"Crash" Talk Open Thread
So fortunately, these collectors and I spent some time hashing out our thoughts on the subject, which helped me identify the source of my hesitancy to weigh in on the debate. In short, IMO, despite the chicken little chatter prevalent across the art press, the alternative to the market continuing to rise indefinitely (which no thinking person assumes can happen) is not limited to a devastating "crash." There are many other possible futures. Spiegler stated as much in his article, but, again, that alarmist headline overshadowed his balanced take.
Then I found the very informative overview of the issues at hand by George of FutureModern. George gently walks his readers through the vocabulary (crash, contraction, froth, topping phase, etc.), outlines the "crucial factors affecting recent art pricing," and explains the warning signs that some downward turn are coming, including, froth, auction psychology shifts and a stock market decline (or bear market). It's a great read you shouldn't miss.
Finally, yesterday, artinfo.com reported on a lecture Tobias Meyer gave where he offered a very optimistic prediction:
Meyer said the boom can be attributed to “a small supply and an enormous demand” for contemporary art. The supply/demand imbalance is such that “I hardly know what things are worth. It has nothing to do with the market anymore. It just depends how much a collector wants it,” Meyer said.
The heightened demand is coming from a new generation of young collectors “who have made their money by intelligence," said Meyer. "They’re not interested in living a pseudo-aristocratic lifestyle. They want to be part of a living culture.” Big money is also coming from new collectors in Russia, China and India, all of whom love their Warhols, and some of whom will pay anything to get one. Meyer called these “the ‘I-don’t-care collectors.’”
“I think it hasn’t even started yet,” Meyer said of the boom, looking happily bewildered.
Of course, Meyer's argument is virtually verbatim what Spiegler suggests we'll hear from those invested in sustaining the frenzy for as long as possible:
Because if art itself is built on the image, the idea, and the object, the art business hinges on words—the spoken and written seductions that persuade buyers to pay ever-higher sums.What emerges, the more you read, is the clear sense that no one really knows when the art market may cool or crash or may just soar even more, and the smart people are prepared for either to happen. What's perhaps most important for anyone looking for a healthy long-termed relationship with contemporary art (as either collector or artist or consultant or whatever) is to align yourself with the folks who are in it for the long haul...folks who will weather any coming bear-market-storms because it's in their blood. Indeed, Marc relates one anecdote that serves as both comic relief and cautionary tale:
Even [Marc] Glimcher [president of PaceWildenstein gallery], a seller in this seller’s market, is a little tired of [the seller’s market]. “In the VIP room at Art Basel last summer, I overheard these young dealers, people who had booths in the fair, talking about what they’d do when the market crashed—Hollywood producer, agent, etc.,” Glimcher recalls, his voice a mix of outrage and amusement. “I turned around and said, ‘Good riddance. Get out now!’ ”So essentially, I combine all this and to me it seems to form a license to put my nose to the grind stone and simply do what it is I love to do as well as I can do it...being essentially prepared for the worst but ready for ever better things to happen.
The thread is open...UPDATE: Marc Spiegler, who I've met before, was kind enough to email me about this post and upon reading his response I realize I mischaracterized what I had hoped to convey about his article. My only issue with it at all (overall I thought it was excellent) was the title, which I know journalists rarely write themselves and should have emphasized above. Marc also questioned my admittedly glib line about the "the chicken little chatter prevalent across the art press":
About "the chicken little chatter prevalent across the art press": Generally speaking, I think actually there's very upbeat coverage of the market. Pessimistic pieces are handily outpaced by those filled with frothy positivist chatter from dealers and auctioneers, all of whom are vested in a strong market's persistence. Look at all the Chinese Contemporary art-market Eldorado stories lately, for example, with rare mention of the rampant speculation and frequently cowboy behavior of the scene's artists and collectors.I told him I should have clarified that as well. To me the "art press" is increasingly predominantly blogs, and many blogs by artists, who are perhaps at the forefront of discussing more openly the good that could come from a "crash" (i.e., a new-found emphasis on less commercial work). I would agree that the printed art press remains predominantly upbeat. ("Thank God!!" says the dealer who just moved to Chelsea.)