Fixing the Contemporary Art Auction Crisis Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com In my last post I detailed two definitions of contemporary art from two different contemporary art museums that challenge the rather inadequate and misleading definition of contemporary art
auction house on which one can lay total blame for this problem. I also have great respect for the major auction houses regardless of whether or not there are issues relating to the classification and categorisation of works of art. Looking at the top ten prices paid for this auction, which was promoted as a contemporary art auction, there were eight artists whose work was included in this top ten. The eight artists were Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Roy Lichtenstein, Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Out of those eight artists, seven are dead – the only surviving artist out of the eight being Gerhard Richter. Even more interesting are the dates that each of the top ten works were created: 1962, 1955, 1962, 1985, 1966, 1992, 1969, 1962, 1986 and 1987. Six of the works were created prior to 1970, three prior to 1990 and only one after 1990. The most recent work in the top ten was a work by Gerhard Richter, the only living artist in the top ten, which was created in 1992. Of all the works in the top ten, the Richter would be the only one that I would consider referring to as a work of contemporary art – only at a stretch, mind you.
Although the top ten prices paid were dominated by the work of deceased artists, I must acknowledge that the auction did include works by true living contemporary practising artists. Unfortunately the auction house uses the ridiculous misnomer ‘recent contemporary artists’ when referring to the work of the true contemporary artists. By definition, something that is ‘contemporary’ is recent so to make reference to ‘recent contemporary artists’ is just plain wrong. The fact that this term has to be used at all is, in my opinion, evidence enough that there is something amiss with the way some auction houses are cataloguing, categorising and presenting the works of art that they are selling. If you don’t think that this is a big problem in the scheme of things then I respect that and even admit that you may be right. But for me, this is the straw the broke the camel’s back; just another seemingly small problem that when added to the other seemingly small problems equal a rather big problem. I do have some plans to combat all these small problems but you will have to wait to find out what my plans are.
image: ‘The Art Crisis’ by Robert The
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications