Photo: Flickr / oddsock
Soon after pop art icon Andy Warhol’s estate announced it would auction off all 20,000 of his remaining works this year, Gawker’s Caity Weaver took a pessimistic stance:”If you picked up a priceless Andy Warhol painting at a yard sale recently, congrats; that painting is about to become worthless.”
There’s no denying the logic behind her reasoning. It’s simple economics. Whenever any market is flooded with new products––be it housing or priceless works of art––demand typically nosedives as supply increases.
You can blame the downfall of collectibles crazes like Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls and even Warhol’s old cookie jar collection on that principle.
But there may not be any reason to worry just yet. We reached out to Patrick van der Vorst, who spent 13 years as a department head at Sotheby’s and recently founded ValueMyStuff.com, to find out whether Warhol’s artwork will suffer the same fate.
“When (these auctions) happen, there’s always a lot of speculation that it could affect prices in a bad way,” he says. “But it doesn’t usually have that much of an effect.”
Knowledge. It’s not like someone just stumbled across an old attic packed with new Warhol pieces. “[This auction] doesn’t mean that suddenly 20,000 new artworks have been created,” van der Vorst says. “They’ve always been there.” The Foundation has kept careful records of all his works––including those that haven’t been sold––and these “new” pieces won’t change the rarity of anything people already own.
Strategy. The estate isn’t going to simply dump $100 million worth of work into the market in one fell swoop. Using various auction houses, they will strategically release items at several auctions, being “careful to place individual items with collectors, museums, and different institutions,” van der Voorst says. “[The auction houses] will go about it and plan very carefully. The more the art goes for, the more commission they’ll make.”
Hype. Much of the value of art has to do with the hype surrounding the artist himself. Warhol is still very much a popular figure, and van der Voorst predicts there will be no shortage of demand for his works. “There will be a lot of hype created around Warhol’s auction,” he says. “So the prices on the short term won’t be affected and on the long term I can’t see it having much of an effect either.”
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