The New York Times has a late story trying to situate Bert Kreuk’s legal victory over the artist Danh Vo within the context of last year’s frenzied panic over art flippers. And though the Times itself commissioned a study that showed there was no more art flipping today—given the relative size of the art market—than there has been in previous periods, this story suggests otherwise. Nevermind that the last two cycles of sales in New York and London showed little evidence of demand in the day sales for the very artists the story mentions.
Perhaps the most striking omission is that Doreen Caravajal casually refers to an “unregulated art market” but fails to recognize that the Dutch court is actually trying to provide some regulation here. Verbal agreements are extremely common in the art market. Here the judge has required the artist fulfill a contract. In other words, the often arbitrary and capricious behavior of dealers trying to manage their artist’s markets is facing a regulatory framework that limits their behavior. That’s a big deal in the art world.
Here’s how Caraval tells it:
The feud is a tug-of-art over mistrust and claims of broken promises, with a ruling that appears to be a first in Dutch legal history. But it is also a struggle intensified by the rapid rise in art prices and the unwritten rules of the unregulated art market, in which quick sales are more common for young, emerging artists like Mr. Vo, 39. Very wealthy art collectors are on the prowl for works produced by an elite group of artists like Oscar Murillo, Lucien Smith and Eddie Peake, whose works have been rated like technology stocks, their prices rising steeply. Artnet, the online art researcher, said that in 2014, the number of works created in the past three years and sold at auction topped 9,800, compared with about 3,100 in 2012.
The total sales of Mr. Vo’s works at auction have risen from about $33,700 in 2012 to $2.37 million this year.
“He’ll be around for a long time — one of the most important artists working today,” said Carlos A. Rivera, the founder of the data website ArtRank, which tracks sales patterns. He added that Mr. Vo’s classification as “early blue chip” was a designation “for artists whose work may have exponentially gained value, yet who we do not feel is overvalued, nor due for a near-term correction.”
Danh Vo and Bert Kreuk’s Legal Battle Pits Artist Against Collector (NYTimes.com)