News-Antique.com - Oct 07,2010 - Portraits as Art Market Currency Pt. 2 artmarketblog.com
Welcome to part 2 of my series on the concept of portraits as an art market currency. Before I continue, I would like to explain exactly what I mean by an art market currency for those that are perhaps slightly perplexed by the concept. Obviously, fine art is never going to replace paper money as the dominant form of currency. My research focuses less on the actual use of currency as a medium of exchange, and more on the concept of currency as an indicator and a benchmark. It is important to understand that my concept of an art market currency is merely a theoretical concept the analysis of which I believe can provide valuable information and knowledge for investors and collectors.
In the currency world, the US dollar is used as a benchmark (world reserve currency) for all other currencies because of the political and military strength of the US, as well as the very strong gold reserves that the US held when the Bretton Woods system was introduced after World War II. Although the art market doesnt have an official genre, period or style that acts as a benchmark for the rest of the market, the popularity and visibility of the contemporary art market means that it tends to be used as a de-facto barometer for the state of the art market. Unfortunately, the contemporary sector of the art market would have to be the worst sector to use as an indicator for the health of the entire art market. As we all know, the contemporary sector of the art market is a highly volatile and unstable market that is constantly at the mercy of cultural and social trends and is often assigned a value that has very little to do with the actual art object. So, if the contemporary art market is not a suitable indicator of the status of the art market, is there a category of art that is? This is just one of the questions that I hope to answer with this series of posts.
Let me throw a scenario your way that will hopefully help make the reasoning behind the concept of portraits as an art market currency much clearer. If I were to give someone who knew nothing about art 100 works of art consisting of: 20 cubist paintings, 20 conceptual works, 20 figurative landscape paintings, 20 religious icons and 20 figurative portrait paintings and asked that person to look at each category separately and rank the works in each category according to how much they thought each work was worth based purely on the physical characteristics of the art object (without knowing anything about who the artist is, when they were painted, who the portraits are of, the location of the landscapes etc.) which category do you think they would find the easiest to rank? I think that conceptual art would be the hardest, because with conceptual art