The art market makes no sense!

October 17th, 2010 | By | 14 Comments »

The nice thing about street art is that, for 99% of the people who look at it (the people who see it on the street and not on blogs like this one), there’s not market consideration about “how much is that worth?” or anything like that. But then there’s the 1% of us (the people who follow blogs and write and forums and so on) who do see the art market side of street art. Sometimes the art market provides opportunities for Boxi, Steve Powers and other artists can show up in London and paint walls with permission and free paint. Other times, the art market makes me want to cry.

This week, Philips de Pury had a few pieces in their London day auction by low-brow and street artists. Street Art Is Dead notes that two Mr. Brainwash pieces sold for £42,000 and £75,000 even though the estimates were already a seemingly insane £7-9,000 and £15-20,000 respectively. What makes those results even more disgusting is when you compare them to other results in that same sale:

  • A massive and beautiful Ryan McGinness which has been shown in The Saatchi Gallery sold for just under £19,000. A collector could have 4 of those paintings, or one crappy Mr. Brainwash.
  • The Kaws piece pictured above sold for £13,750. Not my favorite, but you would think that Star Wars fans would be all over that one.
  • And then the two most surprising results were that both a Margaret Kilgallen cluster and an old Barry McGee piece failed to sell at all! While this particular Kilgallen cluster has been floating around for quite a while, it’s not a bad piece and Kilgallen’s art is almost impossible to find for sale.

Similarly, while it doesn’t outrage me quite as much, I don’t exactly understand why this Banksy sold for $75,000. It’s just not a strong image.

The art market makes no sense and sometimes I wish it would just go away.

Photo courtesy of Phillips de Pury

Category: Auctions | Tags: , , , , ,
  • Isabel

    you are right! that so frustrating. if people like us could afford so much money..

  • Susan

    I remember street art before certain people came along who constantly felt the need to discuss market value of everything, and drag what was initially pure and innocent off the streets to be paraded inside a gallery to try to compete with the rest of the established art world. The street art loses it’s initial integrity and finally all credibility.. it has become just “art”.
    A paradox is created and said people can’t understand why?
    If you can come to understand such a paradox, you either avoid the crossover into contradiction and “keep it real” or take the risk of the consequences.

    When the house of cards falls down, the guy who builds it will always blame a gust of wind for it’s downfall. He will very rarely question why he built the cards so far up in the first place.

  • Matthew

    I must say that there is a conspiracy of collectors that collect Kaws, McGee and would be collectors of Kilgallen, that try to foster their opinions on others through forums and this blog. Trouble is, when ‘the masses’ don’t follow their opinions, they throw their toys out with the bathwater! For years now private collectors have falsely ratcheted the price of Kaws, forcing gullible people to pay the price. Now Kaws pieces are out in the open, you see the emperor wears no clothes! Enjoy it while it lasts!

  • KRS-One says it more eloquently in a few words than I can:

    “You cats got it backwards, you say REAL is wack and the FAKE shit that’s good.”

  • Miriam

    I totally agree with you on this! Sometimes it makes me sick, especially because for me, street art is about freedom, art for everyone and so on. Those prices for such crappy pieces makes a joke about those ideals…

  • 4444

    If you really wanted the art market to go away then you wouldn’t be continually promoting it as you do on this blog. The most bizarre thing though is how you persist in calling this stuff ‘Street art’ despite being told many times (even by street artists) that it’s not. Masturbate over auction results all you want, just please don’t continue to taint street art by associating it with your consumerist worldview.

  • your frustration gives the “art market” validity when all you want is equal value for artists you view as more deserving.

    your critique is weak, son.

    besides anyone who can purchase paintings for that kind of money doesnt think like you do, i.e. “4 of those paintings, or one crappy Mr. Brainwash”

    you can also have like 5 bentleys for the price of a rare porsche, whats your point?

  • Collectors want what will increase in value, what will fit their collection, and what looks good on their walls.
    go marx

  • Gaia

    42,000 bags of doritos for one MBW!

  • Jennie

    I think RJ’s point is merely a question: what are people really buying here? As it so often seems in the world of ‘cutting edge’ art, there are many that believe the hype, regardless of what ingenius artist created it from their heart or merely pulled it out of their a**. Its simply the way our modern consumerist world works, whether its artwork or a brand of deodorant. ‘Street art’ or whatever term you decide to classify this street-cum-gallery-cum-auction sold work, only heightens the bandwagon mentality as far as self promotion and self-created hype is concerned. It’s all too easy to create fame overnight these days, in fact there is a streamlined formula for it. Then blogs such as this fuel the fire, spreading both the good word and heavily debated sh*t art everywhere. Yet, all publicity is good publicity- look at how many times MBW has been slagged off, and how much his market has grown. I think the most we can hope for is a return to integrity within ourselves and among the people holding rank in the art world; taste-makers, critics, gallerists, bloggers, etc. It is a buyer’s market at the moment, both in the auction house and on the streets, so the demand for Quality (however you define it) should therefore be high. If you want the art world or otherwise to change for the better, then only talk about what you love and cease discussing anything else.

  • How in the hell did Mr. Brain con everyone? His stuff is just weak. I don’t get it.

  • Michael Aaron Williams

    my two cents:
    I agree with Gaia… thats a lot of Doritos….

    Isnt a street artist an artist though? I mean really? saying that a street artist shouldnt do gallery work is ridiculous, that limits an artist. Gallery work is not all about the money.

    yes the art market thrives on hype and a popularity game… look at damien hirst he just sold a bunch of dead fish in a cabinet for over 50 million British pounds this past week… How that happened I have no clue


  • If the artists acting in the street don’t want to be associated with the non-sens art market, perhaps they have to ask themselves if “canvas” is the better way to run away from speculation. And if they don’t have better things to do than try to earn money with the most conservative / uninteresting thing in contemprary art – which canvas is. Perhaps they could try to change people mind by promotting their own alive form instead of the one from upper consumer society.

  • Will

    I wanted so badly to believe that Mr BW was a construct created by Banksy to take the piss out of the art market & all those desperately tendy hipsters that want to be seen to be cool & knowledgeable. But friends have met him & it seems he is what he appears to be, a talentless self-important d*ck.