Souren Melikian is an erudite connoisseur of a wide range of art. So it is no surprise that with a perspective that runs a few thousand years he would take a wait-and-see view of the Contemporary art market. In this report on the Contemporary sales in New York, he characterizes works by Warhol, Koons, Hockney and Wool as jokes perpetrated by the artists upon the market.
What is surprising is to see him give a painter like Peter Doig unqualified praise:
In between jokes, buyers relaxed by having a go at more traditional art. Peter Doig’s “Night Fishing,” painted in 1993, seems at the edge of abstraction until you make out the ghostly shape of a canoe with a man huddled in the middle. The large picture is as stunning in its painterly mastery as it is original. That brought $4.64 million.
Be that as it may, the real curiosity is the equanimity with which Melikian greets the Contemporary art sales:
An uncanny optimism is driving the art market. Consider the happy mood that came forth this week at the New York contemporary art sales. These went like a dream, which in this high-risk area that filled some professionals with misgivings is remarkable.
During the height of the art boom, Melikian regularly blamed high prices for art he deemed unworthy to be the work of speculators. But we’ve always felt that the logic there was backwards. Speculators buy low and sell high. Last year’s buyers were buying high and are unlikely to sell. What about this year’s buyers? The surprise of the New York auctions was the limited rotation of artists in Post-War and Contemporary art. Buyers still wanted Warhol, Koons, Wool and Doig. Could these buyers be speculating that prices for these names will eventually return to boom time highs? Is that a wise bet? Only time will tell.
Optimistic Buyers Push Up Sales of Contemporary Art (New York Times)