Why Anyone In Their Right Mind Would Pay $US142 Million For A Piece Of Art, In One Great Paragraph

Earlier this month, someone paid a record $US142 million at auction for a triptych portrait by Francis Bacon of fellow artist Lucian Freud.

We offered up an explanation of how that painting in particular ended up as the new global benchmark.

There may be an even simpler explanation: We are now in an era where someone will drop a hundred-million-plus for a painting in general, without much hesitation.

In his profile for this week’s New Yorker of the world’s second-most successful art dealer, a relatively level-headed sounding German named David Zwirner, Nick Paumgarten beautifully articulates what the art world in 2013 in general is all about:

The accumulation of greater wealth in the hands of a smaller percentage of the world’s population has created immense fortunes with a limitless capacity to pursue a limited supply of art work. The globalization of the art market — the interest in contemporary art among newly wealthy Asians, Latin Americans, Arabs, and Russians — has furnished it with scores of new buyers, and perhaps fresh supplies of greater fools. Once you have hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s hard to know where to put it all. Art is transportable, unregulated, glamorous, arcane, beautiful, difficult. It is easier to store than oil, more esoteric than diamonds, more durable than political influence. Its elusive valuation makes it conducive to extremely creative tax accounting.

Paumgarten is arguably the New Yorker’s most talented writer and the whole piece is worth checking out.

Anyway, that’s a pretty good summation of where things stand these days.

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