‘The Price of Everything’ documentary deserves a better review; Venus Over Manhattan pops into San Francisco
This commentary by Marion Maneker is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
The Classic Car Market Moves Toward the Middle
A trend that has been visible in the fine art market emerged as a defining feature of the classic car market after the 10-day round of sales held in Arizona last week. The overall sales volume recorded by Hagerty was $251m against the previous year’s $248m. Hagerty had projected slightly higher sales but there was a bit of buyer’s strike at the top end of the market with several of the most highly estimated cars failing to find buyers or convince sellers to compromise on their expectations.
Cars valued above $1m had 48% sell-through rate, normally that’s closer to 60%. According to Hagerty, cars below $250,000 “posted the strongest prices compared with current market values. This phenomenon helped push the medium sales price from $40,700 a year ago to $47,300 this year.”
- Of the 3,294 vehicles offered up for bidding, 2,660 sold. That’s an 81 percent sell-through race, a slight decrease from the 84 percent figure for 2018.
- “There are clearly two distinct and separate markets in effect,” said Dave Kinney, publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide. “Distilled down, big-dollar players are sitting on their hands while the most accessible vehicles are attracting all the bidding.”
- “The split in the market is apparent in measures like share of vehicles bid above Hagerty Price Guide values,” Hagerty’s news release added. “For offerings below $250k, the share more than doubled from 15 percent on average in 2018 to over 34 percent in 2019.” However, “The opposite happened for offerings above $250k, with the share falling from 33 percent to 17 percent in 2019.”
The Value of Nothing
The New York Review of Books has Susan Tallman pen a synopsis of the HBO documentary, The Price of Everything which has been streaming for a few months now. The filmmaker’s look at the art market has provoked a number of reactions but the surprising one has been how many viewers in the art trade have found it fair-minded, affecting and authentic.
Tallman doesn’t share that view. Her take is mostly distaste for the whole idea of buying and selling art. That’s fine. But two of her assertions are worth examining.
One is the idea that somehow art trading was and ought to be a secret affair:
- “Once upon a time, the buying and selling of art was conducted discreetly in back rooms; auctions were the dingy purview of specialist dealers; and contemporary art barely got a look in.”
One could present a number of different instances where the commercial interests of art were quite visible. For example, the long-lived French academy and salons were Contemporary art by active living artists. Although the salons were not auctions, they were the means by which artists pursued their livelihoods and got a “look in.”
Tallman also takes exception to Phillips former animating force claiming art has to be expensive to be looked after:
- “[T]he voice of ex-auctioneer Simon de Pury intones, “Art and money have always gone hand in hand… It’s very important for good to be expensive… The only way for cultural artifacts to survive is for them to have a commercial value.” It’s a statement so silly (plenty of extant cultural artifacts predate money by millennia) that one can only assume it is meant to shock rather than to be believed …”
One can argue whether “the only way” for artifacts to survive is by becoming “expensive.” But it is weak and barely relevant to argue that the existence of some artifacts that have been unearthed by archeologists—and might have pre-dated money—negates the de Pury’s point that we cherish and protect objects that are valuable.
Tallman would have been better off pointing out that de Pury has his cause and effect backwards. Works of art are monetarily valuable after they have been recognized as being culturally valuable. That’s why we have stories of over looked works and artists becoming more valuable over time.
All of this is really a long way around getting to the point that HBO’s film—which really is one of the better attempts to present the art market and has some affecting “performances” by Amy Cappellazzo, Stefan Edlis, Larry Poons and a number of others—deserves a better and more thoughtful essay that Tallman was capable of writing.
Venus Pops Up in San Fran
With the Los Angeles outpost of Venus Over Manhattan currently moving to a new building that Adam Lindeman is developing in LA’s arts district downtown, the gallery opened a pop-up exhibition to coincide with FOG art fair nearly two weeks ago that will run until March 8.
- “[T]he precise placement of four pieces by the French architect and designer Charlotte Perriand, in careful relation to a pair of nearly black canvases by the Italian painter Alberto Burri, mounted by a couple of joyful table-scaled sculptures by Americans Ken Price and Alexander Calder, might count as an artistic act in itself.”