The Contemporary Art market has apparently gone mad at Christie's in November 2000 with some unbelievable results, notably over $ 88,000 for a life-size fly by U.S artist Tom Friedman and over $ 1,6 million for a curtain made of plastic pearls by Felix Gonzales-Torres, who died from Aids at 37 four years ago.
Friedman has just emerged on the market thanks to a rather formidable advertising campaign staged by the pundits from Christie's marketing department but his plastic and metal fly is nothing than a gimmick that one can find in any toy shop for less than $ 3. At Christie's, the final bidder probably got caught in a fly-trap. Meanwhile, a curtain rather similar to that produced by Gonzales-Torres, a Cuban artist who lived in the U.S, would be worth no more than $ 30 in any country enjoying a hot weather. In the meantime this piece certainly induced an incredible fever to its buyer.
For sure most Contemporary artists have been at a loss regarding creation since the past decade while auction houses have been trying frantically to promote artists via the media. Still, the market seems to have gone completely astray as a result of mad prices recorded for some questionable works or photographs, now strangely regarded as art pieces.
The main issue is to pinpoint the reason for this mad situation. Auction rooms have notably played a dangerous game in promoting artists who might be worth nothing by the year 2020 but on the other side buyers are no less innocent especially those new collectors who reaped millions of dollars on the Wall Street Stock exchange market and who now seem eager to invest outside the financial sector. As a matter of fact these people know little about art and appear strangely mesmerised by works that have little to do with pure creation.
Another reason for this situation has to do with the reservoir of modern art pieces that has dried up for good whereas many works from established Contemporary artists have become unaffordable. Therefore there is now a kind of gambling space available from $ 100,000 to 3 million occupied by a battalion of crazy buyers who believe they are banking on the heirs of Picasso, Warhol, Basquiat, de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko.
They surely are not betting on the right competitors of a spectacular game that seems utterly faked and it seems easy to predict that they will wake up one day with a bad headache.
The best way to save the market would be to go back to sure values as soon as possible but human nature might be of little help in that instance. In fact one can fear for the worst now that the art market has become a cousin of Wall Street as easy money pouring into it is likely to blind many of its actors. In order to keep art away from sheer speculation it seems urgent for them to act as responsible persons. Adrian Darmon