How I Would Change the Art Market: Two Dozen Expert Suggestions for a Saner Industry

How I Would Change the Art Market: Two Dozen Expert Suggestions for a Saner Industry

 A detail from Eric Fischl's Rift/Raft (2016), the complete version of which is a searing indictment of the art market

This year, as the art world gears up for another Art Basel, the art market is in a strange moment, with gallery sales seeming to tighten even as the machinations of the market become even more influential on what they show. (Just listen to LISTE founder Peter Bläuer.) To take a reading of this climate, and to allow an opportunity to vent, we've asking curators, journalists, collectors, and other art tastemakers to weigh in on a single question: 
What is the one thing that you would change about the art market as it exists today?
Here are two dozen answers, ranging from the sci-fi to the comic to the utopian to the sane and urgently serious.

 "Two things:

1.) Any primary work of art purchased directly from an artist (or their gallerist) cannot be resold—at all—within a period of five years from the date of the initial invoice of sale.

2.) Artists must be allowed to benefit from the tax deduction of their own work to reputable nonprofit museums, as do collectors—subject to the caveat that all artwork must also be properly vetted for its value by an IRS approved appraiser, so that artists (as well as collectors) cannot abuse the tax code by overvaluing their donations (and if they do, there should be severe consequences)."

– Todd Levin, art advisor and founder of the Levin Art Group

"I would hope that at, one point in one’s career, every well known artist would conceive one project that gives art, in some form, away for free. It’s so Warholian, so democratic, so right, so Felix, so inspiring, and most definitely would be SO refreshing!"

Eric Shiner, director of the Andy Warhol Museum

"The thing I would change about the art market if I could? I'd add an expiration date and nutritional label included for each work of art. Or, maybe, just build a wall around it."

– Elliott Arkin, sculptor

"If I could change one thing about the art market as it exists today, it would be to institute the definitive protection of scholars, who should not be intimidated for fear of litigation. Freeing dedicated scholars to do research and publish their findings and honest opinions should be a basic tenet of our community."

Alexander S. C. Rower, president of the Calder Foundation

"The lack of independent spaces fully supported by the government."

– John Melick, founder of Blue Medium

"I'd like to see art dealers quit posing next to paintings by famous artists, as if they painted them."

– Richard Polsky, San Francisco art dealer and author of I Bought Andy Warhol and I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon)

"If I could somehow take the top 10 percent of the auction market and spread it around a newer, broader group of artists, that would be good. I just don't think there's any way to do that."

– Walter Robinson, writer, Zombie Formalism-coiner, and artist whose next show opens at Deitch Projects on September 17

"The idea of buying art for investment. It's a sexy kind of investment, but you make a lot of mistakes if that's your primary motive."

– Francis Oakley, interim director of the Clark Institute

"I haven't found sales to be tightening. Interestingly, I actually have to sell the works again, as opposed to just saying, 'I have such and such' and asking where to invoice. But I've had a better year so far than I did last year, and I had a pretty fucking great year last year.

– Ricky Manne, director at Marianne Boesky Gallery

"When it comes to how collectors should approach the market, I believe in the power of ideas and A+ work. Less is more. Play the long game. Look, look, look—and support young talent. Go deep. It sounds like every cliché, but my biggest criticism of the (hot) market recently is making a collector like myself feel like you don't have the chance to breathe, learn, and build the deeper language of your collection. I also hate the day-to-day pressures on my very talented artist friends. The hustle is real." 

Peter Knell, collector and WME | IMG executive

"I miss the days when everyone talked about the art, not prices."

– Phyllis Tuchman, art critic and curator

"There needs to be a better technical, regulatory, and legal infrastructure that would allow all parties—from the weakest to the strongest—to say what they will do and do what they say. This should include balanced industry-accepted contracts for the relationships between artists and galleries, dealers/art advisers and collectors, and galleries and other galleries.


As a matter of urgency, we need to reform in-depth the way video and new media-based art is displayed, distributed, sold, and preserved. This self-regulatory framework implies strong representative professionnal associations able to represent their diverse members in discussion for this common beneficial infrastructure."

Alain Servais, collector and art patron

"The market has promoted certain materials and defined certain forms with a hand that cannot be characterized as invisible. A malaise in the market could be used to reorient the direction of influence—for art to shape the market. This doesn't sound very practicable, until you remember that other fields of culture, namely music and film, have undergone paradigm shifts that rethought the relation between use and ownership...."

– Sarah Meyohas, artist and founder of MEYOHAS gallery

"More optimism and positivity! We make our world and our art family is no different. We all have the opportunity to create our community, and, to a large degree, choose our friends and colleagues, so when I hear anything negative about "art people" it just means that the speaker/person hasn't figured it out. You create your own destiny and your create your own art FAMILY!"

– Alia Al-Senussi, collector, curator, patron, and Libyan princess

"More transparency! The art world has an oversupply of artworks and a shortage of buyers. The number one reason why people don't buy art is the lack of transparency. When Artnet appeared it opened up the secondary market to a whole new audience. The same needs to happen to the primary market."

– Magnus Resch, creator of the Magnus app and author of Management of Art Galleries

"Most everything I’d like to see change about the art market will invariably result from rising sea levels, so I’m content to wait patiently at higher altitude."

