11.14.2009

What Recession?

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Terminus: Drawings and Recent Paintings, a solo exhibition by Raoul De Keyser at David Zwirner through October 14, featured some 50 small abstractions with a geometric bent. I was taken with the intimacy of the work and with the playful, almost naive, shapes and colors.


Raoul De Keyser, Crawly, 2009, oil on canvas, app. 13.5 x 17.5 inches


But that's only half of why I'm writing about the show. The other half is to talk about the prices. The small paintings--most not much larger than 12 inches in any one dimension--had enormous prices. How enormous? Like $55,000 to $75,000 enormous. And there were red dots next to most of them. Want to guess the price of Crawly, above? See for yourself:
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Did I step into an alternate universe? In this beautiful show, most of the paintings, in the high five figures, were red dotted


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The three paintings on the wall, above, are shown in the price list below:
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Below: Also on the price list is Complex, 2009, oil on canvas, 12 x 10 7/8 inches. Price: $55,000
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26 comments:

Lady Xoc said...

Joanne, I believe it's a ploy and that a lot of those dots are fake (or fake-ish, i.e. wishful thinking, possible sale, somebody expressed interest). I recently stopped by my own gallery and mentioned seeing this phenomenon and they just rolled their eyes. But what I wanna know is: how the heck are you getting these pix? Do you have a concealed camera or what? Don't tell me they just let you snap away in broad daylight.

Kim Matthews said...

I was just about to say the same thing, LZ. Has the memory of Beautiful Inside My Head Forever faded already?

Stephanie Sachs said...

Loved the show and it is David Zwirner gallery, so that could be why he commanded the big bucks. De Keyser is almost 80 it is nice to see this kind of success, especially for small paintings. Hope the sales are for real.

Chris Rywalt said...

I'd say it's more likely, since it's Zwirner, that these red dots are fictional. Remember, Joanne, that no one pays the listed price at a branded gallery. It's highly unlikely this show netted anywhere near 55 grand a painting.

Art is all about appearances.

¯\(°_o)/¯ said...

Totally worth it, if I had $70,000 lying about I wouldn't think twice.

Anonymous said...

This kind of pathetically pretentious rubbish. diminishes abstract art's credibility.

I am referring of course, to the above 'masterpieces'.

Sherrill Pearson

Joanne Mattera said...

LX,
No concealed camera. I shoot everything out in the open. Why would the gallery want to hide their success?

Chris and LX,
I understand that prices may not always be what they seem, but it would grossly misrepresent the artist, as well as the gallery, to make it all up. The truth is out there.

Sherrill,
Tomato. Tomahto.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, whatever.

Sherrill

Chris Rywalt said...

I've been touting Don Thompson's The $12 Million Stuffed Shark a lot on various blogs lately. While a lot of the book consists of variations on "Wouldja believe this actually happened in the art world?" it does contain some actual information. And Thompson makes it clear, sourced as well as possible, I imagine, that the prices galleries list for art are inflated.

Of course, that's mostly a blue chip -- what Thompson calls "branded" -- dealer thing. I'm not certain Zwirner is at that rarefied level, although it certainly is close. But I honestly don't know enough.

I suppose if one subscribed to various sites one could check auction records to get an idea if these prices are in the ballpark. Of course, as we know, and as Thompson's book also points out, auction figures are somewhat fictional as well.

The main thing that makes me feel sure these prices are inflated is simply how high they are. They're just absolutely ridiculous.

Is it possible Zwirner borrowed a goodly amount of the paintings from the current owners, such that they're not for sale but can have a red dot signifying "sold at some point in the past"? Could be a public relations thing to make his gallery look like it's still selling despite the economy.

On the other hand, Raoul's been around a while and could be he's just hot right now. Marion Maneker reports his work was selling "at or near his auction record" at Christie's, each over $60,000.

Seems insane. Maybe the Russians still have money.

Anonymous said...

Last September I was in the city. I did the standard travels through Chelsea. At one prominent gallery, Max Protetch, I encountered a beautiful Ann Pibal painting in a back office. I asked if I could look more closely at it. They accommodated my request. We talked about the work for maybe five minutes when I was given the "price." The retail price is $5000. They offered me a 35% discount, and they don't know me from Adam. It made any real desire to purchase it wash away. What kind of deal are they giving the folks they DO know? I think my story might be part of how Zwirner gets the red dots. I have no idea of the monetary value of Raoul De Keyser's works, but they sure are sublime.
To keep my privacy, lets keep me anonymous.

Lady Xoc said...

Well, I stand by my opinion, and of course, that's all it is, an opinion. I have no inside info, but I happen to agree with Mr. Rywalt when he says. "The main thing that makes me feel sure these prices are inflated is simply how high they are." But more than that (and not just at Zwirner), it's the quantity of sold pieces that leaves me unbelieving. It reminds me of the realtor down the street who in the past year has plastered his window with sold listings, to the point where they nearly equal the unsold. I suppose this makes everyone feel better, to think that things are actually moving in this market. But, there's still a lot of inventory out there that's not going anywhere in a big hurry.

And as for the photography, I suppose I should not let myself be so intimidated by cross and unhospitable gallery attendants when I wish to record my visit. As always, you are a beacon of clarity and directness.

