Wednesday, December 19, 2007


It is kinda weird, for someone who is rarely in NYC and is always hearing about how HOT the art market is, with artists supposedly under pressure to produce new work for fairs, to come across so much stuff I have seen in NYC shows re-represented in people's shots from Miami. What are the chances that work from the few shows I have seen in Chelsea are the ones that just happen to get photographed and put on the internet by people visiting ABMB? Makes me think that if I were a (more) frequent visitor of the galleries and had gone to Florida I would've seen A LOT of familiar stuff.

PLUS, so much of it got good press in New York. I don't know much of anything about the art market, and am not a participant, but if good stuff that is getting good reviews in the NYTimes is not selling... how "hot" can the market be?

Albert Oehlen in Concrete Works, at Mitchell-Innes & Nash - priced at $425,000, it good a good mention in the NYTimes review of the show.

- in Miami at Luhring Augustine.

Michael Zahn, in Late Liberties, at John Connelly - positive mention in the Bridget Goodbody NYTimes review of the show.

This show (and Zahn) got A LOT of mostly positive press; Time Out New York, Gay City News, New York Sun, Bloomberg, James Wagner, more. Actually, I wasn't too into this show, except for the Wendy White and Carrie Moyer.

- in Miami at 11 Rivington.

Sarah Peters, at Winkleman - this was a good show, good prices, and she got a very good review in the NYTimes, by Roberta Smith (scroll down)! What the hell, why is there so much of it in Miami? I don't get it.

HOT Market + GOOD Work + EXCELLENT Review + by ROBERTA Smith! = SHOULD Equal they are all GONE, right? Something does not compute... input dekimasen... system overload... CRASH.

- in Miami at Winkleman.

There is more, I just wanted to hit the NYTimes ones. Maybe it's because they were summer shows? OR/and is the market hype a big bluff, and it's over? OR/and are NYtimes reviews no reflection on sales? It looks like the Overstock.com warehouse.

UPDATE: forgot to include this great post/thread in which Frank Holliday comes onto Wendy's blog to defend his review of the Late Liberties show.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the excellent post Martin. It undermines my simplistic view of the art market, but at the same time this statistic is pretty awe-inspiring:

"The international art market totaled €43.3 billion in sales in 2006..."

I have never tried to sell anything (except my writing) so don't ask me how the market is REALLY doing.

My latest comic deals with the money end of things.


Anonymous said...

I think it was Pretty Lady who wrote that much of the art fairs were smoke and mirrors... she might be right....


Anonymous said...

good reviews in the new york times and other places do not always equal sales, i can attest to this, also it is all smoke and mirrors, all dealers will say they sell out the booth when they do not. the stuff is back in the back rooms in no time. or being sent back to the studio, boo hoo.

Anonymous said...

this is a great post, martin. it's true what anon 11:07 says about dealers just saying they sold out. often they buy the work that doesn't sell themselves just to please the artist.

also anon is right that good reviews don't always mean sales. though a nyt review should. good shows get reviewed all the time, but if the gallery doesn't have good contacts or isn't "cool"---sales don't happen. it's so retarded.

but i can attest that the sarah peters works (aside from a couple) were all NEW in miami!

Anonymous said...

ABMB is just Chelsea with better beaches.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the reason nothing sold is because all of the artists, curators and institutions mentioned are vapid, irrelevant and just plain boring?

Martin said...

not to come across in any way as unsupportive of SP and her wonderful work, but five of the eight works pictured i recognize from the show at winkleman's.

i'm aware that artists and dealers have to constantly be putting the best spin on things, and the perils of honesty. it sucks.

Martin said...

anonymous 5:05 - so what does that mean? does that make the reverse true? i don't think so.

how does your theory apply to other fields? are the best movies/books the ones that sell the most tickets/copies?

this is a stupid tangent.

Anonymous said...

I said "perhaps", dick.

Kai said...

while dick maybe appropriate, your comment could be strengthened with a good nickname. How 'bout weiner?

Martin said...

ooooohhh! i get it now! you were doubly hedging your bets with the "perhaps", plus the "anonymous". you are smart to be so careful and non-commital.

Joanne Mattera said...

