Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Boom Is Dead...Long Live the Collections

A very polite young woman called me a few weeks back and asked whether I could hold for Milton Esterow. I was somewhat sure it must be a prank call, but sure enough within a few moments I was speaking with the legendary editor and publisher of ARTnews magazine. Some folks get starstruck talking with movie actors or lead singers of famous bands...I tend to buckle at the knees in the presence of publishing giants and was like "er...yes sir...uh...thank you sir...." (...not quite ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille).

Truth be, we had a lovely conversation. Mr. Esterow was charming, gracious and generous as we chatted about a few blog posts that we had all hashed out a while back about buying art during a recession (see parts I and II here). In the March 2009 issue of his magazine, Mr. Esterow kindly mentions that topic amid predictions by a wide range of dealers, curators, museum directors, and collectors on how the art market will fair in 2009:
"It’s the best time to buy,” said Don Rubell, who with his wife, Mera, is on the ARTnews list of the world’s top 200 collectors.

“I’d buy till it hurts right now,” said Peter Marzio, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

“If you’re liquid, this is the time when there are bargains,” said Michael Findlay, a director of Acquavella Galleries in New York.

“There are unbelievable opportunities,” said William Ruprecht, Sotheby’s chief executive officer.

What’s going on? Where have these folks been lately? After all, the Wall Street bankers, the Russian oligarchs, the hedge-fund poo-bahs, the casino tycoons, and the Asian billionaires no longer have so many billions. It’s no secret that the art bubble has burst.
The truth of the matter is, if you have the means, now is an extraordinary time to add some serious heft to your contemporary art collection. And there's a class of sophisticated collectors who know this:
“The real collectors are still buying—but less,” said Pierre Levai, president of Marlborough.

Raymond J. Learsy, a prominent New York collector with his wife, Melva Bucksbaum, agreed. He said, “I’ve always felt that the art market marches to a different drummer than financial markets. People who are really interested in art are a little bit like smokers. You just can’t give it up. It becomes intrinsic to your life and you go and delve into resources that you might not have thought you had to continue collecting.”

Rubell told me that some of the best pieces in his collection were bought during the last recession. “It takes courage to buy at a moment like this, but you get rewarded very much,” he said. “Things are available now. There’s more negotiating going on. Buy pieces from artists who are totally established, who have a track record, or buy from very young artists. There’s always a new generation of artists coming up.”
The article is chock full of great long-term insights and advice on navigating the current market. Anyone collecting, or thinking of starting, should not miss this piece.

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11 Comments:

Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

Congratulations on being featured in ARTnews. And I would further say that your blog (among a couple of other things) had helped me to decide to indulge and purchase my first piece of fine art. I am in the process of figuring out the second piece.

From my limited initial experiences, I believe this is an good time, since as a beginner and virtual unknown, I am getting much better help and education than I figured I would - and access is much better than the times before I tried to jump in!

2/24/2009 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Yes, congratulations! Birds of the same quality of feather are bound to flock together.

2/24/2009 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger ruben said...

I totally agree with it. If you have the means, buy art now. There is so many deals and the good quality art for investment is ready now for purchase, at more affordable pricing.

All that said can be materialized, if you still have a job without getting into serious debt.

2/24/2009 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Hey Ed,
I’m all for rah-rah buy art, do your patriotic duty and keep the American cultural industry afloat, but… I think there’s another message here.

Mr. Esterow’s ARTnews and a whole lot of other publishing outlets, too numerous to mention, are cutting way back on their art review staffs. Big changes are coming to hard copy art reporting. On the questionable side; it seems this story is planted. On the good side; perhaps Mr. Esterow knows where the new outlets to consumers of art info are getting their fix, so he’s picked the most visible place to plant the story. I could be wrong, but it makes me wonder

2/24/2009 03:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A very polite young woman called me a few weeks back and asked whether I could hold for Milton Esterow."

Is it wrong for me to love the glamour of someone who still, in this day and age, yells out to the adjoining anteroom "Ms. Polite-Young, get me Ed Winkleman on the phone! Stat!"

2/24/2009 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Balhatain said...

Way to go Ed.

2/24/2009 07:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to be too contrarian...but of course it's a great time to buy, if you can.

The real problem is when you are a dealer or an artist...

2/24/2009 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger David Cauchi said...

And then there's this.

Maybe I've misunderstood, but there's something gross about seeing this as a good time to invest in art. Woohoo, cheap deals on other people's misery.

2/24/2009 09:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christian Jankowski's video 'Above All I'm An Art Lover' sums this discussion up perfectly.

One of the breathtakingly bizarre comments from one of the "collectors" at ArtBasel Miami:

"I don't look. I listen. I listen to what people tell me is hot and THEN I act."

2/25/2009 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

David,
I don't think it's gross to think about buying art right now. Would you prefer people didn't?

3/01/2009 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Casino booms said...

Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. Keep it up.

8/07/2010 01:36:00 PM  

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