Friday, December 12, 2008


Jeff Koon's most expensive work Hanging Heart sculpture fetched $ 25.7 million at a Sotheby's sale in New York in November 2007. The 9ft-tall sculpture was created in stainless steel and consists of a giant heart, weighing 3,500lbs (1,600kg), suspended from the ceiling by two delicate gilded strands and hovering 16 inches (40cm) from the floor. The sculpture took 10 years to complete and was bought by the NYC-based Gagosian Gallery.

Lawrence Gilbert "Larry" Gogosian is probably the most famous "branding" art dealer on the planet and is capable to sell and brand absolutely anything to anybody. With Maurice Saatchi he is one of the most sough-after dealers on the Contemporary art market and a work on display at his gallery is certain to fetch incredible heights when he decides to sell it or to go down the drain if he is determined to dump it and his maker.

Having said that art dealers and galleries have a precarious existence. If you look at a listing of major galleries of the late 90s you will notice that 50% of them have vanished without much attention paid to the fact. In spite of the huge scandal that blighted them at the end of the 90s until 2001, Sotheby's and Christie's are still there and more active than ever. In 10 years, considering the current economic trends, will there be any collector willing to pay more than $25.7 million for this heart ?

I doubt it and if you talk to some serious art dealers the most frequent opinion is a resounding "NO". Even the flamboyant and tough Larry Gagosian may be then history. Of the thousand artists who had serious gallery shows in New York city and London during the 1980s, only 20 were on offer at Sotheby's and Christie's in 2007. More 8 of 10 works purchased directly from an artist and half the works purchased at auction will never again resell at their purchase price.

In conclusion, high prices on the Contemporary art market are made up by branded dealers like Gagosian who promote their artists and by the very successful marketing job of auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's. Buying Contemporary art at current prices is "the art of the fool and the very rich".

NB : Koons's works are exposed until the 4th of January 2009 at the Palais de Versailles, near Paris (France).

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