The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art

Category: Architecture
Author: Don Thompson
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by killjoywashere   2022-04-30
Don Thompson gets after this from another angle in "The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art". The particular thread I'm thinking of is the purchases of Charles Saatchi. It looks externally like there's a positive feedback loop where he collects you, which makes you famous, which makes your work valuable, which he can then sell. But ... if you look at the average value of work in Saatchi's collection, it asymptotically approaches $0. The man buys a lot of art. Warehouses full of stuff that hasn't been seen. Similarly, there are a lot of poor writers in New York. Is there a positive feedback loop? Try measuring it.

by pizza234   2021-03-09
Based on my reading of the "12 million dollars stuffed shark"¹, this has the same mechanics as the market of a piece of contemporary art (I'd go as far as considering that this is, essentially, an art piece).

In such markets, pieces are status, which has nothing really to do with matter (in a physical sense). Specifically:

- status is sold; Jack Dorsey is famous, and his first tweet is strongly symbolic;

- status is acquired/purchased; the buyer has the money for the purchase, and he'll fits the item likely in a sort of private collection.

The status interpretation can make more intuitive the nature of the transaction/item, dispelling the insanity interpretation.

It needs to be considered also that this can be very conventional speculation; in this sense, it would appear intuitively "not insane", like financial instruments (of course, in another sense, they are fundamentally insane :)).


by wallflower   2018-07-22
Reposting an old comment. The art world obeys supply and demand - where demand has no relation to the real world. Damien Hirst is a marketing genius. He needs a factory to build his art, much like Porsche.

If you are more curious about the contemporary art world market and why $29M is not that expensive[1], I recommend "The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art". In general, brand (in this case Christie's and Sotheby's) ranks supreme above all else. Once you are branded, you can pretty much sell anything as expensive art. Also, an interesting factoid - when we hear of Far East/Middle East buyers bidding tens of millions (or more) for a painting, we naturally tend to think - who buys that without seeing it - but as the book points out - the painting has most likely gone to see the buyer already (e.g. Dubai/Hong Kong pre-auction private tour).

Excerpts from the book:

"Money itself has little meaning in the upper echelons of the art world -- everyone has it. What impresses is ownership of a rare and treasured work such as Jasper Johns' 1958 White Flag. The person who owns it (currently Michael Ovitz in Los Angeles) is above the art crowd, untouchable. What the rich seem to want to acquire is what economists call positional good; things that prove to the rest of the world that they really are rich."

Jasper Johns' White Flag

Estimates on the artist economy: "40k artists resident in London (about same number in NYC)

For London and NYC each: 75 superstar artists (>$1M/yr income)

300 mature, successful artists (>$100k/yr income)

5,000 part time artists (need to supplement their income)"

[1] "If a great apartment costs $30 million, than a Rothko [big deal famous contemporary artist] that hangs in the featured spot in the living room can also be worth $30 million - as much as the value of the apartment. But no one could envision a $72.8 million apartment to use for comparison..."