The Art Bubble Is Back - Chinese Bidders Break Christie's Auction Record

Tyler Durden's picture

After a brief warning last week that all was not well in the world of the uber-wealthy as a couple of art auctions did not quite go as expected, The Wall Street Journal reports that there is no need to worry... the contemporary art market is on fire. Christie's in New York made auction history Tuesday when it sold $745 million worth of art - topping its $691.6 million landmark sale last November. The bid behind this record-breaking exuberance... All night long, auction regulars found themselves competing with Asian telephone bidders representing mainland Chinese collectors. Whether Tuesday's sale represents a new high point for the art market - or the next step in a developing cycle – remains to be seen... as one excited buyer noted - "The art market is hot across the board - Pop is selling, Ab-Ex is selling, New Wave is selling, it's all selling."


Via The Wall Street Journal,

The contemporary art market is on fire. Christie's in New York made auction history Tuesday when it sold $745 million worth of contemporary art in less time than it takes to watch a basketball game.


The auction house's total surpassed its $691.6 million landmark sale last November and reset records for artists like Alexander Calder and Barnett Newman, whose black-and-tan abstract, "Black Fire I," sold for $84.2 million.



Christie's total easily exceeded its own $500 million expectations, with collectors, fashion designers and dealers in chunky eyeglasses chasing nearly everything on offer—and whistling and shaking their heads in amazement on occasion.




Among the usual roster of international collectors, mainland Chinese collectors bidding over the telephone stood out, taking home a gallery's worth of works.




All night long, auction regulars like New York dealers Larry Gagosian and Dominique Levy found themselves competing with Asian telephone bidders for the sale's art trophies—with each taking spoils in turn.




"You have to be disciplined and not reckless in this market," Mr. Cejas added, "but if you like something, you stretch for it. And this is the one I wanted."




"The art market is hot across the board—Pop is selling, Ab-Ex is selling, New Wave is selling, it's all selling."

Nope, no irrational exuberance there at all... Whether Tuesday's sale represents a new high point for the art market—or the next step in a developing cycle – remains to be seen.

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zerozulu's picture

Chinese billionaire paid his tribute to all the million painters who painted his housing complex at $1.00 a day wage.

Dr. Engali's picture

The person that junked you.

Ignatius's picture

This seals it.  I'm heading to my garage and start throwing paint.

Black Fire = $84 million  ?? 

(a $84 million stack of 24k gold kilo bars in the living room makes a powerful 'statement' IMHO)

I'm thinking besides throwing paint I'm gonna need a powerful narrative of my personal struggle showing how much I care in this uncaring world.  And everybody thought I'd amount to nothing...

If anyone has a French beret they're not using, let me know.

StandardDeviant's picture

Forget the French.  You're on the right track with your narrative; but to really drive up the price, you'll need to become fluent in International Art English.  Perhaps Mr. Sokal could help.

MisterMousePotato's picture

Karl Zinsmeister wrote what will stand for many years as the dispositive critique of modern art:

Serfs Up's picture

*Ding! Ding! Ding!*

/Sometimes they do ring a bell.

rubiconsolutions's picture

< ---- An original print of "Dogs Playing Poker"

< ---- An original Elvis Presley on velvet painting

Go ahead and bid folks! No reserve.

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

<--- Original artwork from our daughter when she was in 3rd Grade

bania's picture

That's a print! My 3 year old made the original!!!

Oh regional Indian's picture that art made while doing Abdominal crunches?

Anyways, my AbEx is way better....




Bangin7GramRocks's picture

If this is what it's like to be communist, sign me up! I want f-you money to spend on apartments, art and cars.

Sudden Debt's picture


next the stars?

Osmium's picture

That's what happens when fiat is created out of thin air.  Money becomes Worth-Less.

Agent P's picture

Proof that money doesn't make you smart. 

Mercury's picture

Sold, very gladly, to you.

Sudden Debt's picture

to a person who pays his workers 50 dollars a month...

ajax's picture



+ 1000 upvotes to 'Sudden Debt'

SheepDog-One's picture

A black and tan line sold for $82 million? Either these people are very stupid, or I'm in the wrong hobby!

Oh regional Indian's picture

Well, you know who "runs the art business, don't you SD1?

Anyone wanting a real good, musical insight into the art world shouldlisten to this:

Dire of their best... In the Gallery

Drachma's picture

Can't wait to see Black Fire II. With an extra black line that sucker should go for 160 million minimum. Can you imagine the talent and materials that went into creating such a precious masterpiece?

John Law Lives's picture

This "masterpiece" was sold at Christie's for $86,882,500 in May of 2012,_Red,_Yellow

I got into an argument with a few whacked-out Kool-Aid drinkers about this sort of "art".  One of them claimed this sort of "art" requires greater skill to create than the works of French impressionists like Renoir.  Wow.  I am still scratching my head over that one.


ajax's picture



I love Mark Rothko the way I love Glenn Gould.

Sorry you can't 'see it' John Law Lives. You can't see it and I can't explain it.


John Law Lives's picture

You have not the competence to determine what someone you don't know is capable of "seeing" or "not seeing".


ajax's picture



ciao John Law Lives (love your 'avatar' image by the way)

You have forgotten that those very same French Impressionists were booed loudly and derided, showing their canvasses at the "Salon des Refuses" (salon of the refused). To be seen or not to be seen - who decides?

