Somehow this New York Times story on artists and their falling markets turns into a pallid defense of the idea of consulting auction data for understanding the value of an artist’s market, surely not what Artnet wanted when it cooperated with the paper’s reporters:
Representatives for artists who have not done as well at auction say the data does not really measure the true value of their work. More ambitious pieces are often sold privately, by dealers, they said, and those prices are generally not made public. Only about half of all art purchases are made at auction, where prices are announced and can be analyzed.
“It’s a tool that you really need to use with caution,” said Ron Warren, the director of the Mary Boone Gallery, which represents Mr. Schnabel and Mr. Fischl.
Some also worry that whatever the accuracy of auction data, using it to track values is a crude exercise that considers aesthetic expressions only as commodities.
[…] Still, more and more people now consult auction data compiled and analyzed by a growing number of companies that seek to provide quantitative measures of value. These consultants acknowledge that auction data is an imperfect tool.
“But there is no other verifiable measure of fluctuation of value — up or down — and the overall health of the market,” said Michael Plummer, co-owner of Artvest, an art investment advisory firm. “Without it, we would all be fumbling around in the dark.”
Does Money Grow on Art Market Trees? Not for Everyone (New York Times)