If there’s one thing I learned from having a closeup view of the nineties tech boom, it’s that the greater public tend to first underestimate a new technology’s impact (i.e email, txt-msgs, and e-commerce). Then, once it proves itself, they overestimate its utility, using it for purposes far beyond its capacity. We definitely saw Step 1 in the art market, where the initial attempts to do business virtually hit a wall (remember the ebay/Sotheby’s collaboration?), proving to skeptics that, “No one buys art they haven’t seen.”
But then collectors started doing precisely that, and at increasingly high price points. So suddenly people started talking about virtual art markets eliminating the need for gallery spaces. To me, that’s edging far into Step 2 described above, a sort of late-adopter euphoria.
There’s a limit to JPGs, after all, even in the age of 10-megapixel cameras. So I was gratified to spot this, buried way down in yesterday’s Independent article Saatchi’s new stars: collector prepares for new gallery opening:
A spokeswoman revealed [Saatchi's] buying methods, which included an arrangement with international art dealers in which he could “view” works for 24 hours before deciding on a sale. “He gets sent images sent by about 25 or so young dealers in New York and Los Angeles and they have now got a system in place whereby if he thinks any of the images are interesting, he get the works sent over here for 24 hours so he can see them properly. If they are not for him they can be sent back the following day,” she said.
As a collector, Saatchi is famously rapid and risk-taking. Yet dozens of works are flying along the NY-LON and LA-LON axes so he can study them in person. Given his influence, that seems like a clear signal that the buying-by-JPG concept has reached the backlash stage of its art-market hype curve. Thoughts?