Looking Back, Looking Ahead
As the digital birthday cupcake emailed to me by Tumblr this morning verifies, The Gray Market turned one today. I can’t say exactly how much time feels like it’s passed since I was frantically trying to come up with a name for the blog with only minutes to go until my brother picked me up for my flight to Art Basel Miami last December 3rd…but it’s not a year. Time is a wrecking ball.
While I paced around my apartment yesterday afternoon wondering what I should write to commemorate the anniversary, my brain jumped back to a couple of questions asked by art industry pundits during last week’s blitz of Basel Miami prep pieces. I’m paraphrasing, but the essence was something like...
“Will the global art market continue its torrid sales pace in south Florida during the week’s slate of fairs, exhibitions, and celebrity-sponsored events? Or will we see signs that the alleged bubble is finally leaking air?”
To me, these questions are about as silly as asking whether there will be shoddy-looking Scarface merch available in South Beach’s tourist shops this weekend.
Absolutist arguments rarely pay off, but one thing I believe with the full-hearted passion of a late ‘60s Haight-Ashbury Free Love advocate is that, niche as the art market may be, its health is always a reflection of two larger entities: macroeconomic trends and, to a lesser extent, cultural tastemakers’ interests.
So if you want to know whether a well-coordinated orgy of fine art commerce will go down in Miami this week–or if so, why–consider asking yourself these questions instead of groping around aimlessly in the dark for a rewarding feel:
Is the contemporary art scene less glamorous than it was last December?
Are the returns for traditional asset classes more appealing than they were at this time in 2013?
If click-throughs give you hives, suffice it to say that my answer to all of the above is “No.” Every meaningful indicator I see suggests that, like a Cialis and cocaine speedball, the world’s collectors and dealers are going to make sure the art market stays fully engorged and frenetic for the foreseeable future, regardless of what propriety might advise and outside observers might hope.
The ride won’t last forever, nor should it. But for now, the vibe is still so euphoric that, hell, the market might go up on a Tuesday.
And anyone trying to gauge when it will come down again should look past arbitrary calendar dates and gut feeling to the state of world finance and the zeitgeist. It’s bizarre to think that there’s an industry where Miley’s involvement is nearly as valuable a fiscal thermometer as George Soros’s portfolio, but the art market has always been special–even if not quite in this way before. I have no doubt that it will continue to be so at Art Basel Miami 2014 and beyond.
Thanks to all of you who read the blog this year. Looking forward to more madness in 2015.