Thursday, May 17, 2007

Auction Madness

One's jaw simply drops.

One day after Sotheby's set a record for a contemporary-art sale (at $254.8 million), Christie's makes that look quaint. From
The New York Times:

Buyers from all over the world spent millions of dollars at Christie’s last night as if it were play money. Together they made auction history: the most successful sale of postwar and contemporary art ever. Records were set for 26 artists, including Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Gerhard Richter and Damien Hirst.

The two-and-a-half-hour sale totaled $384.6 million, nearly $80 million more than its high estimate of $305.5 million. Only 4 of the 78 works failed to sell.
Reading through the results on is like entering Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory: you simply can't believe your eyes. Lot after lot after lot smashed its high estimate. The big winner was Warhol:

lot# 15
Artist: Andy Warhol
Title : Green car crash - Green burning car I
Year: 1963 -
Medium: synthetic polymer, silkscreen ink and acrylic on
Size: 90 x 80 in. / 228.6 x 203.2 cm.
Estimate: 25,000,000 - 35,000,000 US$
Sold For: 71,720,000 US$
It's tempting in the face of such prices to look for trends, and although it's not entirely supported by the results at Christies and Sotheby's there does seem to be a demand for art of the 60s, but other trends are difficult to spot. Of the work bought in (suggesting perhaps what's not so hot) the mix is inconclusive. Only 9 pieces were bought in between the two auctions:

Ashile Gorsky
Donald Judd (who also set a record, mind you)
Lisa Yuskavage
John Currin (despite our discussion about these two the other day, don't assume a trend; another Yuskavage went beyond its high estimate)
Gerhard Richter
Jackson Pollock (twice)
Willem de Kooning
Luc Tuymans

The are two mini-trends in there, perhaps (complex abstraction and naked women), but that's a stretch.
Long story short, there's little rhyme or reason to the results other than people with big bucks want art. God bless 'em.

Labels: art auctions


Anonymous Bambino said...

I can't belive it

5/17/2007 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Heart As Arena said...

Antidote. Zoe Strauss at Silverstein on Saturday night. High quality Xerox prints = $5. For people with little bucks. God bless us.

5/17/2007 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous jason said...

Long story short, there's little rhyme or reason to the results other than people with big bucks want art. God bless 'em.

Apparently the Iraq War, as part of our nation's ruthless pursuit of global dominance, has been rather lucrative for the upper-echelon of the U.S. economy. Those who have gained the most are rewarding themselves by investing in the highest of high-class cultural objects, the possession of which is practically guaranteed to make their new owners even richer!

5/17/2007 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger friknidjit said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/17/2007 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous joy said...

more (and a vid) via CNBC:
Booming Art Market;=1#
"New collectors from around the world are pushing art prices for contemporary art to new levels, with Eileen Kinsella, ARTnews editor and CNBC's Bill Griffeth..."

5/17/2007 11:39:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...

Watch it today at 1.15pm CNBC News Power Lunch

5/17/2007 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

The two-and-a-half-hour sale totaled $384.6 million...

Wow, here in L.A. that's almost enough to buy a house!

5/17/2007 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Hans said...

The Warhol's really look bad, I personally wouldn't spend more than 10,000 for them. History will regulate. Most of the works look pretty silly, even the G. Richter's. The market is stupid. Remember the Tulip Mania

5/17/2007 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

The other day we were talking about artistic limits. There was a lot of pre-sale theorizing that the Warhol crash painting mentioned above would never go for a big number, because its subject matter was too disturbing. But it obviously did very well. Maybe people want their assumptions challenged, but not necessarily broken.

5/17/2007 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

Tulipmania is like everything else you read in the major media: Complete nonsense.

Anne Goldgar tells us at the start of her excellent debunking book: "Most of what we have heard of it is not true." For instance, Goldgar couldn't identify a single person bankrupted by tulipmania. In this dense academic work - with longueurs for readers who aren't themselves tulipmaniacs - she tells a new story. ... Most tulip tales we know, scolds Goldgar, "are based on one or two contemporary pieces of propaganda and a prodigious amount of plagiarism." ... In any case, Goldgar explains, few buyers actually paid the exorbitant prices they had agreed. The crucial point is that this was a futures market. The flowers spent most of the year underground. Trades were made constantly, but were only paid for in summer when the bulbs were dug up. In the summer after the crash, most buyers simply refused to accept and pay for their bulbs. Some paid the sellers a small recompense, usually less than 5 per cent of the agreed price. These modest payouts don't seem to have ruined anyone. Rather, tulipmania damaged the code of honour that underlay Dutch capitalism. When buyers reneged, trust suffered. Tulipmania was a social crisis, not a financial one, argues Goldgar.

