News-Antique.com - Oct 07,2010 - Portraits as Art Market Currency Pt. 1 artmarketblog.com
The popularity of figurative art took a real dive post WWII when abstraction began to really hold take, which meant that portraiture, one of the purest forms of figurative art, suffered considerably along with the other forms of representational art. More recently, conceptual art captured the imagination of the art world and, like the abstract movement, overshadowed the less glitzy world of the classical and the traditional. The contraction of the art market that took hold in 2008 primarily a result of the severely overheated market for contemporary art - did, however, cause the art market to re-evaluate the value it placed on contemporary art as well question the reasoning behind the justification of the phenomenal prices being paid for contemporary art. Because the value of much of the contemporary art being produced is dependent upon the culture of the market in which the art is being sold, any major changes to the dynamic of that market are bound to have a severe effect on the value people put on contemporary art. As is always the case, when the latest short term fashion driven trend begins to crumble, people turn to the safety and assurance of the traditional and the classical. It is during or after major art market corrections that the difference between a short term fad and a particular style or movement temporarily going out of fashion becomes clear. By definition, a fad is a temporary state of affairs that, once the novelty fades, is gone forever. A considerable percentage of the contemporary art that enters the market will only retain the value it is given for as long as the fad it is associated with lasts. Because the fads that drive the contemporary art market rarely get the sort of scholarly attention, cultural patronage or art historical recognition that ensure longevity of an artist and their work, many contemporary artists fail to survive the demise of a trend or the onset of an art market contraction. Although portraiture fell out of fashion, as it has done on several occasions, the fact that there is so much scholarly, academic and art historical support for the genre means that there will always be a market for portraits a market that can only continue to get stronger each time the genre comes back into fashion.
Philip Mould is a world renowned expert on historical British portraiture and, as well as regular appearances on the British version of Antiques Roadshow, has written several books that regale the reader with thrilling tales of the serial sleuthers many quests to unearth the true identity of an artist or their subject. Although he started dealing in portraits because they were cheap, Mould developed an infectious passion for British portraiture that even made me want to start dealing in portraits. The great poet Charles Baudelaire once said that A good portrait always appears to me like a dramatized biography, or rather like the natural