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Contemporary Art

Aired December 18, 2006 - 14:00:00   ET


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A picture may be worth a thousand words, but who cares when it's also worth millions of dollars? The art market is hot in a whole new way.
Hello and welcome.

The world's most expensive art tends to be old. A Van Gough that's worth $82 million, the Renoir that sold for $78 million, the Cezanne that went for $60 million. But even the richest people don't all have that kind of money, and they don't all want that kind of painting. So the high end, the really high end art market, is attracting a new generation of buyer, buying a new generation of art, what is know as contemporary art, which is to say work done since roughly 1950.

On our program today, a new boom in new art.

This story from CNN's Maggie Lake.


MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With careful precision, movers wearing white gloves ready the art for the podium. Simon de Pury, CEO of auction house Phillips de Pury, takes one last look around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of this is going to be sold tonight, yes. Here we have an extraordinary installation by a great artist from California, called Mike Kelly.

LAKE: There is a lot of anticipation leading up to Philips' New York auction, and with good reason. Just days earlier, the contemporary art auction at Christie's made headlines by breaking records. A Mao painting by Warhol went for $17.3 million, the top price ever paid for a Warhol. A painting by Willem De Kooning surpassed that, $27.1 million, the highest ever for a post-war painting sold at auction.

(on camera): We're seeing some record prices. What's driving this?

SIMON DE PURY, PHILLIPS DE PURY AUCTION HOUSE: It's the ever-growing demand for great works by good artists, and so we have more people bidding than ever before. That, of course, translates into record prices.

LAKE: Do you think it can continue?

DE PURY: That's the big question, of course, that's all of us asking ourselves. We believe it will. I believe we are at a historical moment.

LAKE (voice-over): Today's Warhols and De Koonings are the 21st centuries of the famous masters of years past, works that demand attention, buzz and big bucks.

DE PURY: The people who now have money are young. They're people in their early 30s, mid 30s, and these are people who have grown up with the computer, with television, and they are -- they respond to contemporary art. That's what excites them.

LAKE: This new generation of collections have shown they are not afraid to spend across the board.

NYU Professor Mike Moses tracks art as an investment opportunity, saying the contemporary market is outpacing Wall Street.

PROF. MIKE MOSES, NYU: We're seeing very strong demand over a very wide set of assets, not just the really high end stuff, which also is doing, but the day sales are doing phenomenally well.

LAKE: But still, risks abound. After a boom in the Eighties, prices dropped some 60 percent.

So who are these people that can afford to take the risk?

WENDY CROMWELL, ART ADVISER: Definitely, some of the money that's being spent is Wall Street money, and let's say global financial wealth. Because the market used to be bifurcated between Europe and the States. That is no longer the case. There is money coming out of Eastern Europe, on a huge, very sort of sexy level, lots of willingness to spend.

LAKE: Wendy Cromwell is an art adviser who works with high net worth individuals. She says prices show no sign of softening.

CROMWELL: The really important thing, I think, in today's market, is I used to be able to say to people, "This is worth X, and if you want it, this is what you have to pay to get it."

In this market, I say to people, "This is worth whatever you're willing to pay for it, because there's just so much interest and I don't really see that stopping."

LAKE: Phillips is counting on that.

(on camera): An aggressive expansion plan in 2000 left the 210-year- old auction house financially strapped. Forced to close or consolidate, Simon de Pury decided to focus exclusively on contemporary art. His instincts were spot on.

MOSES: It is the area that we're seeing the highest increase. The contemporary market has been growing over the last five years at about 17 percent a year, compared to 8 percent for the entire art market.

LAKE (voice-over): The contemporary art boom helped a streamlined Phillips rebound. A move to chic new office downtown also gave the auction house a new following.

CROMWELL: Phillips has done a fantastic job. I'm a big supporter of what they do. They have sort of taken one slice of the art market and really taken ownership of it, and I would say it's a lot of new buyers who feel really comfortable here. It's relaxed, it's fun, it's informal.

LAKE: That fun takes careful planning.

(on camera): Are there any rituals you have for auction day?

