Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bunnies and Baselitzes

In New York magazine this week (Nov. 12) is an article about art advisor Kim Heirston who, it says, has “helped old money and new get into the market.” It describes how, “In recent years, she’s put her clients’ money—and her own—in such emerging artists as Piotr Uklanski, Urs Fischer, and Ugo Rondinone. Over the mantel of her art-stuffed, all-white living room is a purple metallic ‘tinfoil’ painting by Anselm Reyle….Today she’s long on Baselitz. ‘Almost all of my clients have one or two Baldessaris in their collections,’ she says… ‘Most of my clients have a Ruscha…’ And, of course, she’s tried to make everyone buy a Reyle.”

Hmmm. The article suggests that the value of Heirston’s Reyle has gone from $10,000 to $600,000 in two years. Is there no conflict of interest in collecting and trying to get other people to buy the same artists, thereby raising the value of your holdings? (Oh, Carol, you’re so old-fashioned…conflict of interest? Nobody cares about that anymore!) I also thought a good art advisor helped clients develop their tastes, but here, where everyone owns the same thing, taste doesn’t seem to be an issue. Someone likened the current art market to the Dutch tulip craze of the late 16th century, where outlandish speculation in tulips and bulbs caused huge numbers of people to lose their shirts. It used to be that the price of art was relative to its influence on other artists, its value to the culture, something that was determined over time. Back in the day—oh, say, a decade ago—it took ten years for an artist’s work to reach the auction houses. But in this speeded up market—and it is a “market,” no longer a “scene”— the only measure is hype. It reminds me of when I was a little kid and my friends and I exchanged trading cards. I’ll give you two kittens for a bunny. Three for a Baselitz.

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