Why Shuttered Galleries Don’t Mean the Art Bubble is Bursting

During the housing boom, the only thing rising faster than house prices was

the number of realtors. Yes, a handful of superstar agents became fabulously

wealthy and successful. But the median realtor was in many ways worse off than

before the boom, just because there was so much more competition. Even high-end,

well-respected realtors started to feel the pinch, not from the market turning,

but from the way in which any potential buyer or seller was immediately beset

by a piranha-like pack of agents all vying for the coveted 3%.

As it was in the housing market, so it is in the art market, where the number

of competing galleries is rising almost as fast as art stars’ auction prices.

Which is why it’s unsurprising to encounter anecdotes such as these, from Robert


In the last week Oliver Kamm gallery, a young and very high-quality Chelsea

venue for emerging artists, announced that it would be closing. I spoke to

Oliver at the NADA fair and he seemed to be in good spirits, with his legs

kicked up on his table, playing a Gameboy. His solo exhibition of Kamrooz

Aram drawings and collages was nearly sold out. But overall, he couldn’t make

enough money in his gallery to justify the expense and difficulty of managing

a dozen artists’ careers. Yesterday, Baerfaxt, an art world insider newsletter,

announced that Emily Tsingou Gallery in London is closing its doors. Here’s

another very serious gallery, which has represented famous and now very expensive

artists like Karen Kilimnik, tossing in the towel–and it’s safe to assume

it’s not because they were making too much money.

Goff, however, considers these pieces of news to be a sign of a "market

downturn" and a "correction". But they’re not. Every bull market

has its casualties: just think of how Netscape fared during the dot-com boom.

Goff also notes that one painting he liked was still for sale at the

NADA fair in Miami on Saturday afternoon, three whole days after the fair had

opened. I’m sorry, but that really isn’t a sign of weakeness in the market.

It’s just a sign that deals can still get done at art fairs after the first

frantic 24 hours. I know that everybody’s waiting for the art-market bubble

to burst, but it hasn’t happened yet.

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