Entries in art (2)


contemporary art

The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art - Don Thompson, 2008, Palgrave Macmillan

An informative, and ultimately depressing book about art in the 21st century.

How does a work then come to be worth $12 million, or $140 million? This has more to do with the way the contemporary art market has become a competitive high-stakes game, fuelled by great amounts of money and ego. The value of art often has more to do with artist, dealer, or auction-house branding, and with collector ego, than it does with art. The value of one work of art compared to another is in no way related to the time or skill that went into producing it, or even whether anyone else considers it to be great art. The market is driven by high-status auctions and art fairs that become events in their own right, entertainment and public display for the ultra-rich.

Branding has become the most important element in any work's provenance - whether through a collector, a dealer, an auction house, or a museum.

Auction houses have nearly taken over the market for high end art work.

"80% of the art bought from local dealers and local art fairs will never resell for as much as the original purchase price. Never, not a decade later, not ever."

At the end of the book, Thompson, who has lectured on economics at the London School of Economics, offers a few rules:

With the work of western artists, what kind of painting will appreciate most? There are general rules. A portrait of an attractive woman or child will do better than that of an older woman or an unattractive man. An Andy Warhol Orange Marilyn brings twenty times the price of an equal-sized Richard Nixon.

Colors matter...

Bright colors do better than pale colors. Horizontal canvases do better than vertical ones. Nudity sells for more than modesty, and female nudes for much more than male...

Purebred dogs are worth more than mongrels, and racehorses more than cart horses. For paintings that include game birds, the more expensive it is to hunt the bird, the more the bird adds to the value of the painting... There is an even more specific rule, offered by New York dealer David Nash: paintings with cows never do well. Never.

A final rule was contributed by Sotheby's auctioneer Tobias Meyer. Meyer was auctioning a 1972 Bruce Nauman neon work, Run from Fear/Fun from Rear, which referred to an erotic act. When the work was brought in, a voice from the back of the room complained, "Obscenity." Meyer, not known for his use of humor on the rostrum, responded, "Obscenity sells." Often it does not, but for a superstar artist like Jeff Koons or Bruce Nauman, it does. It did.


russ warren video

I want to thank Russ Warren and Lyn Warren again for helping to make this happen.