Business, Finance & Economics

Art market booming during the recession

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Photo of art by Jacob Kassay (Image by Flickr user 16 Miles of String (site:by-sa))

This story was originally covered by PRI's Studio 360. For more, listen to the audio above.

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Another indication that art collectors are no longer feeling restrained by the economic downturn is the sensational story of 27-year-old Jacob Kassay -- a virtual unknown in the art world just a few years ago. Last fall, Kassay's paintings were priced around $8000 (a decent figure for a young artist), but the gavel came down on a sale ten times higher.  This month, Kassay's work was priced from sixty to eighty thousand dollars at the Phillips de Pury auction, and one painting ended up selling for $290,500. 

The sale set off "a collective… I would call it a collective hmmm" in the art market, according to New York Observer Culture Editor Sarah Douglas.

There are different ways that an artist can gain credibility, Douglas explains. Museum exhibitions and favorable articles by critics can all lend legitimacy. There are also the market-driven forces, including the price of a person's work. "I think the idea of a market star is a more recent phenomenon, where an artist value is created purely market terms," Douglas told Studio 360, "and that's dangerous. Because if there's a situation where there's a bubble, that bubble can burst."

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PRI's Peabody Award-winning "Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen" from WNYC is public radio's smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy -- so let "Studio 360" steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will change your life.