Colin Gleadell is an exacting observer of the art market, neither a bull nor a naysayer. More than any other follower of the art market, he understands the mechanics of the market as well as the value–aesthetic and monetary–of the art. Here he uses Ben Lewsis’s recent documentary on the Contemporary art market to explain the role of dealers and dealer/collectors in the market:
But in his main aim, which seems to have been to expose the role of dealers and collectors in pushing up prices by bidding on the works of artists at auction in whom they have a vested interest, he fell short. If they had inflated values artificially, they would have needed a collaborator to compete against in the bidding process, and this is not demonstrated. That some dealers do bid on those artists (Lewis focused on the Mugrabi family in New York for Warhol and Jay Jopling’s White Cube gallery for Damien Hirst), whether for themselves or for clients, is hardly as shocking a revelation as Lewis makes out. During last week’s sales in New York, the Mugrabis were still bidding for Warhols and White Cube was supporting its artists, buying two works by Jake and Dinos Chapman; and why not? Not so long ago, dealers rarely supported their artists at auction, and almost every artist dreaded their work being sent to what the painter C R W Nevinson called “the knacker’s yard” in case it was either unsold or given away for a ludicrous price.