Martin, thanks for being a strong voice for reality in the art world. That said, let me offer an alternative take on the fairs:

This was my third year in Miami, and while I did see --and photograph--some work I'd previously seen in Chelsea, I have to tell you that there was a lot of everything. Certainly a lot of new work, and some secondary-market work. And new work by familiar artists.

Writing as an artist, I was pleased to see work selling at the fairs. And make no mistake, work was definitely selling; you could see the transactions taking place right there in the booths.

If the fairs are in part smoke and mirrors, well that's part of the decor. I'm not "defending" the fairs--they don't need my defending-- just acknowledging that this grossly commercial aspect of the art world has a specific and very useful purpose: to create greater national and international visibility for the dealer and her artists (there were a lot of Europeans in Miami, with their strong Euro; many, many Latin AMericans; many Americans); to allow connections to take place (curators are looking for new artists and ideas; dealers are looking to broaden their roster without having to plow through our submissions), to creates sales (those euros and pesos were steaming, baby).

It's also a lot of fun. You run into friends from all over, and you can dine alfresco late-ish into the evening. It's like summer camp for kids, except it takes place in December for grown-ups.

I've been blogging about the fairs since I got back. Scope gets posted shortly, and then I'll tackle the last one on my list: Art Miami.

Take a look: www.joannemattera.blogspot.com.

Anonymous said...

Look Martin, it's not so much a theory as it is a statement of my opinion based on facts about the art world: Mediocre art arranged by curators with no vision shown at sophmoric galleries at WITH FEW WEALTHY CLIENTS at crappy art fairs just aren't going to sell that much work.
Change any of these elements (say a sophmoric gallery gets into a "better" art fair) and sales improve. Say one of the sophmoric galleries mediocre artists "get's better", then sales improve. It's not rocket science.
Hey and guess what? People selling stuff tend to lie sometimes. Who knew?

Anonymous said...

martin, nice mention on art fag city!

Martin said...

joanne - i've been checking all of your miami posts, thanks for all the photos and captions.

i went to miami in 2005, it was great, i had a blast. hope i'm not mis-representing myself as someone who is anti the fairs... it is just interesting for those of us who are wondering "WHAT?" booming art market to share that it might not be all that.

actually, i applied to geisai, but didn't get accepted.

dubz - paddy is really good to me, fer sure.



Joanne Mattera said...


I think the issue with the "booming" art market is that the market operates on so many levels--the bluechip galleries, the wide range of midlevel galleries, the emerging galleries, in NY and elsewhere.

I personally don't pay much attention to the high auction prices because they don't affect me as far as I can tell. But I can say that many more dealers, and as a result, many more artists, are earning a living through the sales of art.

"Making a living" and "living large" are of course two different things, but I love to see the galleries thrive, because it means that more of us can move up from employed elsewhere to "making a living" and others can move up to "living better" and so on up the food chain to whatever "large" might mean.

I will say this about how the market is really doing: Look at the galleries who go back fair after fair. If they were consistently losing $20M or more each time, they wouldn't keep going back. And if they're just breaking even and still going back, that has to tell you that follow-up sales and corollary benefits, such as increased visibility, are making the fairs financially viable for them.

Re Gesai: I think your work is too good for that fair. It seemed like a just-out-of-art-school thing.

Anonymous said...

I hope this continues to be commented on. I am interested and want to comment but its 3 am and I am tired. Hard to organize thoughts.

Anonymous said...

(my experience is with Scope, I haven’t been to any other fairs)

I think art fairs can be good for gallerists in that art fairs are a curatorial competition. Scope seems to let in galleries from a variety of places so a gallery in Richmond can show next to one in New York. Votes are mostly in red dots, some press. Art fairs also give artwork a second chance to be seen (as noted in previous comments) opening the possibility that an artist might make a little money in between shows.
When I go to an art fair my interest is less in the art and more in the people. An art fair is an opening that lasts for 4 days. At an opening I scan the art work and then bullshit with people. If I want to look at the art I come back a couple days later. And you cant do that at an art fair. So it is hard to say what the votes mean. As an artist participating in all this I have noticed that in a show in a gallery I can get interesting feedback but in an art fair the only feedback I get is either “people loved it, heres some money” or “you didn’t sell anything”

Anyway its an interesting phenomina. And Martin if you ever come across some data having to do with the increase in the amount of “fine artists” in the last hundred years or so, let me know. I m thinking about something but having a hard time finding data.