Defining Value in Today’s Contemporary Art Market: Candace Worth

Candace Worth’s talk at the TEDxChelsea conference, held June 1, 2012 at the School of Visual Arts. The conference theme was “The true value of art is seldom what someone is willing to pay for it.”

Candace Worth founded Worth Art Advisory in 2001 to bridge the gap between contemporary art collectors and the increasingly exclusive art world establishment. Candace began her career in the Contemporary Art Department at Christie’s auction house in the early 1990s. Since then, she has worked for a blue-chip gallery in New York City as well as an internet-based art consultancy. She now buys artwork for a highly diverse group of clients at all price levels, sourcing most of the work from across the United States and Europe. Candace currently serves on the board of the Drawing Center in New York City and has lectured on issues related to the contemporary art market at several art institutions, including the Rhode Island School of Design. Candace received her BA in Art History from the University of Pennsylvania and continued her studies in Art History at the Graduate School of Arts at Columbia University.

This is a very interesting video that shows that art is a gamble and should be help to the same rules and legislation of casinos and high risk investments. She sights again and again how the price of art is totally subjective and can be whatever the market can ask and achieve.

As an art expert and consultant for years she doesn´t even understand how prices follow no conventional rules besides, get rich fast or just move money.

Move money… that is the only barometer hidden behind the claims of desires and must have. When you really look at art purchases you find that buyers never go to the gallery, never known anything about the artist or the work, or even care where the piece will end up. They have middle men and women that present the next best place to put some money out of the reach of conventional sales and taxes. This is just like energy futures, carbon credits, grave site investments, time share properties, etc… Art is on the fringe of so many laws and standard banking conventions as it is a bastion of the rich getting rich getting richer outside the rules that effect the rest of us.

