The Spectacle of the Art Market Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com
If you read my last post (which is the introduction to this post) then you may be asking yourself whether art market trends can really be dictated to a certain extent by such a simple and primitive human instinct. The evidence that I have come across suggests that it can. In fact, a recent study linked the human attraction to shiny objects with a primitively instinctual attraction to, and desire for, sources of water. I would would like to believe that my decision to purchase a work of art is primarily based on some highly complicated thought process or a highly developed taste for art and sense of style, and not on some primite instinct that we really don’t understand or have any control over. But we are all only human after all. And humans are highly complex and emotional creatures who are susceptible to those emotions that make us human. When you think about it, it is really not that bizarre to suggest that art market trends can be dictated by an instinctually emotion judgement as opposed to a complex process of reasoning.
Charles Saatchi is the undoubtedly the quintessential purveyor of shiny objects and is known to be particularly fond of highly visual, high impact works of art such as those produced by Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst who are both products of the Saatchi empire. Therefore, if I was going to use anyone as an example of the human attraction to bright, shiny works of art then it would have to be Saatchi. Interesting, it is a well known fact that Charles Saatchi is NOT so keen on photography or video art. Why is this interesting I hear you ask? Well, of all the different mediums that come under the banner of art it would have to be photography and film that are the least likely to incorporate the bright and shiny elements that are present in the type of works that I have been referring to. Bright colours and shiny elements are usually absent from video and photographic works of art thus making these two mediums less likely to evoke that instinctual attraction that humans have to bright and shiny objects. Video art in particular is a medium that cannot rely on high impact, instantly attractive elements to engage viewers. To appreciate and interact with a work of video art usually requires that the viewer to spend a considerable amount of time watching the video and thinking about what is happening.
When it comes to the impact that instinct and emotion can have on the art market it is interesting to compare the current art market buying trends with the state of the global financial sector. As I said in my last post, one of the interesting trends that has been particularly noticable during the recent current art market correction is that works that have less visual impact and are not as flamboyant are experiencing competitive bidding and high prices. This trend is the opposite to the popularity of high impact, bright and shiny works of art that was evident during the playful and heady days of the art market boom when the global economic outlook was far more positive. Just a coincidence? I don’t think it is. To me it would make sense that people would purchase works of art that coincide with their state of mind and the emotions produced by the circumstance that they are in at the time.
There have been studies that show that different types of perfume are purchased according to the state of the economy. A recent article featured in the Financial Times ‘How to Spend it’ magazine mentioned that “floral fragrances – the safest, least challenging perfume category – have historically flourished in a recession”. In his book ‘Why Yesterday Tells of Tomorrow: How the long waves of the economy help us determine tomorrows trends’ of 2001, Helmut Gaus used womens fashion trends as an example of anxiety and functional anxiety-driven behaviour. According to the statistics compiled by Gaus, during periods of high anxiety women wear fewer patterns, darker colours, clothes with lower necklines and skirts that are longer. During periods of less anxiety women wear more patterns, brighter colours, clothes with higher necklines and skirts that are shorter. From these two sets of data it seems that during periods of high anxiety the less complicated, less flamboyant and less colourful become more popular and the reverse during periods of less anxiety when times are good. I see no reason why the art market shouldn’t experience a similar trend.
to be continued……….
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications