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Do we really believe Milhazez and Varejão are worth this much?

The last mega news to shake the art market was the sale for a mere seven hundred thousand dollars of the works of Brazilian artists Beatriz Milhazes and Adriana Varejão at an auction of Latin American art in New York City. Once in a while news like this still rattle the otherwise bored media in the world of fine arts and create euphoric market climates similar to the ones created by stock market spikes.

Honestly, I am not implying there is anything wrong with this amazing value added trend but I felt uneasy when I read the news. It is no big secret the method and the practice tailor made to jetsam an artist’s value through auctions, particularly when it happens in markets outside your own country.

And given our predilection to servitude, herein included cultural servitude, the sudden spikes strike like lightening causing massive cash transfers from the pockets of the hasty ones to the pockets of the organized ones.

And I explain: when the owner of an art work places it at an international auction a percentage (usually of 20%) is paid to the selling agent. Which means it is perfectly possible for someone to place a work with one of the selling houses and buy it back through a surrogate buyer. This will cost a percentage fee, of course. On the other hand that artist’s work gains a momentum and his work may fetch the value originally suggested. It is a great commotion…

This trick has already changed markets and valorized many around here placing one or more zeros to initial offering prices. Alas, there is market rumor circulating that says these two good Brazilian artists have godparents in a pool of “sold out” investors that include marchands and financial dealers – and that they act as a team to enhance their own portfolios.  On one hand they may lose around US$150 thousand for each artist with each sale.  On the other hand, however, they quite officially triple the value of the works of these artists they may own – unchaining a beautiful value added momentum to the videogame of numbers.

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