by Asher Edelman, November 1, 2018
The art market, in descent, reveals stars both rising and falling. Evening auctions are always great aids at understanding trajectory, and those of Sotheby’s and Christie’s London, in early October, were especially so.
At Christie’s October 4 sale, 31 works from a total auction of 56 were either bought in or sold at or very close to the low estimates or on guarantees. Sotheby’s did somewhat better with 27 out of 67 works bought in or sold at or very close to the low estimates or on guarantees.
Andy Warhol, after having commanded the highest sales records for years, was virtually excluded from the London sales. Sotheby’s had one modest work for sale, Joseph Beuys (Diamond Dust), which eked past its low estimate, whilst Christie’s locked the artist out for the night. Warhol’s market, both private and auction, has been quiet—one could almost say moribund—during the last 18 months or so.
Christopher Wool sold one picture on a guarantee and a buy-in at Sotheby’s. He also experienced a buy-in at Christie’s.
Mark Grotjahn, the decorative artist whose remarkable rise was fueled by less sophisticated “pretty painting” buyers, found only one place at auction at Christie’s. No bids were evident, other than the house bids: another buy-in.
Rudolf Stingel suffered a double buy-in at Christie’s and hit a single buy-in at Sotheby’s, scoring a negative three for three. Decorative art seems on the outs these days.
Lucio Fontana had a slash painting at Sotheby’s (yes, another buy-in) and another at Christie’s, where it squeaked by and into a buyer’s hands.
Gerhard Richter’s Skull was dead in the water, while a modest painting sold on the guarantee at Christie’s. Sotheby’s left Richter out of the sale; the artist’s market has been trending lower for the last few months, with this auction sealing the coffin.
Jenny Saville at Sotheby’s set a new record for a living woman artist: £9.5 million in a £3.0-£4.0 estimate.
Kaws won a big price for a big image at Sotheby’s: £1,030,000 against £250,000–£350,000 estimate.
Albert Oehlen doubled to tripled estimates at Christie’s but had no pictures at Sotheby’s.
Nothing is forever. The stars of yesterday sometimes fade in the night, sometimes reilluminate. When the market enters round two, rebound, art sought for quality rather than price progression or style will again be in the winner’s circle. Recognition by price is always short-lived. For success, look at the art, not the price.
There is more than psychic return on investment in this. If you look and learn, you’ll be buying more than décor. You will see greatness sooner than others and then you’ll profit twice.
It seems clear that there has been substantial support for the stock market this week, unwarranted by either technical or economic factors. We are, in fact, in the first phase of a bear market. One asks “Could it be the executive (Trump) employing taxpayer money through the ‘Plunge Protection Plan ‘ for political advantage?” Be wary and very careful of acting on stock market strength from today through Tuesday. What looks to be a turn in a bear market may simply be a Trump market manipulation.
My friend and Middle Eastern guru Terence Ward published this insightful OP-ED in the Los Angeles Times. Its real significance lies between the words, President Trump will be restrained from a likely invasion of Iran with Saudi Arabia as his partner. There will certainly be pressure to withdraw American sponsored war with Yemen – especially the paid American mercenaries. The murder of Khashoggi, deeply troubling, will be the undoing of the unholy alliance – the U.S. and the Saudis.
Terence has written a book to be released today. “The Wahhabi Code” tells all about the Saudi role in almost all of the terrorist acts since 9/11.
Khashoggi case threatens decades of Saudi impunity
Please see Paul Krugman’s postscript to my article REGIME PERMANENCE.
The Paranoid Style in G.O.P. Politics
Republicans are an authoritarian regime in waiting
by Paul Krugman
October 9, 2018
Many people are worried, rightly, about what the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh means for America in the long term. He’s a naked partisan who clearly lied under oath about many aspects of his personal history; that’s as important as, and related to, the question of what he did to Christine Blasey Ford, a question that remains unresolved because the supposed investigation was such a transparent sham. Putting such a man on the Supreme Court has, at a stroke, destroyed the court’s moral authority for the foreseeable future.
But such long-term worries should be a secondary concern right now. The more immediate threat comes from what we saw on the Republican side during and after the hearing: not just contempt for the truth, but also a rush to demonize any and all criticism. In particular, the readiness with which senior Republicans embraced crazy conspiracy theories about the opposition to Kavanaugh is a deeply scary warning about what might happen to America, not in the long run, but just a few weeks from now.
About that conspiracy theorizing: It began in the first moments of Kavanaugh’s testimony, when he attributed his problems to “a calculated and orchestrated political hit” motivated by people seeking “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.” This was a completely false, hysterical accusation, and making it should in itself have disqualified Kavanaugh for the court.
But Donald Trump quickly made it much worse, attributing protests against Kavanaugh to George Soros and declaring, falsely (and with no evidence), that the protesters were being paid.
