Statisticians to the barricades

For further reading and comment (has anyone read this book?)

Excerpted from Today’s NYTIMES:

“The Art of Pricing Great Art” By DAVID LEONHARDT

The mysterious part of the current [art-market] mania lies in figuring out what exactly makes a piece of art worth $30 million instead of, say, $1 million. Not even people who make their living selling art claim to have much of a definition of great art. In fact, they’re proud not to have one. “That’s where the market becomes magical,” Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s chief auctioneer, told me.For the last five years, though, a man named David W. Galenson, an art lover, modest collector and tenured professor of economics at the University of Chicago, has been trying to change this. He has developed something approaching a unified theory of art, which hasn’t won him many fans in the art world but does a surprisingly good job of explaining the relative value of the world’s great paintings. Even if you know nothing about art, Mr. Galenson can help you understand why Andy Warhol’s 1962 “Orange Marilyn” is expected to sell for more than his 1972 “Mao” at Christie’s postwar auction tonight.
Continue reading “Statisticians to the barricades”

Sothebys tries talking-head video to promote sale

The Tobias Meyer video interview that Sothebys is using to promote the 14 Nov sale is interesting. Have they done one before? Interesting use of the medium; both to push the sale and to show Meyer at his (pretentious) best. Wonder how regular buyers will react? Wonder how the new buyers from Asia that he mentions will react? Interesting that he highlights their presence but makes no comment about how their new tastes may shift the market.

Has anyone done any studies on whether the arrival of successive waves of new money (US, Arab, Russian et al) have shifted the core contemporary (or classical for that matter) Art markets at all? I would guess not much. New money is often not Art informed and therefore it relies on advisors who, in turn, perpetuate the same current Artist vogues. The same Art sub-movements. The only real changes come from new gallerists if they latch on to new sources of capital, as they discover/create new artist reputations, no? I wonder if the arrival of the slightly more confident Chinese will change any of this?

And of course…

$491 Million Sale Shatters Art Auction Record


In a landmark sale, the biggest in auction history, nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of art changed hands last night at Christ’s sale of Impressionist and modern art. Soaring prices for blockbuster paintings by Klimt and Gauguin left thousands of spectators, who came to watch and to buy, gasping.

“It was certainly the most amazing sale I’ve ever taken,“ said a dazed Christopher Burge, honorary chairman of Christ’s and the evening’s auctioneer, after the two-and-a-half hour sale. The evening’s total, $491.4 million, was well over $200 million more than that for any previous auction, topping its high estimate of $427.8 million. (The previous record was $269 million at Christ’s in May 1990.) Of the 84 lots up for sale last night, only 6 failed to sell. The sale included an estimated $125 million worth of artworks that had recently been returned to the heirs of owners from whom they were looted by the Nazis during World War II.

Full article here (reg required)

“Cutting Edge,” the new auction category?

From a recent Christies PR Release. Underline is mine.

”It has been an incredible week for Christies and the London Contemporary Art market,” said Jussi Pylkkänen, President of Christies Europe. “Every major collector in the world travelled to London to attend our sales and the great events at Frieze, the museums and the galleries. Over 25 world auction records were broken at Christies where we have established an incredibly strong position of leadership in the Italian, Post War and Cutting-Edge markets. We look forward to our major London sales in February with great confidence.”

I guess when you’re selling work made in the same calendar year as the auction, then calling it “contemporary” is not enough. The new category may also be a setup for the house’s next strategic moves: Its contemporary art capa, Amy Cappellazzo, told Art Review that she expects to someday be auctioning brand-new works, saying, “We’re the big box retailer putting the mom-and-pops out of business.”

I’m doubting she means that last part. Why? Because auction houses sell whatever they have on hand to sell, whereas galleries build a reputation for discriminating taste. That means that in the long run, auction houses need galleries around, since the highest prices reaped on auction blocks are for pieces first stamped with the imprimatur of prestigious galleries.

The Artists of Tomorrow unveiled Today!

How weird is it for Damien Hirst, the most commercially successful artist on earth, to be judging teenage artists for a show held at an auction-house?

This makes Jack Tilton’s “School Days” show last spring look really responsible toward the educational process. I guess since galleries and arts schools are leery of auction houses, the only solution is to build up a relationship before the kids even go to art school….

Full Christies PR Release follows:

Exhibition of Britain’s Rising Arts Talent to be staged by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and Christie’s this September
National Art Competition and Exhibition
4 – 15 September 2006 All Welcome — Admission Free
Christie’s 8 King Street, St James’s, London, SW1Y 6QT

An exciting new national art exhibition will be staged in September at Christie’s auction house at King Street in London. The exhibition will be an unprecedented celebration of Britain’s up and coming artistic talent and will unveil a selection of the best artwork generated in Specialist Arts Schools and Academies across the country. Spanning the spectrum of two and three-dimensional visual arts, the exhibition at Christie’s will showcase the wealth of talent, the high calibre of work and the enthusiasm of students and staff working in Specialist Schools and Academies.

Over 80 works of art will be selected for the exhibition with two individual artworks chosen as the leading examples of the year’s submissions. The winning artworks will be in two age group categories: 14 – 16 and 16 – 19 year olds. They will be selected by a panel of leading figures in the art world as well as Christie’s experts. The judging panel for 2006 will be chaired by Damien Hirst.. The winners will be announced on 1 September 2006 at Christie’s. Continue reading “The Artists of Tomorrow unveiled Today!”