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The European art market is at it again. Or should I say the European art dealers holding stakes and stocks in various ‘named’ and moderately known artists’ are at it again. Modern and Contemporary art sales have revolved around a clever routine for the last couple of years, and the dealers are an active part of the dance.

The auctions focus on a single group of ‘key’ artists at any one sale, but within the sale are other works by a selection of known artists placed purposely in that sale to reflect and judge the market for that particular artist or artists.

Unless they draw a substantial sale price they appear to become the also-ran, or the fill-ins, of that evenings sale. But in this up-market they are not there by accident, but for a good reason. Should the sale price hit a certain level, that in turn sets in motion a chain of events behind the scene.

The art dealers are judging the movement, calculating the returns, and setting in motion their intentions for future auctions. Build inventory, sample the market, and project importance by selling along side the highly known and the recognized. This is how you build and create a demand for artists and their works.

The European dealers, and to some extent buyers, set the tone and American dealers and buyers tend to follow in quickstep. In some instances it is the American buyers in Europe that sets the European market on its head, but we usually don’t discover this until later.

Auction/sale strategy begins with just that an opening strategy, a strategic placement and advanced consideration for building auction texture. Who else and what else is in play at that particular art event. What dealers are deep-stacked, meaning whose holding what and how many? Who has pocket-pairs? Whose selling what to place other works into play at a later auction or sale? And lastly, continuation bets. Who’s selling or buying hedging on the potential effect and lateral considerations, plays and players, on the next auction/sale?

The art market is like poker in that the different form and various dynamics of the auction/sales of megabuck artists is based purely on Imagined Money, and like poker there is a certain amount of position taking, deception and distortion, and plenty of reason to raise the stakes.

About the Author

Lawrence Klepper

Lawrence Klepper

As an artist, Gallery Management Instructor, Gallery Director, Independent Curator, and Special Exhibitions Coordinator for City art museums, college art galleries, and commercial galleries in Califor...