And here’s the thing: Major figures in the G.O.P. quickly backed Trump up. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate committee that heard Blasey and Kavanaugh, insisted that the protesters were indeed employed by Soros. Senator John Cornyn declared, “We will not be bullied by the screams of paid protesters.” No, the protesters aren’t being paid to protest, let alone by George Soros. But to be a good Republican, you now have to pretend they are.
What’s going on here? At one level, this isn’t new. Conspiracy theorizing has been a part of American politics from the beginning. Richard Hofstadter published his famous essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” back in 1964 and cited examples running back to the 18th century. Segregationists fighting civil rights routinely blamed “outside agitators” — especially northern Jews — for African-American protests.
But the significance of conspiracy theorizing depends on who does it.
When people on the political fringe blame shadowy forces — often, as it happens, sinister Jewish financiers — for their frustrations, you can write it off as delusional. When people who hold most of the levers of power do the same thing, their fantasizing isn’t a delusion, it’s a tool: a way to delegitimize opposition, to create excuses not just for disregarding but for punishing anyone who dares to criticize their actions.
That’s why conspiracy theories have been central to the ideology of so many authoritarian regimes, from Mussolini’s Italy to Erdogan’s Turkey. It’s why the governments of Hungary and Poland, former democracies that have become de facto one-party states, love to accuse outsiders in general and Soros in particular of stirring up opposition to their rule. Because, of course, there can’t be legitimate complaints about their actions and policies.
And now senior figures in the Republican Party, which controls all three branches of the federal government — if you had any questions about whether the Supreme Court was a partisan institution, they should be gone now — are sounding just like the white nationalists in Hungary and Poland. What does this mean?
The answer, I submit, is that the G.O.P. is an authoritarian regime in waiting.
Trump himself clearly has the same instincts as the foreign dictators he so openly admires. He demands that public officials be loyal to him personally, not to the American people. He threatens political opponents with retribution — two years after the last election, he’s still leading chants of “Lock her up.” He attacks the news media as enemies of the people.
Add in the investigations closing in on Trump’s many scandals, from tax cheating to self-dealing in office to possible collusion with Russia, all of which give him every incentive to shut down freedom of the press and independence of law enforcement. Does anyone doubt that Trump would like to go full authoritarian, given the chance?
And who’s going to stop him? The senators parroting conspiracy theories about Soros-paid protesters? The newly rigged Supreme Court? What we’ve learned in the past few weeks is that there is no gap between Trump and his party, nobody who will say stop in the name of American values.
But as I said, the G.O.P. is an authoritarian regime in waiting, not yet one in practice. What’s it waiting for?
Well, think of what Trump and his party might do if they retain both houses of Congress in the coming election. If you aren’t terrified of where we might be in the very near future, you aren’t paying attention.
We all know and have an opinion of how and why Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate for the Supreme Court Justice – old news – old ideas.
Some of you who follow the socio-political–economic aspects of my writings have commented that my work has thinned out, less and less of it. Yes indeed, it has. The news media has carried most of the stories and analysis that I would have written. Since the Trump election the news media has left few stones unturned, whether pro or counter the new regime. Only occasionally I find a vacuum around an activity or an idea about the activity. I write now to fill this hole as to the significance and I believe, the strategy of the Herculean effort and successful conclusion for the sponsors of Judge Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh was swept into place to fulfill the real objective of President Trump and the Republican party – absolute control of the bodies governing the country, the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. As of today the Trump regime has fulfilled that role. There is surely a strategic plan in place to maintain the total imbalance of power among the governing bodies through the coming election and in perpetuity.
How? More ways than I can count but a few occur to me as I look back and presently at autocratic regimes and the strategies used to arrive at an institutionalized position of total power. All share one or many of the possibilities embedded in the loss of checks and balances in America today. We are now without the normal checks and balances embedded in the constitution and system of government enshrined by the Founding Fathers. The first and obviously strategic goal, for the Trump regime will be to make sure that stranglehold remains solid over the balance of his first term – THEN??
HOW to accomplish his goal:
The first and most frequently used technique is to create a true or false emergency – a threat to our country – during the pre election weeks. A declaration of war, without a balance of power, easy fodder for a sitting President, one thinks in fear of all the targets that can be chosen to war against, most likely Iran with Saudi and Israeli support comes to mind, though there are a myriad of possibilities which include Turkey, a further commitment to killings in Yemen, altercations with China a rather limitless list of enemies whose programs conflict with those of the reigning regime. Elections are usually won by the incumbents during periods of a threat of or actual realization of war.
