Is a dead shark in a tank really worth millions of dollars? Art, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder—but Damien Hirst’s infamous 1991 work, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, fetched a reported US$12 million for reasons aside from its creative merit. In the video above, Vox breaks down the economics behind high-profile art market sales, and explains why an art dealer’s reputation is sometimes just as important (if not more so) than a work’s creator.
When one of the oldest and most respected art galleries in America, the Knoedler Gallery in New York, closed its doors abruptly in 2011, the art world was stunned. Not because the gallery closed, but by the discovery that over the course of 15 years, the gallery and its president, Ann Freedman, had sold millions of dollars in forgeries to wealthy collectors.
This month, New York will once again host a “gigaweek” of postwar, impressionist, modern, and contemporary art auctions, where hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of paintings and sculptures will sell every night for five days in a row.
The current narrative sending jitters through the art world is that the market, especially at the high end, is experiencing “a correction,” which is a polite way of saying that wildly expensive paintings are becoming slightly less so. Still, the evening auctions have more than enough multimillion-dollar, museum-quality artworks that will (if they sell) quiet naysayers—at least for now.