Frenzied Art Buyers Converge At Art Basel
Thanks, in large part, to George W. Bush's no-end-in-sight war spending, the once-mighty dollar is tanking, a development that recently prompted a senior People's Bank of China official to note that the greenback is "losing its status as the world currency." Meanwhile, U.S. real estate values are reeling from the subprime mortgage crisis. The British pound, stronger than ever, now costs American tourists two dollars a pop. Even Jay-Z is letting his audience know he knows where the money is -- the money that matters. In his latest video, "Blue Magic," the rapper cruises through the Big Apple flashing wads of crisp, sexy, colorful euros.
It's time to buy a Warhol.
Given the jitters in the money and real estate markets today, it's probably no surprise that many investors have turned to art. Driven by an unprecedented global buying spree of everything from hot-ticket contemporary works to time-proven choices from Picasso to pop, works of art have become a de facto international currency in their own right. In mid-November, collectors and art dealers spent $315.9 million at Sotheby's New York on modern and contemporary works in one two-hour auction sale alone; in London, Russian millionaires have become important buyers at auctions, and in Beijing, the Dashanzi gallery district in a former industrial zone has quickly become a must-see destination for jet-setting art mavens hoping to discover the next Yue Minjun or Zeng Hao. Yue, a sculptor, and Zeng, a painter, are already hot properties in art centers like Los Angeles, New York and London, far beyond their homeland. (Prices at the top auction sales in London and New York are now denominated in Russian rubles along with listings in dollars, euros, British pounds and Japanese yen.)