Robert Landau has certainly earned the right to bemoan the transition from collectors to buyers as the art world has expanded and risen in value. His gallery has some of the best inventory in the world.
But for someone who has a great deal of his personal net worth tied up in his inventory—“You earn a living selling art, but you make a fortune keeping it”—his complaints are somewhat contradictory.
The huge prices we see today are dependent upon the influx of these new buyers and would not exist without them:
The impulse to collect art has always arisen from a complex amalgam of aesthetic pleasure and connoisseurship on the one hand, and status-building and investment on the other. As the market has boomed, the latter factors have become more prominent, Landau thinks. High-rolling collectors who can spend millions on art are, in effect, boasting that they can throw money at something that will never pay a dividend or rent — although the unregulated nature of the art market makes it an attractive means of shifting wealth around. The decline in connoisseurship, says Landau, means few buyers understand what they are doing.