Dan Colen's Moment of Market Clarity
From Andrew Goldman’s recent profile of Colen:
Of course, Colen is preoccupied not just with the issue of staying power but also with that of legacy—a frequent topic of conversation in his circle of artist friends. “We all love to look at old Artforums and be like, ‘Who the fuck are these people?’” he says. “There’s a hundred ads in every issue from 1985, and there’s, like, three names you know. Is it different now?” Colen pauses to contemplate the heaviness of his own question. In one important way, he says, it’s very different: “Back then, there definitely weren’t 25-year-olds selling at auction for $300,000. To see how artists fizzle away after people have invested that much money in them will be interesting, I think.”
I may not be much of a believer in Colen’s work, but instead of taking time out to knock his hustle, I want to focus on how absolutely right he is about the points above.
Every major collector I worked with in my gallery days had a section of their vast art storage units devoted to works by one-time “hot young artists” who eventually lost their claim on all three of those magic words. These pieces were normally mistakes from each client’s first few tentative years of art buying: growing pains now worth less than the frames and pedestals accessorizing them.
Colen nails how the times have - and have not - changed on this issue. As today’s new collectors familiarize themselves with the market, their own tastes, and whose advice is worth heeding, they’re still likely to make the same amount of early mistakes as their predecessors. But on average those mistakes are going to be orders of magnitude costlier than they were even ten years ago. At least, assuming they can’t be flipped to a bigger sucker before the dye packet explodes in the loot bag.
We can argue about just how much irony is involved in hearing this message from a guy who has been handsomely rewarded for “painting” with chewing gum and replicating bird shit on canvas, but as any journalist will tell you, the best sources are usually the ones on the inside of the action.