The journalist as Artmarket middleman

I’m between Berlin and London. On the plane to Frieze, I picked up the FT’s weekend section and came across this jaw-dropper in Anthony Haden Guest’s column:

“About 18 months ago I was asked to help with the sale of a postwar painting by bringing in an appropriate private dealer. I decided this would be an educational process. The protocol was hush-hush. I wasn’t told who the seller was. Nobody was to know the identity of more than one principal. The sum was north of $20m. I was told that only 30 people in the world would be potentially up for the deal. Within 18 hours there were five players. Within 36 hours, everybody knew exactly who everybody else was. And they didn’t love each other one bit. The deal went ker-blooey. Yes, it certainly was educational. So the New World Order of Big Art still resembles the wicked old art world more than somewhat. But is it transformed and transforming? I think possibly yes.”

I can’t decide if I’m more stunned that AHG copped to this in print or that his FT editor let him run the column. Can you imagine a similar aside in a column on, say, the pharma industry, or closer to home, the pop-music industry? And what was his proposed commission on the deal?

Once again, I think this betrays the utter nonchalance with which the mainstream press tends to handle writings about the art market. Or am I too sensitive?

1 thought on “The journalist as Artmarket middleman”

  1. I wonder if it isn’t more the fact that unless it is as interesting as this, general newspaper editors still yawn at Art stories.

    As you suggested in an earlier post – Art really isn’t that important to most people. It happens to be going through a fashionable period at the moment, driven as always by a flood of people with new money, but it still isn’t all that newsworthy to most. And the FT is not the Art Newspaper, so their bar is higher for stories.

    On the other hand – there was nothing in the piece that was surprising other than, as you say, he exposed the amateurish workings of the process in which he was involved.

    Time for a different type of Art. We are off to the Summer Palace today (en famille).

Leave a Reply