Since 2005, the proceeds from sales in the art market have almost doubled, surpassing 60 billion dollars yearly. Art fairs and events have proliferated like mushrooms; auctions reach dizzying figures and the overall demand for artwork has increased exponentially. And yet, this peculiar gold rush is only part of the story. Looking more closely, behind the slick vernissages in museums and galleries, behind Christie’s and Sotheby’s glorious records and ever-changing leadership, lies a much darker side. In fact, the legacy of this boom has been a rapid increase in the concentration of power in the hands of a few mega-players who can singlehandedly determine the price – and thus the value – of a work of art. This concentration has had many repercussions: artists are branded like merchandise; art is increasingly treated as an nothing more than an investment; fraud and the circulation of forgeries are on the rise; the temptation to avoid or falsify tax records has intensified and methods of art production and sales have changed.
In recent years, Georgina Adam, astute contributor to the most influential art magazines, has been gathering interviews, statements and testimonies from leading figures in the art system, confronting shady intrigues and scandalous backstories of the often opaque and always poorly regulated art market. With discrete irony, Adam explains the notorious auctions of works by Picasso, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, as well as the financial dealings of luxury tycoons and nouveaux riches Asians. With a genuine outsider’s view, she follows the most incredible intrigues and legal proceedings of the art market, where – as one might expect – all that glitters is not gold.