5/17/2007 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

It's unlikely that the Bush Tax Cuts and the Iraq War have accrued to the benefit of the Russian and Chinese buyers who currently dominate the major auctions today, unless one is arguing that they have made Americans less rich than their counterparts in those countries which opposed the war. But they're just redoing what the Japanese did 20 years ago. Wealthy Americans are selling at top dollar to international arrivistes with more money than savvy. When they lose their shirts in 10 or 20 years, we'll buy the art back at a discount.

5/17/2007 02:12:00 PM  
Anonymous joy said...

Ed, what aplomb! hee!

5/17/2007 02:29:00 PM  
Anonymous bambino said...


5/17/2007 02:51:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

...the Russian and Chinese buyers who currently dominate the major auctions today

Actually, this is not true. While the proportion of wealthy collectors from outside the U.S. has expanded rapidly (due to the globalizing effect of pan-capitalism), wealthy American collectors still dominate. Bloomberg reports:

"Christie's said 47 percent of buyers last night were American ... Asians represented 18 percent of buyers ... and close to the 19 percent from Europe and Russia."

Of course, the financial breakdown could be different than the percentages based on number of collectors, but we may never know the names and nationalities of the "anonymous" collectors who shelled out for the biggest hauls.

5/17/2007 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The Warhol's really look bad, I personally wouldn't spend more than 10,000 for them

Well, I'm now on record as saying I'd pay that much money for it (if I had it), but that raised Bambino's eyebrow a bit, so I should qualify that and say "if I had it to spare."

Everytime a work of art breaks a record, we go through the same song and dance, with folks questioning whether art's worth that kind of money, when the mere fact that in all but the most extreme cases it requires having a very, very good idea of what's things are worth to make $71 million dollars should be enough to, once and for all, take that question out behind the shed, shoot it, and bury it for good.

5/17/2007 03:04:00 PM  
Anonymous bambino said...

First of all, if I would have that much money I wouldn't spend on one piece of art. And we need to really deaply discuss about it Ed.

But on the other hand, I have a question for artists now. What do you thnk if your work would cost $71M ? Would it make you happy or would you think it's not right? and you are not worth it?
I guess it's easy to say when somebody elses work goes for that price.

I am happy for person who bougth it, and for the seller, and for artist. You dont have to buy if you think it doesn't worth that much.
But I believe whoever bougth it, bought because he/she loved it.

5/17/2007 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Is it a bubble Ed? Is it a bubble Ed? What a hoot when he went to the woman and said, "you know what I mean". This Ed guy woon't lay down for me.

5/17/2007 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

But I believe whoever bougth it, bought because he/she loved it.

Oh come on Bambino, it's ok to admit that you find it at least a little bit disgusting that someone who has $71,000,000 in extra funds lying around would rather spend it on a work of art instead of redistributing that wealth to people who can't even afford to buy food for their children. I'm sure that if Edward_ had that much money he would have enough of heart to do something more humane with it.

5/17/2007 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I am happy for person who bougth it, and for the seller, and for artist

The artist won't see a penny of the sale, although it certainly helps future sales. I once heard Rauchenberg on a panel suggest, "if an artist could only see one percent of an auction sale". It's his feeling that as an artist continued to produce they deserved a piece of the pie.

5/17/2007 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I did want to ask him why he thought any dealer on earth would say "yes" to that question, Mark. I nearly guffawed when he turned to Eileen with "you know what I mean."

She, by the way, was amazing. Very quick, smart and perfect for TV. I on the other hand should, at best, have my own cable access TV show on drywall that airs at 4:30 am.

5/17/2007 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous bambino said...

You did great Ed.

I agree with you, as I mentioned earlier I wouldnt spend that much money, because I have plenty of people whom I know I could help, and other project to help prevent diseases in my country.

my point was, if you would be an artist who's work would sell for $71M, would be happy? or would think there is something wrong?
And course you would get your part of money, dont know how much. But would assume some percentage of $71M is plenty of money

5/17/2007 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

you bet I'd be happy, bambino! and I'd have a huge party and you and Ed would cater... I mean be invited.