Second in the red states, even some blue states, voters can be turned away at the polls or their votes disqualified for a myriad of dubious reasons. It would be for the courts – ultimately the Supreme Court to decide the legality of these turn downs. The lower courts and appellate courts have been well stacked and taken over by the conservative “right.” The Supreme Court – court of last resort – will certainly be amenable, as it has to date, for the “right” to capture election success by any means.
Third, the big guns – the huge money – will be focused by any and all means on winning the House and Senate. There will be no holds barred (legality no longer an issue) in funding the boys of red – not many women running on red tickets. Character assassination, false stories and threats – all of the dirty tricks that money can buy will surface quickly.
There are fourth through fifteenth but the first three suffice for my point. Why – control of the three branches of government, now in the extreme, can lead to control of the government and its processes permanently – clearly the objective of the current regime and its advocates.
The Americans’ risk is to give up “The American Dream” all of what we have known as the possibilities of a good and fair life, family values, the open roads for success and the rest will be closed down other than for the few who are in and/or accept the “New American World,” one of unfairness and proscribed inequality.
The end of a fair society, woman’s rights, voting rights, social security, Medicare, healthcare, minimum wage, environmental protections, monopoly protection, prosecution for corruption, tax fraud etc for friends of the regime, free trade, an independent federal reserve, minority rights, gay rights, education. The list goes on; these are a small sampling of what the new regime hopes to put into effect. Red rule, red power in place. Taking the legislatures again can keep the reactionaries permanently in place. This is the story of Brett Kavanaugh’s placement in the Supreme Court, not a trivial matter – world changing power play.
Some actual Labor Day headlines
BOND MARKET BIG NAMES BATTERED BY DEEPENING ARGENTINA TURMOIL
TURKEY BRACED FOR MARKET TURMOIL AS INFLATION RISES
TURKEY’S WOES COULD BE JUST THE START AS RECORD GLOBAL DEBT BILLS COME DUE
Trump’s Canadian Rant Threatens New Nafta Deal
CLOCK TICKS ON ITALY’S RACE TO RAISE EURO 63 BILLION IN NEW DEBT AS ROME REELS FROM SELL-OFF
North Sea Assets Worth Billions Up For Sale As Majors Scale Back
HNA STRAINS CHINA P2P FEARS
Though they were missing from the Labor Day news, I predict the following headlines will be coming soon:
TRUMP TAX LAW BITES HIGH-END ART MARKET
No Buyers At The Top: Russians, Chinese, Turks, Canadians, Brazilians, Venezuelans, Filipinos Withdraw From U.S.-Based Art Transactions. Middle Eastern Sheiks, Their G-650S Rerouted To Newfoundland, Miss The Bidding
New Leonardo Conclusively Proven To Be A “Studio” Painting
HOUSE OF CARDS GALLERY COLLAPSES UNDER STRAIN OF DEBT LOAD. COLLECTORS AND ARTISTS SEARCH FOR THEIR ART. OR, AT LEAST, THEIR MONEY
ANDY WARHOL CABAL SLIPS UP AND ACTUALLY BUYS SOME WORKS. NOW THEY HAVE TO PAY.
ART FRAUD AT TOP OF THE MARKET: PRIVATE DEALERS DEAL IN FAKES, FAKE PROVENANCES, FAKE TITLES, DISCOURAGE COLLECTORS
Auction Houses Bitten By Frivolous Guarantees. No Third-Party Players Come To The Table
QATAR LEAVES THE ART MARKET TO ABU DHABI AND THE SAUDIS AGAIN. BUT SAUDI AND ABU DHABI BIDDING STRATEGY FOR NEW $200 MILLION PAINTING—NO BIDS AND BUY AFTER THE AUCTION—SUCCEEDS. AUCTION FAILS. WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY?
So, here we are. Some of these headlines are imminent. The rest are more likely than not to come in one form or another—not to mention myriad others, as yet unimagined but equally distressing. Time to pack up our checkbooks and sit on the sidelines? Yes, at least for the moment. Some of the greatest, most wonderful, most thoughtful art of all time should soon be yours at 20 percent to 40 percent less than the prices today. All it takes is a bit of patience. Use the time to study, look and learn that art is more than just an asset class.
Opportunities come along from time to time. Some call it luck—others know it’s timing. The time to prepare to build or build upon an existing collection is now. Put your money in the bank—however, be careful which one. Take a deep breath. Sit tight, suppress the urge to splurge, and within a year or two you’ll be prepared to start buying again. If your walls are empty, borrow or lease art. Inventories are overwhelming and costly to carry. Art will look better on your walls than in a storage bin. Work from many of the sought-after artists of today who will survive and rebound can be on your walls while you wait (or maybe even bought at a discount now from those who see the coming crisis clearly).
The point? Art is not only an asset class. It is a remarkable enlightener of beauty and expression; therein lies its value. Look at it, not your bottom line, for a while. You’ll be glad you did.