Bonham’s Matthew Haley posted this comment after reading the Wall Street Journal’s story on Benedikt Taschen and the extraordinary prices Helmut Newton’s “Sumo” has achieved:
The Wall Street Journal’s numbers for Sumo are indeed interesting. They are also misleading, as so often happens when newspapers report on the art market. I have frequently seen decent copies of Sumo fail to sell in auction at low estimates of $1,500 (its original retail price), and I have seen copies sell for $6,000 or more.
It tends to make the least money when sold in book auctions (where bookish buyers know that a “limited edition” of 10,000 copies published a decade ago is unlikely to be worth many times what it originally sold for) and the most money in design, interiors or other non-book auctions – where I fear uneducated buyers are getting carried away on the kind of hype in the Wall Street Journal piece.
It’s an important book, no doubt, and a fine piece of printing. But it is not worth the$15,000 that someone apparently paid on eBay for a copy, and collectors should be cautious about buying a Taschen limited edition and in the hope of making 1000% in a decade.
A market based on lack of knowledge can only last so long (tulips, the South Sea Company, et al.). “Benedikt Taschen’s Risky Business” indeed.