Richard Polsky is promoting his new book with interviews with NPR and the Wall Street Journal. Skip the Marketplace interview because it’s pretty vapid. But in Polsky’s interview with the WSJ’s Kelly Crow, he makes a point of suggesting that art dealers are not very bright. In fact, he thinks there should be a test:
Speakeasy: In your book, your say the business of buying and selling art is a lot like “high school with money.” How’s the mood in the cafeteria these days?
RP: It’s like grade school with money now. I feel like we’ve all digressed. People become art dealers because they can afford to become art dealers, but it’s not a business so much as a lifestyle. You’re attracted to the life of going to art fairs, hanging out at artists’ studios and taking collectors out to eat. The whole trip of it. And it’s very hard to treat it like a business because you’re dealing with crazy behavior.
A dealer once told me he paid $150,000 for a painting and sold it five years later for $175,000. He was bragging to me about his profit, but I had to wonder what the carrying costs of owning that painting were all those years and what the interest might have been on his line of credit for paying it off. You do the math and he lost money on that deal. People in this field don’t understand Business 101. […]
The White House wants to reform Wall Street –- how would you fix the art market?
This may sound radical, but I wouldn’t mind if the art market was regulated. My colleagues would kill me for saying it, but it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if dealers had to pass an exam to sell art, a test on art history, on the history of the profession and how to price art.
People trade million-dollar paintings with a handshake, and it’s all built on trust. When anyone betrays that trust, there’s little recourse and no SEC to come charging in and checking licenses.
In the art world, values are set when I say a painting is good and you say a painting is great and whoever is right makes the most money. You can’t teach that easily, but I do think we can ask for more due diligence.
“I Bought Andy Warhol” Author Publishes a Sequel (Speakeasy/WSJ)