Monday, September 22, 2008

The Short Selling of Art

It is a bad analogy, but it may be apropos.

Last week papers seemed tickeld by Damien Hirst's London auction sales. The record sale of nearly $200,000,000 of art "produced" by Hirst is certain to astound anyone, but Liz Gunnison's assertion that "Art Hangs On" when the US economy is in bedlam is hard to swallow. It may be the irrelevant silver lining in what is otherwise grim economic news, but Hirst is hardly the champion to be celebrated. As the Wall Street Journal was reporting, his buyers were owners of Sotheby's, owners of Christie's, and Gagosian and White Cube Galleries - Hirst's dealers. Oddly no judgement was attached to that report. At least, no negative judgment was attached to that report.

For an artist - Hirst - with diminishing sales and interest, jacking up the price through auction is hopeful. It is a hope fulfilled when the galleries that represent him drive up the bid (because they have a backroom filled with this crap) and inflate the market for his work. But, in the end, it smells like a conflict of interest. Kinda like having someone rate a bunch of "toxic" home equity loans as AAA, only to sell them off to other banks. Granted, if Francois Pinault's investment breaks from its glass vitrine, Christie's won't get pickled in formaldehyde.

As previously stated, a bad analogy. But, will there be any surprise if these bozos don't find a market for Hirst's work outside their little cul de sac?

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