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A History of Contemporary Art and Auctions: We may know the price of art but not its value…

We may know the price of art but not its value…

The Global COVID-19 Savings Glut is elevating the value of art as an investment asset.
After the Christie’s auction house sold its first NFT artwork for a record 7.5 billion yen ($69 million), Sotheby’s also partnered with the digital artist who goes by the pseudonym of “Pak” to host an NFT sale called “The Fungible Collection” which generated a total sales of 1.8 billion yen ($16.8 million) over a 3 day period at the “Nifty Gateway” marketplace.

These auction houses do not have a long history of selling contemporary art.

Art auctions started around 50 years ago in 1973 when taxi company mogul Robert Scull auctioned off his art in the “Scull Auction” (hosted by Sotheby’s).
He famously said, “Acquisition is involvement, and in art – it’s probably the most exciting kind of involvement. Of course, owning a nice share of IBM is an involvement, too.”

At the time, artists scorned him for treating art as objects. This is because art was something people often only got to appreciate at galleries and museums.
The art historian Barbara Rose points out that it was “a milestone event that established the idea that modern art could be a really effective money-making tool by ‘buying low and selling high’.”

As artwork by deceased artists is limited in numbers, they cannot satisfy the demand of consumers (collectors, investors?). However, contemporary art can be infinitely generated. This was the general opinion in some parts of the art industry.

The value of something is in the demand that they generate. When the supply falls short of the demand, the price increases; but in the case of art, price is not always correlated with demand.
Here’s a movie about this thought-provoking topic.

◆The Price of Everything, directed by Nathaniel Kahn
You can watch it on U-NEXT!

*The photo shows “LANDSCAPE”, a work by Ryo Shinagawa who runs the “Oil Gallery” at the Shibuya PARCO department store. On display until tomorrow (April 1–19, 2021). Don’t miss it.