The Current Contemporary Art Market is Insane
November 9, 2007, 9:51 pm
Filed under: art | Tags: , ,

Hirst SkullGreat profile by Calvin Tomkins of Jeffrey Deitch in this week’s New Yorker. I’ve been casually fascinated by the NY art scene, and the vibrant market that fuels it, ever since taking a course on contemporary art in college.

Deitch is portrayed as a brilliant loner who made his name (and a small fortune) by getting in early on contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Jeff Koons. He now pays the bills by flipping pieces/consulting for a set group of long-standing clients, but professes to be really interested in the current art scene in SoHo and performance art pieces he puts on as part of his company, Deitch Projects. One particular piece mentioned in the article involved a group of essentially naked men urinating on each other during a dinner party Deitch threw this summer. Although Tomkins never comes out and says it, the impression one gets was that although Deitch feigned interest in projects like this, they were probably more just diversions and a means to dispel the stress of his frantic life. The lip service paid to these projects from other members of the art world that Tomkins interviewed was mostly hot air. No one had the balls to directly call Deitch out save for one dealer who wondered, “…[whether] his position in the secondary market is eroded by this trash he involves himself with.” (the answer, apparently, is that it isn’t…)

Perhaps more interesting than the profile of Deitch is the description and analysis of the current contemporary art market. Tomkins traces the intersection of super-rich hedge fund managers/shadowy international magnates with the eight-figure pieces they covet and provides a behind-the-scenes look at how major works are bought and sold. He suggests that the contemporary art market is almost certainly wildly inflated (Sotheby’s recent revelation seems to confirm this assumption). This point seems particularly prescient in light of the current turmoil in the stock market; considering that the contemporary art market is fueled by the financial set, it isn’t too far-fetched to believe that a downturn is inevitable.

All in all a fascinating article with more going on than I could comment on here. I’d like to provide a link, but apparently the New Yorker has decided to encourage people to go out and purchase the print edition for the privilege of reading this piece. If they end up putting the article on their website I’ll link to it here. In the mean time go out and buy the issue, it’s worth it.


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