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  • Writer's pictureVan Weyenbergh Fine Art

Paradox of the auction records

Updated: Jul 29, 2019

Still auction records? Auction houses have become so accustomed to announce auction records that we pay less and less attention to them, or at least we lose the sense of proportion. Record for a living artist, record for a living artist woman, record for a drawing of a living artist woman ... By sub-categorizing ad infinitum works of art, auctioneers always manage to eradicate a record. Sometimes they have to play tricks to keep up, for example by comparing fresh auctions with estimates excluding fees, or forgetting inflation.

In New York, therefore, at least two records have been set. One in the "living artist" category won by Jeff Koons thanks (trick!) to a recent increase in Christie's commission rates, as the hammer price (no charge) is the same as the previous record held by David Hockney. Koons needed this spotlight to reassure his collectors, to the point that evil spirits suspect a purchase of convenience. The other "highest" spectacular is in the category "Impressionism" with the undisputed master of the auction, Claude Monet.

The two auction houses naturally rejoiced - it is the game - with these scores, just as they had previously widely publicized these vacations.

Curiously, Sotheby's was less talkative on the large painting by William Bouguereau who did not find a buyer, while he, too, had been highly promoted. The experts thought that that type of painting was fully out of the purgatory in which the modern art had plunged it and that without reaching the price levels of a Monet, that type of art too could claim a record. Nothing has happened and the irony of the situation is that it is a contemporary fireworks work, in this case the Koons Rabbit, which constitutes the new horizon of the contemporary art market.

Paradoxically, if for the public, records end up without a meaning, except that the art economy is completely disconnected from the real economy, the records are for the market players a race without a winner.

Article in the Journal des arts.

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