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I have long held that the law of supply and demand does not apply to the art market, where every object is unique, even for multiples which differ among themselves in many details including the condition.

The very high prices achieved at auction in Paris during the sale of the Yves Saint-Laurent collection make me change this opinion.

Since October, the supply of works of art of high quality had declined because of the loss of confidence among sellers. The Saint-Laurent collection was sold at a time when the demand became strong because of some shortage of supply.

What do you think?

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I feel it depends. The name Yves Saint- Laurent did magic. Like wise the names of Christie's & Sotheby's too does magic. People associate art work from famous people & good pieces with these auction houses. (But they too are making mistakes these days. They are just selecting names without giving a second thought to quality of work).
If you include the things possessed or collected by Princess Diana, Angelina Jolie, Marylin Monroe & people like that in auction sales everybody will come & try to have a piece of fame . So the prices will be high. Some time back I read a story in a news paper.
It seems a pop star visited a restaurant & spit chewing gum in a thrash can. The restaurant owner collected it & sold it in an auction for a very high price. What a disgusting idea & news!? But such things happen.
What can you say about them?
It is difficult to understand the dynamics of auctions.
What seem to be working at one point of time may not work at other times.
This world of auctions is weird place!
Yes, it has become a fashion here for the artists to invite movie stars & ask them to give final touches to their finished paintings & other art works. They will take photos of the stars painting, publish them in papers & magazines, & give them to TV news so that everybody can see them. Then they will sell the art works in auctions for very high prices. It has become very commercial. (Of course recession has put some road blocks to this absurdity).
Carla Bruni's photo had been purchased for such a high price after she became France's First Lady.
Glad you are studying the auction processes. Please give us also some tips on how to become famous in the auction world & get a good price for our works.
Pierre Tavlitzki said:
I make a difference between pieces that had a role in the story of the owner (Jimi Hendrix' burned guitar, Elvis Presley's stage suit, Einstein's wristwatch) and other artefacts that were only owned by some famous people. The former are discussed in my group Memorabilia, I deliberately ignore the latter because they are only auctioned for advertising the owner at low cost for him (including the very high result recently obtained on a painting by Vladimir Putin in a charity auction).
However it is true that there is a provenance effect. The buyer always feels comfortable if the artwork went through a prestigious collection, because it lowers the risk that the purchased lot is a fake. This certainly had a role in the high results of the Saint-Laurent sale, but in this case Saint-Laurent is viewed by the buyer as a reliable connoisseur, not as a prestigious people. In January at Christie's, the art collection of the late Julius Held went much higher than its estimates. It did not contain major works because Held was an art historian, not a rich collector, but the market was totally confident in the selection of works that he made for his collection.

In the case of the Saint-Laurent armchair by Eileen Gray, I feel that both effects had a role : Saint-Laurent viewed as one of the best experts of Art Déco style, and the armchair once photographed in the middle of Saint-Laurent's living room.

But in the case of the Picasso of Saint-Laurent which was once photographed in the best place of the Saint-Laurent flat, it did not work because it is not a piece of furniture and it belongs to one of the very few Picasso periods that are outmoded. It had been presented as the top lot of the sale but went unsold. Before the sale I considered that it was not worth its price. I said : "The expected price, if obtained, will include this painting among the ten most expensive Picasso's sold at auction ... and the only of them to match this style of transition."

I feel that there is always a logic behind the price of art at auction. Often this logic is uneasy to find, but characterizing it through many examples is my little and unacademic contribution to art (and culture) research.


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