Art Market Datapoint of the Day

There aren’t many minimalist artworks with their own Wikipedia page, but Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII is one of them, thanks to the uproar it caused in the UK press in the 1976. To this day, a huge proportion of the UK population would know exactly what you were talking about if you referred to "the bricks".

Equivalent VIII is one of eight works comprising 120 fire bricks: they’re all two bricks high, and this one is six brick headers wide by ten brick stretchers long. Much of Britain was outraged when the Tate spent £7,000 on the work in the 1970s.

One of the other works, Equivalent V (12 brick headers wide by six stretchers wide), recently came up for auction at Sotheby’s, and was bought for $1 million by MoMA, in an act of bargain-hunting: MoMA was the only bidder, and got it for significantly less than its $1.2 million to $1.6 million estimate.

I’m not surprised that there’s no controversy at all about MoMA buying a pile of bricks for $1 million, while there are to this day Brits who think that the £7,000 spent by the Tate was a waste of money. But it’s interesting that interest in the work fell away substantially the minute that the market started falling, leaving the window open for MoMA to snap the work up on the "cheap". In a recession, people want paintings to hang on walls, not icons of minimalism.

I am glad though that the Tate’s bricks will have a sibling at MoMA. They can be a bit like Cleopatra’s Needles — one on the Thames, the other in midtown Manhattan. Make sure you see them both!

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