Opinion

Art Writers Forecast An Art Market Crash, Art Market Doesn’t Care

“Orange, Red, Yellow” by Mark Rothko, which just sold for $87 million in May at Sotheby’s (via reuters.com)

With a Mark Rothko painting selling for nearly $87 million at Sotheby’s in addition to record prices for artists from Edvard Munch to Roy Lichtenstein, it seems pretty strange to see a variety of art and business writers, predicting the end of the art market boom.

Beginning with Adam Davidson’s article in the New York Times Magazine, in which he compares the art market to the Gold Rush of the late 1840s and defines the art market as a bubble, a few art writers, mostly centered around Artnet Magazine such as always cheery Charlie Finch, have forecasted an art market crash.

In the writers’ defense, looking at the global economic realities from the questionable future of the Euro, lack of substantial global economic growth and the continued economic recession in the United States, not to mention a slowing Asian economy, it is unquestionably difficult for most people to understand how the art market could continue to skyrocket upward despite these hard economic realities.

However looking at the record sales at the spring auctions and the art being sold at astronomically high prices at the top-tier galleries, this string of articles seems like a pretty obvious way for their publications to drum up some readership through panic.

As Charlie Finch predicts:

Eyes will open, as collectors argue that the $100 million Munch might just as well be worth $10 million in an environment of falling prices: relatively the true value is the same under different economic realities.

He wishes. That Munch painting sold for nearly $120 million at Sotheby’s.

As an art writer who is both horrified and realizes the importance of the art market,  I can easily read Finch’s prediction, along with his Artnet colleague Mickey Cartin‘swho repeats Finch’s prediction, as their own personal hope that the art market boom fades, leading the way to a more democratic marketplace and a wider possibility for more artists, galleries and institutions. Either that or Artnet needs more freaked out rich readers.

It does not take much insight to see that these writers are hoping for a crash as Mickey Cartin writes:

After reading the recent prediction by Charlie Finch, “Will the Art Market Crash?” I had one thought: Ahh … the doomsday that I have been eagerly awaiting.

While these several articles surely have merit, the glee that all the writers exudes unquestionably overshadows the economic realities they might be pointing out. Yes, the art market is completely dominated by the über-über-wealthy and buying paintings for hundreds of millions of dollars is out-of-control but with articles predicting that a Basquiat painting is expected to break records at Christie’s in June, it seems that the writer’s predictions are falling on deaf ears.

Editor’s note: Journalist Kriston Capps has this insightful tweet in response to this post:

And John Powers’s response to Capps:

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