Collector Peter Brant in wax by Swiss artist Urs Fischer

Sometimes in the art world, it’s money that matters, and this is one of those times. While the New York auctions raised triple the amount at a similar set of sales six months ago, to some degree the well-choreographed evenings just obscured what was really going on. Sales at the city’s 300-plus art galleries are actually still flagging, and a shakeout is going on over which artists matter and who will make it into the art-history books. The shakeout is amplifying the power of the relatively tiny cabal of people who do keep buying at the highest levels, and it’s shifting who and what people are paying attention to.

This season, it wasn’t so much who sold well, but which artists, schools and movements surprisingly weren’t on the block at all because the auctioneers didn’t even know if there was a market for them anymore. Buyers and sellers are so confused about the ultimate art-historical importance of such recently “superhot”movements as the Leipzig School (Germany), Chinese Contemporary Art (Beijing) and the so-called Young British Artists (London) that auction houses offered work from virtually none of them. A safer bet was to offer works by artists like Mr. Fischer, for example, because of his powerful fans and because he’s just a few months away from an well-recieved retrospective at the New Museum.


Alexandra Peers
New York Observer