File under: plus ça change…

“The auction business is booming as more and more Americans catch art-collecting fever.” … “Not since the first hammer dropped to the highest bidder have sales of valuables commanded such audiences, such publicity, such prices.” Sounds timely? The quote is from TIME magazine. The year, 1979 (Dec. 31).

It goes on: “Collectionitis is as pervasive as inflation, as euphoric as a drug high. Its grip reaches far beyond the roseate world of Rembrandts, Sèvres porcelain and Georgian silver. A vast subculture of acquisition is feeding on scarce objects of every conceivable description.” … “It has been only in the past decade or so that the big sales have been covered by the press as Events; the sums paid for art used to be buried in newspapers along with ship arrivals. Now, with the tremendous increases in fine arts prices and the expansion of public interest, big auctions have become flash bulb and video-tape fiestas.” (Thank you to my Sotheby’s Institute of Art student, Cate Andrews.)

Speaking of the press, did anyone else notice the “Talk of the Town” piece in this week’s New Yorker (May 28) about everybody’s favorite British art patron, which starts thus: “The art dealer Charles Saatchi spends a lot of time sitting at his desk”?

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