News-Antique.com - Apr 15,2011 - Avoiding a 2011 Art Market Armageddon – artmarketblog.com
Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad that the art market has rebounded so quickly, but I am also extremely concerned about the way the art market is progressing. As I have mentioned many times before, the long term stability and viability of the art market is dependent upon the existence of a certain level of connection and interaction with the cultural sector, as well as certain level of participation from connoisseurs and collectors (as opposed to trophy hunters). Time and time again we see the art market take a dive when the value of art becomes so disconnected from the cultural and art historical value of the artists and their work that the only justification for the prices being paid is related to social status and egotism. At some point in the progression of an art market boom the purchase of fine art turns into nothing more than a game of one-upmanship – a game where a group of the super wealthy compete with each other to see who is ultimately going to be the biggest fool. As much as the super rich like spending money, there is always going to be a point in time when even they think that the prices are too high and have to pull out leaving one lucky punter with the “biggest fool” award.
Although the internet has had a positive effect on the art market, there is also the potential for the internet to further distance the connection between the cultural/art historical value of a work of art and the price being paid for a work. Think of it this way: the less exposure and interaction one has with the work they are purchasing, the less opportunity there is to analyse, assess and criticise those works. This leads to a very concerning situation where mediocre works by well known artists are being sold for prices that are way too high – a situation that I am all too familiar with. An indicator of the increasing level of disconnection between the buyer and the object is the reported increase in online bidding by Christie’s. According to a recent Christie’s press release:
“In 2010 online bidding via Christie’s LIVETM continued to deliver a large number of winning bids and new registrants. Over a quarter (28%) of Christie’s clients now bid online, a 5% increase on 2009 and the total value of lots sold online rose 69% to $114.4 million including premium.”
Add to this the recent launch of the first major online only art fair, the VIP art fair, and the new record for a work of art sold at any online art auction set by Saffronart in December 2010 with Arpita Singh’s ‘Wish Dream’ which fetched an extraordinary $2.24 million, and one can begin to see the impact that the internet is having on the art market. 2010 was a big year for the online art market that saw investors and collectors make progress