– Brett W. Schultz, co-founder of Mexico City's Yautepec and creative director of the Material Art Fair

"American galleries should provide artists with real contracts, including good health insurance. And galleries should in general pay their artists on time (as soon as they get paid by collectors)."

– Amalia Ullman, artist

"I don't know what I would change in the market, but I definitely would change this "progressive spiral" all galleries have to face these days. In other words I would like to see galleries being able to grow to Gagosian-like proportions but also to be able to stay medium-size or even small if this is appropriate to their scope and to their modus operandi. Some galleries are mini-art centers that support themselves through sales, and this model has to stay. But I am afraid that today the rule is 'either you get bigger or you die'—definitely not a healthy rule."

– Nicola Trezzi, artist, critic, curator, and director of the MFA program at Jerusalem's Bezalel Academy of Arts

"Brad Klein? His forte was trans-shipment, re-routing dope from here to there. Brad's dead now.  It was the usual old story. If you're dealing this shit, don't dabble in it." – Keith Richards

– Jerry SaltzNew York magazine art critic

"Market value feels increasingly transient/short-term and unrelated to art historical value/long-term. Price is idiotically confused for value. Here is my ​positive ​proposal for a contemporary-art manifesto for 2016: 

Yes to redefining virtuosity.
Yes to conceptualizing experience, affects, and sensation.
Yes to expression.
Yes to 'invention.' 
Yes to un-naming and decoding.
Yes to non-sense/illogic.
Yes to organizing principles rather than fixed logic systems.
Yes to dialogue.
Yes to style as a result of procedure and methodology.
Yes to multiplicity and difference."

– Heather Flow, art advisor and occasional Artspace contributor

"Gallerists should be way less squirrelly about sharing the prices of works on display with any interested parties, even (gasp) members of the press. It seems like it's become a privilege of mega-gallerinas and PR reps to say that such information isn't available, when obviously it is available, to a certain type of inquirer.

Recently, I was working on an edit of a "Talk of the Town" story and neither the fact checker nor the writer could get Gagosian's gatekeepers to release prices on paintings by Harmony Korine. So I enlisted a friend to put on a tie and go down to the gallery and act bored and ask how much the paintings were. He, of course, got an answer no problem.

There are so many shady, opaque aspects of the art market that are probably unchangeable, at least until said market stops being a largely unregulated way for the super-rich to essentially launder money. But a price list is just a piece of paper, listing items for sale in a place of commerce. Shouldn't be that hard."

– Emma Allen, New Yorker art scribe and "Shouts & Murmurs" editor 

"The art market should reflect the art world and be committed to parity of artists of any gender and background and using all art mediums."

– David Gryn, founder of Daata Editions

"Space aliens, we imagine, would be informed of the art market in the following way: Art is sold in public. Around people. Kind of a lot of people. People who know the artist, inform and inspire the artist, as well as strangers who've never met her. Art is shown and, as a direct result of being shown to these people in a specific place and time (this is called 'context'), it is sold. One could almost say, this is part of its value. 

So we would tell these star-people that communal audienceship here on Earth (at least, still in a few places) is this vital, elemental thing of value, wouldn't we? One etched into the annals of art history and from mouth to mouth. "Did you see that show??" we all ask each other, like broken records. It is worth significantly more if we went to see it the same night everyone else did for the first time (this is an 'opening'). And if we knew the artist, it is worth more—we were, in a way, part of it!

Can artworks be sold online? Sure. Can artworks be sold online by artists who have never shown artworks at some point in front of people, in real time? Probably not as much. So this 'context' seems like something that's super important. It's important to collectors. It's important to historians. It's a timestamp and a value-stamp, like getting published. And it seems pretty important to people who want to go see art. Okay.

After the opening (we would tell these unenlightened creatures), you have art shown in two other places that still rely on this context—audienceship in time—and yet, because the work is (possibly) less immediate, less brand new, it is no longer considered a cultural, communal event. It is an 'art fair.' Or it is an 'auction.' And neither seems to have had as much success in cultivating or capturing this thing of 'people of relationship in time'—what we might also explain we call 'community.'

But, damn, why? Art fairs have transformed market influence into cultural influence. They traffic in the tens of thousands in a matter of a long weekend. They're these admirable machines of implementation and sport. So where is that same community spirit as the kids smoking on the steps of MoMA PS1? Or the post-show kibitz in that Chelsea steakhouse with the damn Tiffany lamps? (That is gone now, btw). Where is that spirit of people-in-relationship, unfettered by trade-show carpets, sales desks, temporary walls?

'In what way do you monitor this spirit of community?' our many-eyed, many-winged space friend would ask.

'It's hard to explain,' we would answer. 'It's just there or isn't.'

We would be cross at not having a better answer. And a space alien would maybe not get it at all.


Fellini's tremendous scaffold in 8 1/2 comes to mind, as the more beautiful, more costly, more impossible structure than the flimsy, small illusion it is built to uphold (in the film, a miniature model spaceship). Art in context—in community—has value. The market's movement toward acknowledging, upholding, and harnessing this energy—the true stuff of its value—is the change we'd most love to see."

–  Ambre Kelly​ and Andrew Gori, co-founder​s of the SPRING/BREAK Art Show


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