Art Flippers Chase Fresh Stars as Murillo’s Doodles Soar
Feb 6, 2014 7:49 PM ET
“There’s a tremendous amount of speculation in the market right now, particularly for emerging artists,” said Todd Levin, director of the New York-based Levin Art Group, who has advised collectors for more than 25 years. “It is more ferocious than it’s ever been.”
Flipping has picked up as wealthy collectors chase paintings by emerging artists with the goal of reselling them quickly for a profit, a strategy some advisers say may be a sign that the contemporary art market is taking on characteristics of a financial bubble. (gee, ya think?) From 2011 through 2013, the number of works three years old or younger sold at auction topped 7,300 annually, compared with 4,023 in 2007 when the art market was peaking, according to research firm Artnet Worldwide Corp.
Pushing IPOsReselling pricier, better-known pieces by the likes of Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol yields bigger dollar returns, sometimes in the tens of millions, as auction houses break records at postwar and contemporary sales. Artists born in the 1980s can be more lucrative on a percentage basis if collectors choose wisely, with prices for pieces by Oscar Murillo and Lucien Smith surging more than 3,000 percent in the past two years.
The profits stem from lower entry costs and pent-up demand for the hottest names, mostly men under age 35. Some artists work in a variety of media, including performance art and sculpture. Abstract paintings tend to be the most popular among speculators.