DE PURY: Yes, I do, definitely. Three hours before the auction, I disappear. I go and I want to be completely alone. I can't be disturbed by anybody. I don't answer the telephone. Then I eat a yellow apple. That's my superstition, so.

LAKE (voice-over): Though he claims to be reserved, de Pury is all showman when he hits the stage.

(on camera): What makes a good auctioneer?

DE PURY: Well, I think you try to create some excitement, to create some fun. It has to be varied. I mean, you don't want people to fall asleep, to get bored, and so you've got to keep the rhythm, change the rhythm, not be monotonous, and there is no rule, really. You have to try to be totally attuned to your audience and feel in advance who is going to bid.

LAKE (voice-over): In all, the collectors that packed Phillips' New York auction bought nearly $30 million worth of art, a good showing, but a bit below what the house and its maestro had hoped for. But, remember, in the contemporary art world, one night's bargain could well turn out to be the steal of the century.

Maggie Lake, CNN, New York.


MANN: The contemporary art that Maggie Lake has been telling us about is established work, work that moved from the margins of art into the mainstream. The people who buy it are paying for a proven commodity.

People who want edgier, more adventurous stuff, may want to leave the galleries and the auction houses and head to the street. In London, sooner or later, you'll run into Banksy.

Max Foster offers this introduction.


MAX FOSTER, ITV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the kind of art that resonates with many British urbanites, and they've rushed here to get a piece of the action. There's been buzz on Internet blogs for weeks about this disused shop on London's Oxford Street being taken over by street artists.

Inside, they find an informal assortment of the witty, the wild and the topical. More rock concert than Royal Academy, and there's definitely a headline act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always like to see Banksy's stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a long-term Banksy fan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all over the street. It really is Banksy.

FOSTER: This is a Banksy. Who ever said a picture is worth a thousand words.

His pieces are so in demand, 500 copies of this print sold out in less than a minute.

(on camera): Banksy likes to remain anonymous and neither he nor any of his associates will actually go on record, but I have gained access to his dealer's office so I can show you some of his work.

(voice-over): A briefcase full of 10-pound notes with the Queen's head replaced by Princess Diana's, or the corrupted classics.

(on camera): But in the auction houses, what's gaining a lot of the attention is the screened prints, because they're very collectible. We've got some examples of them here. And this has pretty much become Banksy's iconic work, because it's sold so incredibly well. It's a tribute to Andy Warhol and it features the supermodel Kate Moss.

(voice-over): The Kate Moss print first sold just over a year ago for $3,000. This October, a set was resold at auction for $17,000 each. Today, one London dealer wants $60,000 for one.

It's a phenomenon the art establishment can't afford to ignore.

CHEYENNE WESTPHAL, SOTHEBY'S: It's very radical and I would also say it's very exploiting. The normal way it works is that a show is in progress. You can see on Banksy's where that show will be, i.e. what city it will be, but the location will be completely under wraps until the moment it opens, when it's announced on the Web site. And the impact is huge.

FOSTER: Banksy also uses this gallery to sell his work, and now other artists who show there all seem to sell out. The Banksy affect is spreading.

(on camera): Anthony Mickler (ph) held a show here in October and already his paintings are worth twice the amount they were sold for.

(voice-over): Celebrities are noticing, too. Keanu Reeves, Angelina Jolie and leading contemporary artist Damien Hurst (ph) have all been spotted at Banksy's shows. Contemporary art is going mass market.

Max Foster, CNN, London.


MANN: We take a break now. When we come back, we'll talk to one collector about the boom and about what he's buying.

Stay with us.


MANN: Until the 1990s, private art auctions were prohibited in China. Now they're not only legal, they are stunningly lucrative. estimates that in the last two years, contemporary Chinese art has jumped in price by 400 percent, nearly 10 times as much as the rest of the world market, which has grown on its own by a still stunning 45 percent.

Welcome back.

It isn't just Chinese art that is suddenly hot. Western galleries and auction houses are marketing contemporary work from several markets that aren't just emerging, they are exploding. For example, Sotheby's and Christie's together report sales of Russian art worth roughly $225 million this year alone.

