If you listen to professionals the art market is getting the full blow of the economic crisis we are currently in : "c'est horrible, ma chère Gladys, my Rothko sold for only 500,000 dollars yesterday." Effectively one Rothko belonging to David Rockfeller sold for 72 millions dollars last year and a very similar one just made half a million dollar this week at Christie's. And frankly the differences between the two works do not justify such a tremendous gap.
So is there a crisis or not ? According to French art market expert Artprice, "le marché de l'art est ravagé par la crise". Oh my goodness ! Gladys is passing out and lets her Vuitton purse fall on the floor of the Art market exchange when she hears that. Her ankles swell terribly in her Prada shoes and her chauffeur Maurice, the nice black man from Haiti, rushed to her $70,000 Lexus to bring her back to her Manhattan mansion.
Artprice is convinced that the market is heading towards the levels of 2000 and that it is the worst crisis since 1990. Well I say "tant mieux" because there is no reason for the tech markets to be mauled by a speculative bubble and for the art market to be spared the same.
Having said that I have a simple question : which art market Artprice is talking about ? Rothko, De Kooning, Kelly and other overrated painters ? To my knowledge the Old Masters, famous or not, behaved extremely well this week in Amsterdam reaching prices well beyong the estimates. Even this little "pasticheur" of Jean Michel Basquiat, the Haitian artist who could not overcome an...overdose and draw a face, reached record prices with this atrocious "Boxeur" : the canvas (picture) painted in 1982 is a solid acrylic and oil paintstick on linen and reached this week the fabulous sum of $ 13.5 million. Sincerely I am asking who is most ravaged by the crisis : the art market or the brains of the buyer of this boxing atrocity ?
And Artprice to whine that "important works by Cézanne, Van Gogh, Matisse, Monet and Modigliani were bought back." So sad !! Well there is no sadness to notice that people's gullibility has its limits and that the art market is like any other exchange a... market. It is that simple. So simple that works by artists like Calder, the inevitable mobile sculptor, went well beyond their estimates and Artprice did not whine when his "Untitled" (picture) was acquired this week by a "ravaged" man for almost $ 800,000 vs. a maximum estimate of $ 780,000.
All that to say that the market is becoming at last reasonable, that old values continue to behave and ignore the storm and that, as always, some overrated artists will continue to be overrated. Who said that the market is smart and wise and that the trees grow up to the sky ? Remember what John Meynard Keynes used to say about the markets :"we have a tendency to forget that the markets are made of a conglomerate of fools, idiots and gullible suckers who are the very same ones that we socialize with at our club."
In conclusion, Artprice wrote in his web letter that "it is highly likely that between now and 2010 we will see an average price drop of 30 to 40%, taking valuations back to 2003-2004 levels." Only ? Personally I'd not be so optimistic.