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Art Market Shocks & Leon Black’s Math

sotheby's auction gustav klimt
Too often, media coverage of the art industry is driven by melodrama and caricature. Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby's
Marion Maneker
April 23, 2024

For all the commentary about the art world, there is a stunning lack of writing that actually attempts to understand the business itself. Last week, for example, I was speaking to the C.E.O. of one of the major auction houses when he brought up something I had written a few months earlier about a competitor. Surprisingly, this executive thanked me for taking the time to actually analyze the company. He wasn’t being mean-spirited. Rather, he was expressing a frustration shared by many art industry insiders about their portrayal by the media, both in the trade press and when global news outlets attempt to write about the industry. 

Too often, of course, media coverage of the art industry is driven by melodrama and caricature. The people who inhabit this world are partially responsible: Our culture has created a secular religion around artists and art, and everyone has something invested in those shibboleths. But like religion, the art world is also shot through with sanctimony—a reaction, perhaps, to the market’s own irrationality.