Bloomberg ran a story on how the art market recovered from the financial crisis. The story is framed to show that the financial crisis was a buying opportunity for collectors like Mitchell Rales, whose private museum Glenstone opens to the public soon, as well as “Eli Broad, Leon Black and Paul Allen; French luxury-goods baron Bernard Arnault; Russian fertilizer king Dmitry Rybolovlev; and members of Qatar’s royal family.”
Curiously, Bloomberg points to the record price of $5.8m paid by Philippe Ségalot for Yayoi Kusama’s No. 2 during the November 2008 sales as coup. Even though it was record price then, Bloomberg says the same piece would be worth almost six times that now.
On the face of it, you could see why they might think that. Kusama’s fame has only increased and spread in throughout the ensuing decade. She has grown to be an extraordinarily popular artist since then regularly filling museums to overflowing for her exhibitions around the world.
Bloomberg adduces an impressive chart of the Japanese painter’s auction volume to support the point that Kusama’s prices ought to be six-to-seven times higher today. Yet auction volume isn’t price level; and Kusama’s top prices have not risen substantially over those same 10 years.
The white Infinity Net painting from 1959 that set the 2008 record remains the fourth highest price paid for the artist’s work at auction. The three works that exceeded the 2008 price are all similar. All three are Infinity Nets; two are white; and all were made in the same 1959-1960 period.
The similarities continue. All three sold between 2014-2015; and they are tightly grouped around the $5.8m and $7m price points. That’s a 20% rise over six-to-seven years.
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