One of the favorite gripes about the Contemporary art market is that auction houses somehow perform feats of mass hypnosis to beguile buyers into parting with huge sums of cash in exchange for unworthy drek. Commentators as diverse as Souren Melikian, Morley Safer and Brian Sewell have resorted to it. Another strand sees market manipulation behind every price move.
Here Sergey Skaterschikov succumbs to the big conspiracy view of the Basquiat market:
What happened is auctions and dealers succeeded in convincing collectors that Basquiat is a Warhol proxy, a peer to Warhol with a discount,” he said. These insiders used research, catalogs and special exhibitions to advance their arguments; the more demand they generated for Basquiat, the more money they could devote to promotional materials. “They all have a vested interest to keep the story going,” Skaterschikov said.
That’s one reason Basquiat’s art has been hunted so aggressively over the last six years. One of his paintings, optimistically estimated to be worth $12 million, recently sold at auction for $16 million. As Skaterschikov put it, “In this market, perception is reality.”