Even though there is credible evidence that buyers do not flip art any more now (relative to the size of the art market) than previously, the spurious notion that the market is driven by speculators continues to gain stature. Leave it to a master speculator (and that is what an art dealer is, a person who sees the value that others do not) to play brilliantly upon the art world’s insecurities.
Here the astute Scott Reyburn offers up in the New York Times some of those who have swallowed the lure :
These days, it’s difficult to disentangle how much of this money is being spent by investors, speculators and status-seekers or by what dealers still like to call “true” collectors — buyers driven by a personal, connoisseurial passion for art.
An installation at the October Frieze Masters fair in Regent’s Park by the London dealer Helly Nahmad evoked that “true” collecting spirit. Set in 1968, the installation created the interior of a Paris apartment of a fictional Italian intellectual named Corrado N. It portrayed modest rooms in which original works by Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Joan Miró and other modernist masters jostled for space with books, exhibition catalogs, piles of “Paris Match” and a black-and-white TV.
“That installation touched so many nerves in people,” said Michael Short, an art adviser based in Berlin. “You were looking at art in a living environment. Was that really a Giacometti next to the bed? It was the classic collector who bought art to keep, not to sell it three years later.”
The collector was fake. The apartment was fake. The possessions representing a slice of a life were fake too. The art was real but the collection itself was not. Like gangsters quote The Godfather to fret about the loss of honor, art professionals obsess over their status as true collectors, an idea continually promoted by the dealers who flatter them:
But does anyone still buy contemporary pieces in a more personal way — one that conforms to the nostalgic notion of “true” collecting?
“They do still exist,” said Ivor Braka, a private dealer and art collector based in London. “They’re not herd animals. They’re prepared to buy according to their own standards and tastes. They have inner confidence and don’t take the advice of others over much. Their taste can be bad as well as good, but they’re prepared to be maverick.”
When Contemporary Art Evokes True Love (NYTimes.com)