DON’T FORGET THE PAINTING WAS BOUGHT BY A MEMBER OF QATAR’S AL-THANI FAMILY, THE SAME FAMILY WITH THE DEAD 48-YEAR OLD PRINCE FROM DRUGS, AND MAYBE INTENDED AS A BRIBE TO FIFA? AFTER ALL QATAR GETS THE WORLD SOCCER CUP AFTER RUSSIA, PUTIN BRIBED FIFA WITH A PICASSO STOLEN FROM THE HERMITAGE AND QATAR HAS TEMPERATURES OVER 140 DEGREES. ARE THE FOOTBALLERS GOING TO SURVIVE THAT HEAT?
The $179.4 million sale of Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) (1955) at Christie’s was greeted with the usual media frenzy, but no one who was paying attention was truly shocked. A lot of the commentary focused on the mind-numbing sum as a symbol of inequality—but then inequality is the one stable fact of contemporary life.Yet something remarkable did happen between the Picasso sale and the last auction-house record at Christie’s, the $142.4 million sale of Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud in November 2013
In inflation-adjusted terms, that means that between Bacon’s $142 million two years ago and Picasso’s nearly $180 million last week, a new threshold was crossed.
Les Femmes d’Alger isn’t just the most expensive painting ever sold at auction. It is really the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.
HOW COME NO ONE TALKS ABOUT INFLATION OR THE FILTHY RICH?
The existence of inflation isn’t exactly an obscure fact, so why this hasn’t gotten more attention inChristie’s official PR.
Maybe emphasizing the existence of inflation makes all their other “records” immediately seem like a lot of hype, which is what they mainly are.
AND THEN THE CRASH IN ART MARKETS BEGAN!!!!!!!!!!
The auction houses don’t want to be trumpeting the line of thought that the last time the market flew this high was just before an epoch-making global crash that it has taken us a quarter century to return from. It’s much better to talk about how collectors are “chasing masterpieces” or how its all about the fact that now “art is an asset class”—talking points, incidentally, that were also very much a fixture of the late-1980s chatter about the art market boom.
In any case, we are, as of last week, in uncharted art-market territory. Does the fact that this milestone has been passed mean that a red light should be flashing for observers?
FACT: IF THE STINKING RICH GET RICHER, ART MARKETS WILL THRIVE.DSDDDSD
The answer, it seems to be found almost entirely outside of the auction houses: If the wealthy continue to get wealthier, the art market will thrive.
DZ created by a maniacal property bubble that was shortly to implode in a spectacular way, issuing in decades of stagnation for Japan. In 1990, the Bubble Economy was already coming apart, and at Christie’s, beneath the mega-lot fireworks, the art market was already showing signs of stress.
GLOBAL ECONOMIES COMING APART-APOCALYPSE HAS BEGUN
This does not seem to be exactly where we sit in 2015. Our global economy is riddled with contradictions—ask a Greek—but the rich are making out like bandits at the moment: The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development released a report saying that the gap between rich and poor is at its highest point since their record-keeping began. In the auction room, the sound of champagne corks popping drowns out all worries.
DR. DOOM, WORLD ECONOMIST-ART AS MONEY LAUNDERING, TAX EVASION AND THEFT
What schemes are going on behind the scenes to keep it all together, we cannot know. The economist Nouriel Roubini (aka “Dr. Doom,” aka a “minor collector of contemporary art”) has made some headlines of late addressing the art world’s seedier side. “As I study and go to galleries and art fairs, I see that there is a lot of behavior that is shady at best,” he told CNN. “Some people use art as a form of money laundering…. Other people use money for forms of tax evasion…. The behaviors of the auction houses have become problematic.”
No one on the inside is going to spoil the party by dishing on such shenanigans now, with business booming. But as far as we can draw historical parallels between the two moments, we might just take the opportunity of Les Femmes d’Alger, through the lens of history, SIGNALS the kind of nasty business that might well be building up beneath all the happy talk about “new records.”