After my recent travels, relaxing in the garden with my neighborhood turtle – he doesn’t talk much, but he’s a hell of listener – and trying to get the kinks out of my legs. Note to self: Unless you are planning on shrinking 3 inches, Business Class might be called for on the next long trip. Other note to self: Plan to win lottery so I can afford it.
While contemplating a nice cool beverage (rhymes with rose), the turtle drew my attention to an e-mail, sent just before my return, titled “Art Fatigue in London; The Thrill is gone for Art Buyers”, an article by the very knowledgable Carol Vogel.
I was rather surprised, having just come back from London – which seemed to my untutored eye thronged by art lovers in the museums, at gallery exhibitions, fairs of all kinds.
The article went on to say that the auctions were, not to put to fine a point on it, not as good as New York with the ever popular “many experts” suggesting that the big auction houses should have considered cancelling their June sales in London. Of course this is in comparison to the $500 million from the Christie’s Evening Sales (and I bet those folks get to go Business Class).
Well, of course, those are the big numbers, and they certainly get your attention. But does the fact that Damien Hirst works were (to put it kindly) uneven mean that people aren’t interested in art? Tell that to Peter Doig and Oscar Murillo…whose dealers I can bet you are re-pricing their work, even as we sip, um, I mean, speak. And how about David Hockney (a personal favorite)? Yes, please, I’d like a nice 1960’s swimming pool.
What about all of those folks in the National Gallery looking at art? I mean, have you ever tried to get a cup of tea in the tearooms downstairs? Crowded doesn’t begin to cover it!
So do auctions frame how we look at art and art sales? Are they the only criterion that matter? Does the fact that there were no buyers for overpriced Basquiats mean that people aren’t buying ? Even the turtle doesn’t agree there (although he’s fond of paintings of water). Art Buyers are, by definition, those who buy art – not necessarily those who buy dead butterfly wings glued to a board for hundreds of thousands of pounds (or dollars or Euros).
And don’t forget, these auctions are for a certain kind of contemporary art – not for antiques, not for modern pictures, not for Old Master drawings…..hmmm, perhaps the article should have been titled, “the Thrill of Overpriced, Overhyped Art is Gone – Horray…..”
The turtle is shaking his head up and down in agreement – or perhaps he is eating a butterfly wing.