Artful profiteering

Janet Babin May 7, 2007


JANET BABIN: In New York this week, the spring art auctions get underway and man, oh man, people will be spending a lot of money. Marketplace’s Janet Babin reports from North Carolina Public Radio.

JANET BABIN: Years back, David Rockefeller bought his Mark Rothko for $10,000. Now it’s expected to sell for upwards of $40 million and could break the record for a contemporary art auction.

One reason for the stratospheric prices: competition between art houses. As Sotheby’s and Christie’s jockey for pieces to auction, they often guarantee sellers a set amount.

Charlie Finch with ArtNet Worldwide says it also has to do with the secret world of hedge funds — those lucrative investments usually open only to millionaires.

CHARLIE FINCH: Hedge fund money means that hedge fund types can write themselves checks for any amount. Art is used in the kind of a way banks use demand deposits.

Finch says art frenzy could cool down in a few years but others say the lure of owning a one-of-a-kind piece has become a global religion that will only crest when the world economy does.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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