Ian MacLeod said...

I like the work. The show looks great. Thanks for posting it Joanne.
ian

Joanne Mattera said...

Anonymous,

That would be a funny story if it weren't so chilling, eh? What an
insult that discount is to the artist!

Joanne Mattera said...

LX,

Re photographing, I follow the advice of Chicago's eminence gris, Paul Klein: Better to apologize for having done it, than to ask and be denied.

Illusio said...

I know this wil not be a very popular reply. But, I honestly believe that to charge 70,000 for a painting, or yet..be prepared to pay that amount for one, is an obscenity. In a world where children are starving and have to live without the basic necessities, this kind of thing is a true testimony to how utterly corrupt, decadent and cynical our world is. I feel shame. Shame as an artist and a human being.

Bill said...

Be it 70.00 or 70,000 for a painting doesn't have much to do with the bigger ills of the world nor is it really accurate to say it "is a true testimony to how utterly corrupt, decandent and cynical our world is." There are far more deeper issues involved or rather at play concerning those in the world that, as Illusio writes," ... where children are starving and have to live without the basic necessities..." The sell of art doesn't cause or solve that ... no matter what the sold price was/is.

Illusio said...

Maybe not Bill, but quite frankly 70,000 would be better and more usefully spent elswhere than on some painted daubed across a canvas, and that was my point. My original comment was a reaction to this one!

"Totally worth it, if I had $70,000 lying about I wouldn't think twice."

Illusio said...

pardon the typo, I meant 'paint' not 'painted'.

Joanne Mattera said...

Buying art (at any price) is not an either/or situation--i.e.art or humanity.

Typically, the people who have $70,000 to pay for a painting also have money to donate to causes, many causes--from feeding starving children to funding educational institutions and hospital wings, to supporting dance companies, arts foundations, and invididual artists via grants.

And don't forget, Illusio, artists--most of whom are not wealthy--are always being asked to donate their art to good causes, and many do. (I have something th say about that in a few weeks.)

Personally, I have no problem with art selling for what the market will bear.

tony said...

Being an admirer of de Keyser's work I'm sorry that his name has been associated with this question of gallery pricing; red dots & starving children.

As someone has already pointed out de Keyser is in his eighties & one can imagine that his working life is closer its end than its beginning & this factor would naturally impinge on the prices asked,

Since the question of integrity has been raised I would just like to add that de Keyser has followed his own path for decades and has never, to my knowlege, given heed either to the fads & trends of the art world nor to pursuit of personal wealth & glory.

Ian MacLeod said...

bravo Tony.

Joanne Mattera said...

Tony,

I'm with you on the "starving children" issue, but sales are a fact of gallery life, and red dots are an indication of sales. If a price list is printed for all to see it's a legitimate topic for discussion.

The point is of this post was not to impugn De Keyser's work--personally, I like it--but to register astonishment at the high prices, and the number of sales, in a down market.

All,
I'm always surprised when artists of all people trot out the "starving children" argument. It's not either/or. Usually those starving masses are starving because of internal politics in the particular country, not because most artists are painting in relative poverty and obscurity.

tony said...

In some respects I am sorry that you responded to my comment, Joanne, since I feel obliged to react to what you have said.



"The point is of this post was not to impugn De Keyser's work--personally, I like it--but to register astonishment at the high prices, and the number of sales, in a down market."

Whilst you somewhat soften the bluntness of your statement by referring to 'a down market' your disclaimer of not wishing to 'impugn de Keyser's work' is contradictory to the inference that in your opinion his paintings are overpriced & that being so you are surprised that so many were sold.

I am further disappointed that in your original post you seemed to equate scale to price. ("The small paintings--most not much larger than 12 inches in any one dimension--had enormous prices.")

We both know that there have been many 'little' paintings that have been painted in a much larger format than either the subject or the handling merited merely to command a higher price in the market. De Keyser works to a scale which he believes sufficient & correct for the painting -not for the market.

Whilst I appreciate the fact that you have made many valuable contributions to the practical side of marketing art work I sincerely hope this is the last time that you intimate that a certain artist's work is overpriced.

Joanne Mattera said...

Tony,

You are reading way too much into this post. For the record, I don't "intimate." I state. So if I haven't stated it, I haven't said it. Yes, I was surprised at the prices--both because of their size and because of the economy. (Note the title of the post.)

Finally: "Whilst I appreciate the fact that you have made many valuable contributions to the practical side of marketing art work I sincerely hope this is the last time that you intimate that a certain artist's work is overpriced."

While I enjoy your comments, and our exchanges, I don't do well with a patronizing attitude. I expect this is the last time you will take that tone with me.

Elise Rugolo said...

Here's a nice little YouTube video of someone's visit to Raoul de Keyser's studio in January 2009. It is fun to see some of the work in progress that Joanne photographed in his show. It would be even better with an English translation!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIXE2k70A5s

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raoul_De_Keyser

Here's one reason why the guy can command such prices for his work. He's been painting for longer than most of us reading this have been alive. Not to mention the amount of shows and prominent shows he has been in.

On another note, I just finished reading Anthony Guests book TRUE COLORS, and I really don't believe the hype that a gallery tries to push out there after reading this. Very insightful. If you can get through the tediousness of a lot of the book.