Christian Viveros-Fauné gets distracted in his Village Voice polemic against the depredations of the art market, a story that has been getting passed around a fair bit this morning. Decrying “money at the center of an art world that is increasingly rotten” Viveros-Fauné shows no reason to believe that the art world is any more riddled with greed today than it has been in the past but he does pass up an opportunity to show how short-sighted it is to judge the value of art by the moves of the market.
The pre-text for the article is a press release from nearly a year ago touting the Hort family and their role in discovering artists who go on to have brief market pops. But the scandal here isn’t the faux insider trading (the Horts have no real inside information in their possession, after all.) What’s sad about the PR’s ham-handed attempt to generate interest is that it uses the wrong benchmark. Prices, especially short-term price moves, have only limited meaning for valuing a work of art. Here’s the press release that Viveros-Fauné quotes at length:
Peter, along with his family, also provide grants to emerging artists without representation through the Rema Hort [Mann] Foundation and have a proven track record of helping develop lesser-known artists into superstars.
In the last three years artists [Rashid Johnson], Jon Pestoni, Alex [Olson] and Keltie Ferris have all seen their prices more than double. Over the last decade, artists Kehinde Wiley, Elizabeth Peyton, and Richard Prince have seen the value of his [sic] work appreciate by more than 100%. The Hort Family Collection, of which Peter Hort is a part, invested early in each of these artists. The Hort Family has a reputation for creating more value for works they collect.
In regular finance, if you have insider information about a stock, it is illegal to invest in that stock. In the art world, it is not only legal, it is done regularly. Peter Hort, along with his wife and family, are the people who create the insider information.
Viveros-Fauné could have written a brilliant take down of this list of artists or dug deeper into the Horts’ collection to see whether they really have a nose for finding long-term talent. He could have revealed the real “Dirty, Big Secret” in art market that’s not much of a secret either. The art market doesn’t measure cultural merits of an artist or her work. It only measures the desire of one buyer to possess a work today.
Art’s Dirty, Big Secret (Village Voice)