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February 8, 2012 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Felix Salmon muses on why art prices keep rising. On the way, he discusses why some art becomes super-popular:

"Fine art has become the billionaire’s-club equivalent of a Louis Vuitton bag, slathered in logos. It’s not connoisseurship which drives values, so much as recognizability. Which in turn helps to explain why the most prolific artists (Picasso, Warhol, Hirst) are also the most expensive: the more of their work there is, the more exposed to it people become, the more they’ll recognize it, and therefore the more desirable it is."
posted by benbenson (23 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Of all people, I think Dana White (president of the UFC) is a huge Warhol collector.
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:57 PM on February 8, 2012


Felix Salmon muses on why art prices keep rising.

Beacause there's lots of rich people out there who want to impress eachother.
posted by jonmc at 5:07 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dark Messiah, I think that your statement is strong anecdotal evidence that Salmon's thesis is true--that fine art collection has gone from a pursuit of the well-educated (White, Western) rich to a status symbol of international parvenus who have a particular interest in proving their status is the result of something else besides a favorable concession from whichever narco-/petro-/klepto- state they happen to be from.

That said, there is a peculiar irony that all of this is coming from the Felix Salmon of FHM riches, whose only claim to high-brow status is a short book of paeans to Mustique, a semi-feudal private island he owns a Shinto-inspired 7-room manse on.

(No, I am not making any of this up.)
posted by anewnadir at 5:09 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's probably all the Mafia types using paintings as million-dollar bills.
posted by Copronymus at 5:13 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think Dana White (president of the UFC) is a huge Warhol collector.

That sound you heard was my jaw hitting the floor in astonishment.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:17 PM on February 8, 2012


It's less about masterpieces and more about masturbating.
posted by evilmidnightbomberwhatbombsatmidnight at 5:20 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of all people, I think Dana White (president of the UFC) is a huge Warhol collector

Christ, what a Warhol collector!
posted by vidur at 5:22 PM on February 8, 2012


Wasn't it some sort of tax dodge?
posted by effugas at 5:29 PM on February 8, 2012


Auction prices for Stradavari violins, on the other hand, have increased an average of 10.3% annually for the last 30 years.
posted by pjdoland at 5:36 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are these sale prices adjusted for inflation?
posted by nicebookrack at 5:39 PM on February 8, 2012


I do hold out some small hope that the Chinese art market will provide a correction to this syndrome — there, I’m told, the value of an art work is (at least sometimes) much less a function of its recognizability as the work of a certain artist, and much more a function of the way that it can fit itself into a long artistic tradition.

Valuations of Chinese art may not be very reliable. Of course, Felix has written about the Chinese art bubble as well, so I am not sure why the optimism here.
posted by vidur at 5:44 PM on February 8, 2012


This is clearly a bubble.

My advice: Short fine art.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:47 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sarah Thornton in the Guardian: The art of recession-dodging

The burden for the stinking rich is what to do with their money. There is currently no interest to be earned on cash, so they can't leave it in the bank. The property market is nearly paralysed and, for these globetrotters, the drawback of real estate is that it is tied to specific currencies. A Mayfair flat sells in pounds, but the Francis Bacon painting that hangs on its wall could sell in Hong Kong dollars and take up residence on a yacht in the South Pacific. Like historic or extra-large diamonds, works by artists with international recognition are a hedge against volatile currency fluctuations.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:48 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


That said, there is a peculiar irony that all of this is coming from the Felix Salmon of FHM riches, whose only claim to high-brow status is a short book of paeans to Mustique, a semi-feudal private island he owns a Shinto-inspired 7-room manse on.

I am very confused by this. Felix Salmon, the Rueters finance blogger who bicycles to work, was in a previous life a lad mag magnate? Is it possible you mean someone else? If not, do tell.
posted by Diablevert at 5:50 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


anewnadir, are you sure you're not thinking of Felix Dennis?
posted by suckerpunch at 5:57 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


suckerpunch: you're right. Serves me right for not doing a cursory google search before I posted.
posted by anewnadir at 6:03 PM on February 8, 2012


anewnadir: I'm inclined to agree with you, on all counts.
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:32 PM on February 8, 2012


The market is simply supply-restricted. Just wait until some wunderkind discovers how to make art from common rubbish!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:18 PM on February 8, 2012


They are like baseball cards for the hyper-wealthy.
posted by delmoi at 7:36 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


the more of their work there is, the more exposed to it people become, the more they’ll recognize it, and therefore the more desirable it is.

Does this transfer over to music as well? Because if so, I think Based God has a pretty big lead on everyone else.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:55 PM on February 8, 2012


Luckily, just outside the art bubble, there are thousands upon thousands of ludicrously talented career artists out there who work you can acquire at the lower end of 4 figures.
The pieces probably won't generate 1000% interest of value in your lifetime, but they will be AMAZING, bring you tonnes of joy, and chances are will not lose much of their value if the artist is professional and you treat the piece well.
posted by Theta States at 7:55 AM on February 9, 2012


Auction prices for Stradavari violins, on the other hand, have increased an average of 10.3% annually for the last 30 years.

If resale value is your sole criterion you should be invested entirely in NYC Taxi Medallions.
posted by The Bellman at 9:45 AM on February 9, 2012


Felix Salmon muses on why art prices keep rising.

Actually, his thesis--repeatedly stated--is that the prices fluctuate wildly and that fine art is a lousy investment.

The second part of the FPP is right--that he's making an argument about artist's becoming "brands":
the one thing that pretty much all ultra-expensive art has in common is that it’s instantly recognizable as the work of a given artist
Unfortunately, that bit of the argument is just wrong. Well, it's wrong that this is something new. The whole point of prestige art has always been that it is "instantly recognizable as the work of a given artist." If the work looks like just about anyone could have painted it why would it be a prestige item? That's why even back in the Renaissance art buyers specified in their contracts that a certain percentage of the work had to actually be the work of the master and not of the studio, for example. Nobody buying a Leonardo wanted it to look like it might just as well have been a Francia.

Artists work very hard to achieve an identity, to gain a recognizable "eye" or "voice." This has been true at least since the late Middle Ages. It's certainly no recent development.
posted by yoink at 11:28 AM on February 9, 2012


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