Sunday, May 1, 2011

an increase in the value of an asset through a rise in market price as compared to an earlier period


Today in the New York Times:
Since 1988, when Jeff Koons made this outrageous porcelain figure of a bare-breasted blond hugging the Pink Panther, it has become one of his most popular works, along with "Balloon Dog" and "Rabbit." The sculpture is one of three, along with an artist's proof. One of these appeared in a gilded chamber at the Château de Versailles near Paris in 2008. The owner is the publisher Benedikt Taschen, who has collected and sold Koons sculptures before. In 2007 he sold Mr. Koons' "Blue Diamond," a giant blue diamond fashioned from shiny steel, at Christie's for $11.8 million.

Pink Panther has appreciated more than 25% value in a little more than a decade. How come?

One can only marvel at the market's ability to work wonders. The artwork becomes an intrinsic value-attractor. Meanwhile market forces act from behind saturating these objects with magic properties. The artwork's "essence" will show itself to the world automatically attracting value to it. People react to these intrinsic properties by responding with purchasing power. In other words, it's all about the buzz.

Art investment is a matter of perception:
Exhibitions of Koons' works in the past five years have often coincided with the appearance of high-profile works at auction. Most of the art in the C&M Arts show last May—the same month as Christie's well-publicized sale of Jim Beam J. B. Turner Train—was on loan from Brant, Edlis, Sonnabend, and other public and private lenders. Few of the works were for sale, but the exhibition set new price levels for those that were available. Mnuchin, according to sources, sold Wall Relief with Bird (1991) for about $2 million, three times the price it sold for at Sotheby's five years ago.
Then, there are the shows, like Figures in the Field (2006), which take pride in blurbs like this: 
Today, figurative art has re-emerged with a very strong presence while non-representational abstract painting is less emphasized in the discourse of contemporary art. Figures in the Field is an exhibition that aims to reinvigorate the dialogue between these two different genres and traditional modes of creative production while questioning how they create meaning today (my italics).
See that the question is not how genres of creative production produce value. Instead, the curators go for the smoke screen of "meaning."

Why not look at the circulation of art objects for what they really are?

Take a "critic" like Kevin Nance. His excuse for this sales pitch is to present it as "reporting":
Jeff Koons is the Energizer Bunny of contemporary art. He just keeps going and going, banging the drum of mass iconography, self-acceptance and, above all, a uniquely American optimism about the affirming and transcendent properties of art. His sunny central message -that the banality of modern life is, after all, the life we have, and that we should make the most of it- is amplified into a cumulative, all-embracing whoop of joy in a new retrospective at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art.
For this Sotheby's auction there's already plenty of excitement: Here, here and here.

Is the art market NOT a well-greased operation?