5/17/2007 04:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, you were mahvelous!!!
xxoo your neighbors

5/17/2007 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger aurix said...

just watched the clip. so many issues could've been brought up but the guy instead kept screaming "bubble" most of the time.... which was hilarious.

jason's comment about the iraq war got me thinking though. should you take into account where the money comes from.... (if so, how?). and, i know, don't know who bought the warhol or many of the record-breaking pieces, and so it's impossible to speculate on where the money came from... the question i guess is should we? does it matter?

on an unrelated note, this makes me think of divestment campaigns/ethical investments.

5/17/2007 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

You know, Jason, it is not as though he took the cash and burned it out behind Ed_'s wood shed. It went to someone who will spend it or invest it somewhere, leading to jobs and cash for someone else who will spend it at the market for lettuce and beer that is harvested or made by working class people.

Money doesn't sit still.

5/17/2007 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

If you're still wondering why arts reporters aren't covering galleries at the moment...

5/17/2007 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Art (in the big white boxes of Chelsea) will pay dearly for these records. Wait and see.

LV/Dior/Christie's/Sotheby's/Gucci is here to stay. A new world with new rules.

Me, I am buying a better camera and computer and moving to the web.

5/17/2007 08:55:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Great job, Ed!
If you insist on cable access, at least make it during prime time.

5/17/2007 08:55:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

Tim wrote: It went to someone who will spend it or invest it somewhere, leading to jobs and cash for someone else who will spend it at the market for lettuce and beer that is harvested or made by working class people.

Ha! You sound like an advocate for the so-called "trickle-down effect" of Reaganomics. Hunter S. Thompson explained it best:

"...Richard Nixon comes quickly to mind, along with Ronald Reagan and his ridiculous 'trickle-down' theory of U.S. economic policy. If the Rich get Richer, the theory goes, before long their pots will overflow and somehow 'trickle down' to the poor, who would rather eat scraps off the Bush family plates than eat nothing at all. Republicans have never approved of democracy, and they never will."

Hell, I don't mind eating table scraps, but I'm worried about the Mexican maquiladoras who built parts for my American computer that can't afford to buy a wood floor for their dirt-floored shacks. And don't think it's just Republicans to blame -- it was Mr. Wonderful himself, Bill Clinton, that pushed through NAFTA, destroying hundreds of thousands of Mexican agricultural jobs in the process.

Sorry to rant about economics, but I think the subject of this post demands it.

5/17/2007 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger inchoherent mumbling said...

There are three reasons to collect art. Two are old and one is new.

1.Because you love art and want to collect it for the enjoyment of it or perhaps because you have OCD.
2.Because you want to show off the power of you wealth and have a wing of the museum named after you when you donate your collection to the museum.

Both of these are as old as art itself. After the first caveman made his first drawing and invented art and all the other cavemen went WOW YOUR TALENTED!! The next caveman stood up and tried his hand at this new thing called art and found out he sucked, no one said wow to him. So he asked the first one how much for his painting and became the first collector. Then a third caveman stood up and said how much for the painting you just bought and a dealer was born along with the art market. Everything went along fine until the 1960's when someone decided that you could track art like stocks and invest in art regardless of your opinion of it.

Hence reason number 3.

Because it will prove to be a good investment that will outpreform the stockmarket in the short or long term.

And that is the problem with the red hot market today. The first two reasons still exist and always will but with the inclusion of number three you have a different mindset. They dont care about the art, only the return. Wether Warhol was good or bad doesn't matter, as long as the returns are there. When the returns prove to be less than the stock market, or the liquidity of these high dollar purchases proves to be difficult to cash in on, they will leave the market and the first two reasons will return to being the defining factors of value.

So was the Warhol worth $71 720 000. If you are a collector then maybe. If you are looking to show the power of your wealth then defintely yes. If you are a colloctor then we will see, but I am hard pressed to believe that that painting will be worth 140 million in five years and if it takes longer than eight years you could have bough stocks. If you carry that forward 280 million in ten years seem very unlikey.

5/18/2007 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Henry said...

Edward - Nice, confident appearance on CNBC. I didn't realize from the message(s) above that you were going to be on, or I would have tried to tune in. You should have told the interviewer, "I represent artists, so it's my job to identify opportunities for art. As far as I can see, there are still a lot of great opportunities out there, bubble or no bubble." If they really want to hear you say the word "bubble," maybe you can follow up with a joke like, "as long as a bubble burst means that rents in Chelsea will go down afterward...."

5/18/2007 12:46:00 PM  

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