of new Chinese painting being dumped on 3.
6. Age is a relative yardstick and can be misleading. The following artists, all born 1958-60 and with work for sale in the upcoming auctions, do not form a cohesive trend in the marketplace: Maurizio Cattelan, Peter Doig, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alec Soth, Jack Pierson, Glenn Ligon, Ashley Bickerton, Thomas Ruff, Keith Haring, Steven Parrino.
Little Warhols (New York Magazine)