The Best Endures
On the same day that the Dow Industrial Average dropped almost 400 points, bidders at Sotheby’s Evening Contemporary Sale dropped over $315 million. Records were set for great abstract works by such artist icons as Clyfford Still, Joan Mitchell, and Gerhard Richter to name a few. The sale results fly in the face of a deepening recession, floundering international economies and loud Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. Even hardened and knowledgeable art experts and auction goers were stunned by the prices realized. One journalist referred to the sale as “white hot”. “White hot, “red hot”, or whatever “heat-related” term you choose, great art is an attractive commodity – one that you can hang on your wall and enjoy. Around the same time Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago was selling not a contemporary painting, but a traditional Hudson River School work by Jasper Francis Cropsey, Dawn of Morning, Lake George, for $660,000, setting an auction record as the fourth highest price ever paid for a work by the artist. What is happening here? It is clear that there are people who have money and apparently lots of it who are willing to spend it. They feel that art is a safe asset class –if the right works of art are purchased-and that is the key phrase. Currencies erode, stock prices rise and fall, but the crème of the crème, the best of the best in art endures and seems to grow in value.