When the auctions bet on the buzz

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Love is the Air is a Bansky opera sold on October 5th 2018.
Love is the Air is a Bansky opera sold on October 5th 2018. BEN STANSALL / AFP

Has the art market gone mad? For a year, he tried to make us dizzy. In November, a Salvator Mundi, awarded to Leonardo da Vinci, was awarded $ 450 million (€ 394.44 million) by Christie & # 39; s. Since then, its authenticity has been contested and the panel, which was supposed to be hung in the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, has not yet resurfaced. In October, at Sotheby & # 39; s, a drawing by Banksy is in turmoil: hardly the work is awarded for a million pounds (1.12 million euros), is destroyed at a distance by the artist himself. Against all expectations, based on the publicity generated by this event, the contractor decides to keep this design torn.

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The same month, this time from Christie's, a dark crust produced by artificial intelligence flies for $ 432,000, 45 times its high esteem … "Com operation"according to counselor Hervé Mikaeloff, who believes it "Auction houses play with fire". "A vulgar joke", according to the councilor Patricia Marshall who regrets a market for her part "With too much money, too many people and few connoisseurs".

In fact, for these quantities, the expert collectors would have been spoiled for choice: masterpieces of minimal art, such as the flimsy sculptures of Fred Sandback, the paintings of the '60s by Martin Barré, drawings by Jean Dubuffet, David Hockney or Georg Baselitz … In short, artists who have marked their era and are inscribed in the history of art.

For the Marc Blondeau merchant, "We entered a convenience market and the design of art works is devalued in favor of the anecdote".

Are these buzzing events indicative of the market? Not exactly. "Above all they testify to the auction site in the art market ecosystem: they are the most complete spectacle place, and the greatest opacity, notes Stéphane Corréard, owner of the Galeristes fair, held from November 30th to December 2nd in Paris. Who are the buyers of these two objects? Do they have a relationship with the sellers? What role does the auction house play in these productions? The public does not know it. "

Media madness

This opacity also exists for the sale of works by important artists. Previously, the result of an auction was the result of a sweet madness, even a flurry. From now on, for the most important works sold in London or New York, auction houses guarantee the transaction by guaranteeing the seller a fixed price, through a third party, usually a merchant. If the lot does not reach this price, it is purchased by the guarantor. If the auction goes up, he and the seller share the surplus. According to a survey by Art newspaper, the volume of guarantees from third-party auction could reach $ 2.5 billion in 2018.

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