John Law Lives's picture

"You have forgotten that those very same French Impressionists were booed loudly and derided, showing their canvasses at the "Salon des Refuses" (salon of the refused). To be seen or not to be seen - who decides?" - ajax

Again, ajax, you have not the competence here to know the extent of my knowledge of such matters.  And, re. who decides, in 1863 Napolean III decided that works rejected by the Paris Salon would be displayed elsewhere (a.k.a. Salon des Refusés).

l'art pour l'art

Dr. Engali's picture

Unfuckingbelievable. Somebody paid $84 million for a painting of an iPoop cover. Youth is wasted on the young and wealth is wasted on the rich.

fonzannoon's picture

nevermind my comment here, ZH beat me to it.

NotAMathWhiz's picture

Sorry, but if I could do it, it's not art.

Agent P's picture

It's a deep piece.  To grasp the emotional meaning, you have to look at what the artist didn't paint.  It's really quite profound. 

Azannoth's picture

That's the idea! .. by this logic you should be a ble to Price a completely Empty Canvas at Infinity because it potentially could contain all-and-any Paintings ever painted or to be painted!

Oh regional Indian's picture

You got it.

An interesting parallel, John Cage's 4 33....for Piano...

Check it out! :-)

ajax's picture



Dear Ori,

Cage's 4:33 is more interesting than you may at first realize. Sit still and listen for 4 minutes and 33 seconds in a concert hall surrounded by other listeners ... what you hear might please you... but of course turn off your cell phones.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Hey Ajax, that is precisely why I posted it.

I love it, idea and all.


ajax's picture



Hey Ori, thanks for the response. That's exactly what John Cage had in mind. Me too, I love it, idea and all.

When a work of art becomes "sparse" or "extended" out of the norm there will be bleets... I'm no huge fan of Picasso's last years esthetically but there is no doubt that if I wanted to buy one of his later paintings I simply could not.

This Bach prelude in Gminor from the Well Tempered Clavier recorded by Glenn Gould is considered by Early Music Purists to be complete trash because it is played on a modern Steinway piano instead of a harpsichord or a harpsichord copy:

I can't imagine for even a moment that JS Bach would consider this "trash" so who are these self-appointed priests and priestesses of what is 'valid' and what is not i.e. "my kid could have painted that", "I could have written that"... "it's not Monet" etc etc etc.

Here all are these so-called free marketeers on Zero Hedge trashing what they all purport to believe in: it's worth what someone thinks it's worth i.e. what someone will pay for it or has this group suddenly become outraged that paintings they don't personally want to buy are of value to someone else who has the money to buy them in a free market?

And what about free expression?



StandardDeviant's picture

It's not completely empty, but Gerhard Richter's "Grey" is about as close as you get.

(To appreciate it properly, make sure to select the Full Screen View option.)

813kml's picture

Ahhh, now I get it.  At first I was visualizing a closeup of a civil engineering blueprint, but if I stare long enough I can imagine the Mona Lisa or Sistine Chapel.  My emotions run the gamut from shits to giggles.

Art appreciation can sure be difficult, it really helps to be told how priceless a piece is before you think about it too much.

Oh regional Indian's picture


And other such rationalizations abound...

813kml's picture


That's a Banksy piece that I got into on the ground floor for only $50 million.  My "friends" at the yacht club scoffed at the blank canvas but they just don't get it.  If one views it under a microscope one can clearly see the interwoven fibers representing universal connectedness.

Powerful stuff.

Atlas Crapped's picture

Yes, and I can assure they are not paying Christies in Yuan (though they can easily call their FX brokers to pay in whatever) but what this is indicative of is the the accelerating trend to trade paper dollars for real wealth ... WHILE YOU STILL CAN.

The marginal utility of the dollar is in imminent peril, and everyone over there knows it.

Azannoth's picture

82Mil for an "Painting" with 3 stripes on it?! ... w8 you mean to tell me those where not Zim-dollars we're talking about ?!

g speed's picture

YOU ARE CORRECT if they are sold by american interests--however if the objects sold are sold to foreign interests by other foreign interests for dollars then whats your take?  IMHO it is nothing but an "art bubble" ---just like the bigger boat bubble--bigger condo bubble ---or the buy an island bubble.  don't believe me??  take a look at the old Vanderbuilt wood house on the beach or the Duesenburgs of yester year---just like tulips--  

ajax's picture



Rather the Barnett Newman plagiarism of Mark Rothko for 84 mio than a Jeff Koons "balloon dog" for 58 mio. It's all a question of taste. 'Your kid' did not make anything of the sort (I mean the Barnett Newman).

Be there or be square:

Pity William Banzai won't be represented, he needs an agent.

ajax's picture



So you like Jeff Koons eh?

ajax's picture



Gee, a downvote for my not wanting to buy a Koons? Someone is ouch ouch touchy, really overly sensitive to bother doing that...

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

FOFOA has a nice take on Koons' Balloon Dogs (Orange, Blue, Magenta (picture with Jeff Koons), Red and Yellow (Stevie Cohen owns Yellow)).  He writes that the very creme de la creme can always be sold to other "Giants".



ajax's picture



Thanks for that DoChen and keep those Bearings rolling...