when Suzanne asked me to speak and toldme what the title of the symposium was Ithought I would kind of take am a littlebit of an aggressive stance andinterpret this probably not the way thatmany of the previous speakers who areincredibly organized and eloquent andthoughtful and philosophical I thoughtI’d take sort of an opposite stance andso the true value of art is is actuallywhat someone will pay for it that’s sortof the tact that I’m going to take soand we can we can talk about that in allsorts of different ways so I’m an artadvisor I don’t know if a lot of peopleknow what an art advisor does a lot ofpeople in the art world think that anart advisor is kind of like the lowestperson on the totem pole kind of thescum of the earth in the the entire sortof transactional kind of relationshipbetween artists and the ultimate personwho who buys the work so I really am amiddleman in between people who buy workand the galleries who represent artistsso while I know many artists and I domany studio visits and I work with manyartists I don’t represent artists Ithink that my many colleagues here whoare dealers who represent artists have amuch harder job than I do running agallery and running that kind ofbusiness is a very very very differentthing than what I do so I’m someone wholooks at an enormous amount ofContemporary Art in many many manyplaces and I try to find objects andworks of art that match up to to someonewho will actually pay money for thatwork of art so I represent a lot ofdifferent types of people who buy art atall different price levels from fivehundred dollars to the objects in theseven figures and everything in betweenand the market has changed an enormousamount when I started eleven years agoyou could buy many many things for let’scall it the low thousands and it’schanged a lot entry points into thecontemporary art market have you knowwhat you could have bought for maybe athousand dollars or five hundred dollarsa great you know work on paper by ayoung artist that someone didn’t knownow you go into a gallery and it’s 2,500or 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000 for an artistthat you know hasn’t maybe had a hugecareerso you have to start to kind of takeeverything into consideration and figureout you know what value really is sothat’s what an art adviser is the waythat I see my role is I basically try toadd value in sort through what’s outthere so that the people who areactually buying the art don’t have toput in the same amount of time that I doand that’s really what I do I’m kind ofa facilitator a lot of people do not goto galleries anymore it used to be thatyou would walk into a museum you’d walkinto a non-profit you’d walk into agallery and that’s how you would see artthe Art Fair model of selling art haschanged our business and normally yousee a lot of people who are buying a lotof art not going to galleries and notdoing the research and not sort ofseeing the arc of where a younger artistgoes over a period of years in a seriesof shows and it’s really my job to kindof do all of that sort through theinformation understand the curators andthe museums and the other dealers andthe auction houses and what’s happeningwith all of those prices and all thethings around those artists markets tokind of make certain decisions so I’m alousy public speaker so you’ve got tobear with me a little bit so I’m goingto give you some anecdotes I think aboutestablishing value so this idea of valueand what somebody is willing to pay forit so I have a young client when I sayyoung I mean he’s only been collectingfor a couple of years maybe two yearsand he’s new to the game but incrediblysmart and really interested and he fellin love with the work of Glenn Ligonwho I’m sure many of you know who’s abrilliant artist and and difficultpolitical work some of it’s easier thanothers but more importantly it’simpossible to get you can buy things atauction but you’re paying big numbersnow and there was a very very beautifulprint it was actually a diptych and itwas a print that’s based on one of hismost well known paintings and the printwas an edition of 20 and it waspublished I think by Brent sukima manymany years ago many many 10 years agoand I’m sure it was just a couple ofthousand dollars when it was firstpublished it it was offered to me I knewthe client was interested in Ligon and Ishowed it to him and then I started todo some research which is what you dowith any object for anything that you’regoing to offer to a clientas an advisor and this is probably amonth ago so April so I’m looking andthe exact same print one of the additionof 20 had come up in March and it hadsold for $32,000 so I’m like okay that’sinteresting the gallery’s asking 60 likesixty thousand dollars it sold lastmonth for thirty two thousand dollarsthat kind of seems like a lot so Italked to the client I told himeverything that I found out and he saidwell let’s go look at it I love it so wego and look at it and we’re all sittingthere and it’s beautiful and thegallery’s telling me how incredible andhow important it is and and how manymuseums own it and I said but it’s soldfor $32,000 four weeks ago how can youask someone to pay almost double and Iended up in a very long conversationwith my client and my advice to him wasthat if he really really loved it I feltlike it was okay to pay a premium abovewhat the most recent sort of marketvalue was for that object so if someonewas willing to pay thirty two last monththe artist is doing incredibly well heis very important the pictures importantand he loves it so maybe we’ll pay 10%more maybe you pay 15% more maybe youpay a premium because you love it andyou’re adding whatever percentage thatis based on the fact that you love itbut double so I said you know we’lloffer them 45 and he agreed he’s likefine 45 no more we offered them 45 theysaid no I said well are you gonna comeback with an offer no the client wants60 maybe we can get 10% you know we’reat 54 and they were representing someonewho obviously was selling it throughthem anyway so long story short we wentback and forth and I basically advisedmy client that I didn’t feel like weshould go up and a week later he emailedme and said well did they sell it and Isaid well I don’t know I did actuallydidn’t I haven’t I haven’t asked so Iemailed her the woman who works for thegallery and and she said yeah we sold itwe sold it to a big collector he lovesGlenn’s work and he he’s got a big AB Xcollection and all the rest of it soobviously for that collector they werewilling to and I didn’t ask what theprice was because I was trying not to beincredibly pushing aggressive you canonly be so pushy and aggressivebut I’m going to assume they sold it for54 I’m going to assume they sold it for60 les 10 and that to me it was aninteresting sort of moment because doesthat mean I should have advised myclient well you should go to 54 becauseclearlythat’s what it was worth to that otherperson so is that what the value of thatprint is I don’t know 30 to 54 it’s kindof a big spread for me so in that momentthat was the decision that I made but Ikind of feel like that leaves a lot ofquestions about what is the value ofthat print is it worth 30 – is it worth60 is it you know what is it worth andobviously when it was first published itwas just worth a few thousand dollarshow do you know if things are going togo up how do you know if things aregoing to go down you have to take a lotof things into consideration so I’mtrying to think if I should give you acouple of other sort of good examples Iwork or have been working with a youngart not so young in her early 40s andother artists that I’m a really big fanof is actually a ceramicist and she justhad a solo show at the kitchen a fewmonths ago and when I started to look ather work two years ago she wasn’t reallyworking with a dealer she was had nostudio she’s big basically working outof her apartment she had a kiln in oneplace and she was kind of moving objectsback and forth and I ended up buying apiece for myself which I live with and Iabsolutely loved and I paid what Iconsider to be not a large sumconsidering how much work went into itit’s essentially a chandelier that comesfrom the ceiling and it has about 40different hand fired porcelaincomponents that are all glazed and it’svery very beautiful so for me it wasworth what I paidshe’s now showing with a big dealer thisis a year and a half later she’s madethree versions of this piece and he’sselling it for so much more than I paidfor it and what does it mean I don’tknow it just is timing if that dealertook it you know took it upon himself toshow the work he had other artists thathe kind of you know could use as abarometer in his program to how to priceher work people started to buy it and ina sort of short course of 24 monthsyou’ve seen those prices you know sortof go like this now it’s only a fewobjects and it’s one artist and it’s onegallery so these are just small momentsin in what is a very very very largewide art market you know the market isthousands and thousands and thousands ofgalleries and each one of thosegalleries represents you know 10 to 20artists so you’ve got tens and tens ofthousands of artists all over the worldthey all have their own market and theirown things going on and their own ownway of being valued by I guess peoplelike me and and the dealers whorepresent themand I’ll give you I’ll give you one lastsort of maybe a sexy story which is thatI’ve been working on a sculptor by FranzWest for about six months and thegalleries that represent him are reallybig and powerful and sometimes reallynot so nice to me and I I really push toshow a particular client something thatwas incredibly large and and quiteexpensive and even though there havebeen many many public installations ofFranz as work at the prices that theywere asking I really felt like this hadbeen around for nine or ten months andit had been it’s two pieces that areeach 16 feet long so between the priceand the medium and the scale it’s youknow you don’t have fifty thousandbuyers for this thing so I to my clientand we decided to put in a much loweroffer than the gallery was asking andthe guy that I work with there laughedat me and said Candace there’s no wayI mean yet I can’t even take this toFranz I mean there’s no way and I saidyou know what I said it’s been sittingthere for nine months in your LA galleryI said nothing’s moving this is a realoffer and I can get you paid within aweek this guy’s serious but here’s thenumber and it’s about 30 was about 35percent less than they were asking. And the next morning he came back andsaid I don’t know Franz must have wokenup on the right side of the bed he saysyou have a dealI said really so he went back to myclient I said are you sitting down wehave a deal and he said oh my god did weoverpayshould we’ve offered less so I’ll closewith that but thank you very much

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