Call it bad luck or poor timing. Just as Takashi Murakami’s market looked like it would detonate–raising him to the next level on the ladder to becoming like his hero Warhol or contemporary stars like Hirst and Koons–with the record price paid for My Lonesome Cowboy in New York, the credit bubble burst and reset prices across the board. Was Murakami’s moment lost or would the work continue to appreciate in value, if only re-calibrated to a new economic reality? Georgina Adam tries to answer that question in her Financial Times column this weekend:
The art superstar Takashi Murakami is everywhere at the moment. A show of his self-portraits, featuring his bright, smiley flower faces, has just opened at the Perrotin gallery in Paris, and another show opened at Gagosian in New York last week. Murakami has just been picked to exhibit at Versailles next year, following Jeff Koons and the French sculptor Xavier Veilhan. And Tate is giving a whole room to Murakami in its upcoming show Pop Life, opening October 1.
Murakami prices at auction went stratospheric last year, reaching a stunning £9m ($15.16m) for “My Lonesome Cowboy” (1998), a fibreglass sculpture of a spiky-haired youth clutching a lasso of his own semen. But since then his market has weakened and prices have fallen sharply. Buy-ins rose by 43.3 per cent between September 2008 and July 2009, according to the auction database www.artprice.com. One major failure was at Phillips de Pury last October, when the 23-foot paint-and-steel Buddha figure, “Tongari-kun”, (2003-2004), estimated at £3.5m, failed to raise a single bid.
Prices at the Paris show range from $150,000 to $2.2m and according to Emmanuel Perrotin, virtually all the pieces were sold even before it opened. So what is happening here? Trade sources say that the market has collapsed in the mid-range, but remains strong for top-of-the-range work. And Murakami has some powerful collectors, including the US hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen and Christie’s owner François Pinault.
The Art Market (Financial Times)