Art: The Wonder and the Paradox

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Art: The Wonder and the Paradox

Now that the Dow has officially plummeted by a greater percentage than the crash of 1929, with lows lower than the pre-Internet boom, investors who can’t buy enough gold and who have decided that cash isn’t king have jumped into art. Let me clarify that — Modern Art, art made before 1960.

Last week the collection of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his boyfriend Pierre Bergé went on sale through Christie's in Paris. Fifty-nine works of Impressionist and Modern Art sold for €374,392,500 ($484,426,456). In the worst economic climate in modern history the Laurent/Bergé collection has set an auction record for a private collection and set “a record for the most valuable auction in Europe.”

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A Mondrian-inspired dress from Yves Saint Laurent's famous 1965 collection

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Piet Mondrian’s Composition avec bleu, rouge, jaune et noir, 1922

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Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé's apartment on 55 rue de Babylone in the Seventh Arrondissement of Paris

All monies from the auction will go to medical research in the fight against AIDS and the Saint Laurent Foundation honoring the designer's work.

The art world is such a multi-headed beast, acting as both villain and victim; Or art can be a kind of Robin Hood, taking from the rich and giving to the poor; or it can become a safe haven for the greedy to be greedier.

The Swiss bank UBS, one of the major underwriters for Art Basel Miami which is America’s largest international art fair, is now under investigation for helping wealthy clients evade taxes. During the Basel Miami fairs, UBS cultivated wealthy clients by setting up special classes on purchasing art and hiding assets through off-shore subsidiaries and other alternately shady and legal dealings. Since February, the Justice Department has been investigating UBS and their clients, focusing on their art fair shenanigans. As Huffpo writer Thomas B. Edsall puts it, Obama is now on the hunt for revenue, with grand ambitions to cut the deficit in half by 2012.

This week, the International Art Fairs have descended on New York. The main fair, The New York Armory along with the accompanying satellite fairs — Scope, Pulse, Volta, Bridge — bring in the high and mighty for their seasonal feeding.

Dealers of contemporary art are nervous, as they should be, wondering if sales will cover their overhead. Dealers of emerging and contemporary artists rely on the disposable income of young and aspiring collectors whose wealth has been severely damaged over the last few months. Who cares, you might say, but this is how the trickle down happens if you are an artist. Starving artists get shown by emerging galleries, who are then patronized by young collectors and, if you're lucky, the slow migration up the ladder of wealth continues. Meanwhile, the bigger collectors — when not hiding dollars in the Bahamas — run to safe modern works of very dead artists, and on days they've ripped off the government in an elaborate ponzi scheme, they may daringly buy the work of an emerging artist.

Our photographer Megan and I will be visiting the art fairs over the next few days in the hopes of bringing you the paradox and the wonder of it all… stay tuned.



Comments [12]

Tex's picture

“Someday we'll find it, that

“Someday we'll find it, that rainbow connection,
the lovers the dreamers and me.”

KTF

Twitter Time @kdhales

Aesentia's picture

...and all the Medici tried

...and all the Medici tried to do is save their souls from eternal damnation by giving Church art. I'm sure they haven't saved their souls, but crated a currency, they have. €374,392,500, phewww.

Steph H's picture

"Half way up the stairs is

"Half way up the stairs is the stair where I sit, there isn't any stair quite like it."

I love Kermit!

Tex's picture

Sorry, I forgot to ask - the

Sorry, I forgot to ask - the pig in the picture? Guess it must be the Prop 8 blog of Kelly's and this pig, but I'm thinking of my favorite "different" couple of lovers - Miss Piggy and Kermit....such ground breakers for equality!

Twitter Time @kdhales

mysticsmb's picture

Kent, thanks so much for

Kent, thanks so much for posting that link. I had no idea how smallish collectors operate--very informative indeed!

I do hope the Ms. Hancocks of the world are still out there buying work...

Lezbeth's picture

I'm glad dead artists are

I'm glad dead artists are cleaning up on the economic collapse. It seems ironically appropriate. The donation of the YSL work's proceeds to fight AIDS is fabulous though.

I just spent two days in a courtroom working on sketches for a media portfolio. As an "emerging artist." I'm looking to where the action is (crime) to pick up a few bucks and not anticipating fine art sales for a long time. It's nice to know fine art is selling somewhere, even if it is configured in Swiss francs.

mysticsmb's picture

Grace, this will be the first

Grace, this will be the first year in several that I will be missing the Armory Show, so I'm looking forward to your report--and pix!

Xanadu's picture

Imagine having to dust that

Imagine having to dust that apartment ...

minniesota's picture

I'd like to say something

I'd like to say something profound about money and art, but my brain is fried. Look forward to your reports, Grace.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Fastgurrrl's picture

"Fifty-nine works of

"Fifty-nine works of Impressionist and Modern Art sold for €374,392,500 ($484,426,456). In the worst economic climate in modern history the Laurent/Bergé collection has set an auction record for a private collection and set “a record for the most valuable auction in Europe.”

When I first saw this I thought, "Well, looks the haves still have plenty!"

Then I saw this, "All monies from the auction will go to medical research in the fight against AIDS and the Saint Laurent Foundation honoring the designer’s work."

HOPE IT'S TRUE

Kent's picture

I wonder if this year's

I wonder if this year's Armory will see such daring collectors like Susan Hancock dropping big bucks on emerging artists' work!

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/03/nyregion/03collection.html

Or maybe there will only be buyers from Dubai?

Thanks Grace, so exciting! Look forward to reading your reports!

Tex's picture

Looking forward to the Vp

Looking forward to the Vp installments of art for those of us not able to attend the showings in NYC.

UBS is in trouble on several fronts with their investment strategies - that story is just beginning! Got a feeling those Swiss bank accounts once thought of as untouchable are going to cause a world of grief to many....even the crooks are falling on hard economic times....that's bad!

Twitter Time @kdhales