Hmmm...Be Careful What You Ask For, eh?
Still, this article in The Art Newspaper today did give me pause. Is the emerging art market cooling off?
The penny has finally dropped. For the last few years, several US museums have competed for the very latest work by the hottest contemporary artists, purchasing at the top end of an intensely speculative market. For example, according to our annual acquisitions survey, in 2002 five museums bought work by German photographer Thomas Struth, who was then enjoying his greatest popularity and highest prices, buoyed by museum exhibitions in Dallas and Cleveland, and at commercial galleries in New York and Germany.Now this may simply be a reflection of maturing tastes. The conventional wisdom on the street (10th Avenue, if you must know) is that the current market is bustling because an ever-larger group of wealthy Baby Boomers are retiring, folks who now have much more free time and are looking for ways to enrich their lives. Collecting art is a very good way to spend that hard earned cash, in my opinion, but there's a sense that many neophites were buying before they had a good grounding in what's a smart purchase. Perhaps, now, a few years into the feeding frenzy, they're slowing down a bit and going for the artists whose "reputations are already secured."
In 2005, the overwhelming majority of museums chose to focus on established, mid-career and post-war artists, such as Ed Ruscha and Jasper Johns, whose artistic reputations are already secured. This trend was very much in evidence at ArtBasel/Miami Beach last December, where a number of dealers noted the shift, as reported in the daily newspaper we published at the fair.
Which may show itself to be an overcompensation, actually. In my opinion, the trick isn't buying work only by artists who are already in the history books. The trick is to learn 1) what your personal collection is going to be (what it will reflect...what will distinguish it, other than your own superior tastes...that is, its Point of View); 2) what among the works that are available by established artists strengthen that POV; and 3) who among younger emerging artists are doing work that will also strengthen that point of view. In other words, it's about really understanding what it is you're collecting. Having work that's in the history books (current or future) is flattering, I'm sure, but if your collection is a mess, I don't see how it can give you much joy beyond that. One day it's bound to dawn on you that it could have been richer.
OK, so I see I'm rambling now...off to get coffee...anyone else have an opinion about what the shift toward established artists means?
PS: You really owe it to yourself to read this brilliant review by Tyler Green in yesterday's Observer. I'm still digesting what the implications are for what MoMA apparently decided here.