Felix Salmon reports that “the art market has stopped being a source of fascination and crazy numbers, and has started to be a source of sheer disgust.”
The world of high-end art collectors, by contrast, has reached a level of obscenity that the art world more generally can no longer ignore. It’s been clear to the more politically-minded for a while, but now we’re seeing the mainstreaming of attitudes which used to be found only on the far left. Enough of living in a world where an artwork without resale value is worthless. Enough of feeling jealous when some idiot starts selling for ridiculous sums. Enough of a world where the levels of inequality make Nigeria seem positively egalitarian. Yes, artists need to make money, and yes, big collectors shower ridiculous sums onto the art world. But that money isn’t trickling down, and it certainly isn’t respectable.
And art critic Jerry Saltz, for one, is fed up:
I know this is just me doing the same-old same-old and that it grows tiresome. But after this week and a half of non-stop breathless auction reports I still don’t get it. Or I still can’t stand it. I don’t get what we know now that we didn’t already know last week. How a handful of very very rich people with penises likes buying the work of a handful of artists with penises for very very high prices in public, in front of other people with penises and some very tall thin blond people with great shoes and no penises. Really. Here is what I read: “Phillips de Pury’s $80-Million Sale Closes New York’s Epic Week of Auctions.” Yes? So!? I learn “that we’ve just capped a billion-dollar auction week of postwar and contemporary art, Phillips de Pury & Company sold a modest $79,904,500. Christie’s and Sotheby’s, delivered us back-to-back evening sales tallying $887.5 million.” “Us? We?