Pace/Wildenstein founder Arne Glimcher has a commentary on the art market on the DailyBeast.com today. What he wants to say about the art market isn’t entirely clear. But let’s go through some of his points and see if we can make sense of them. After all, what Glimcher knows about the art market is valuable.
Is Glimcher sincere in this comment on the small auction catalogues? Few commenters have expressed an expectation of strong sales, even distressed sales. Or is this a straw man?
For one thing, everyone expected an avalanche of art to come to market—especially from the collections of hedge-fund guys and real-estate moguls whose fortunes dissolved even more rapidly than they were made. We anticipated auction catalogs stacked liked skyscrapers, but we were wrong.
Glimcher tells us that owners of important works (not the art bought be strapped hedgies and real estate-niks mentioned above, one presumes) avoid the auction houses–especially now that guarantees are gone–to prevent any feelers for a sale from tainting the work’s eventual value:
The fact that art auctions are only a part of the art market is rarely acknowledged. Consequently, more collectors are often selling through dealers, where the work is shown privately to few clients and the sale is made without “burning” the painting. The art gallery market in total far exceeds the auction market annually, but you don’t read about it in the papers.
At the same time, the art world seems incapable of keeping a secret. Few buyers work with only one dealer and knowledge is the coin of the art world. So it is very hard to keep an offered work a secret with the army of private dealers, art advisors and other operatives all talking about what’s available.
Finally, Glimcher closes with a cautionary tale of a Jeff Koons Cracked Egg sculpture bought be a collector for $2 million but unsuited to the collectors new home. It was sold back to the dealer–you know who–who subsequently sold it to a “Russian” for $22 million. Glimcher blames this sort of vertiginous pricing on the auction prices for the Koons’s work. And he’s got a good point there.
Will the Auction Houses Get Hammered (DailyBeast.com)