Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Artnet News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join us every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more, with input from our own writers and editors, as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.
When we first aired this episode in early May, New York was about to kick off what was touted as, and proved to be, the biggest auction season ever. Over the two weeks in May, more than $2.8 billion worth of art was sold across glitzy evening sales at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips. The offerings included a sage-blue portrait of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol that fetched $195 million (a whisker lower than its unpublished pre-sale estimate of up to $200 million), the second-highest result for an artwork by Warhol ever achieved at auction; plus, big results for Rothko, Picasso, and in a turn of events that shocked everyone, Ernie Barnes!
Auctions are the most public and visible part of the art market—but they are also among the most misunderstood. There’s a ton of behind-the-scenes preparation, psychology, and game theory that goes into pulling off a successful sale. It is a game—and to succeed as both a seller and a buyer, you need to know the rules.
On the heels of the recent spate of sales in London and Paris, we decided to revisit one of our favorite recent episodes, featuring veteran reporter Katya Kazakina, auction house whisperer Amy Cappellazzo, and art advisor Todd Levin, and called in Artnet News executive editor Julia Halperin to help us decode the complex sociology of auctions.
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