Joining us now to talk about contemporary art is Adam Lindemann, an entrepreneur, art collector and author of "Collecting Contemporary."

Thanks so much for being with us.

Let me ask you, first of all, why this is happening. Why the boom?

ADAM LINDEMANN, AUTHOR: Well, Jonathan, there are a number of factors that have to do with how the world is changing, in my opinion, and that's why I wrote the book, "Collecting Contemporary," about the contemporary art world. It's really about art of the last 25 years.

My belief is that as a culture, as a world culture, the age of information is upon us, with the Internet, jpegs on computers. Information has been perfected and gets faster and faster every day, so every gallery show, every museum show, every magazine article, is instantly read and seen by so many interested collectors, that's what new has taken on a whole new dimension.

And, frankly, people of my generation are interested in what's going on in the world today in every aspect of their lives, whether it be music, dance, all of the arts in general.

So this focus with artists who are only dead, this forensic approach to art, has really changed over the last few years, and I think it will continue to do so.

MANN: We're not just talking, though, about a fascination or a passion for art. We're talking about people who will dig deep and spend an awful lot of money buying. Who are these people?

LINDEMANN: Well, you know, we're always searching and we hear what the auction houses say and what the galleries say, but the bottom line is, I believe that the people who are most interested in collecting contemporary art are the people that have been there from the beginning. Avid collectors who have seen the boom, who see the direction and want to expand their collections.

At the same time, there are a lot of new people who are curious and, frankly, they're attracted for the wrong reason. They're attracted because of money and they hear things going up 5 times, 10 times, 20 times.

But at the end of the day, who really cares why they came to the world of contemporary art? Ultimately, art is about understanding and civilization. And more than just the money, it's about understanding where culture is going, where civilization is going.

MANN: You're a collector -- can I jump in and ask you about what you buy and why?

LINDEMANN: Well, generally speaking, I don't really like to talk about it because I let the book give 40 diverse opinions about what to collect. But in my own personal collecting with my wife, who is also a gallerist, Amalia Dayan, we're interested in works that we think are changing the world in some way and works that will be in our museums in 20 years time, or perhaps in 10 years time.

MANN: And how do you spot them?

LINDEMANN: It's a question of time and connoisseurship. It's a question of education. You know, understanding art in general, not just contemporary art, is not just about looking at and saying I like it, I don't like it. Art is something that needs to be studied, just like Beethoven's symphonies, just like literature or poetry. It takes some time, it takes some experience, it takes connoisseurship. The more time you spend with it, the more you learn, the more your opinions are refined and they change.

MANN: Do you, and should people, stick to paintings? We've been talking about paintings for the most part, but there are a lot of different kinds of art and there are emerging art forms, installations, electronic art. Are smart people buying them?

LINDEMANN: Well, we don't know who the smart people are. You know, time will tell, history will tell. That's the exciting thing about collecting art, is in a way you are challenging art history. You are sort of casting your vote in some way about what you think the future will be.

Personally, I'm a sculpture guy. I've always loved three-dimensional objects. I started with African art. So my collection tends to be very heavy on sculpture and not as many paintings as sometimes I would like to have.

But traditionally, you know, paintings are the way to go. But all these rules have now been broken. You have great video artists, like Paul Phifer (ph). You've got, you know, interesting sculptors. You know, Jeff Koons (ph) is primarily a sculptor. His paintings are what came next.

So there are no rules in contemporary art, and that's the exciting thing.

MANN: Well, one of the rules tends to be that art is expensive. Does any of this trickle down? Does any of it actually affect the kind of art that people on more routine budgets can get for themselves?

LINDEMANN: You know, it's not true that art is expensive. I mean, there are paintings for $500, there are paintings for $50. There are paintings in flea markets and there are paintings for millions of dollars.

I think collecting is something that one does out of love and not out of just for monetary purposes. If you're buying just because you think you're going to make money, you're probably not going to do very well. If you're collecting because you're interested in what the art is doing and their statement and where the work is going, perhaps you will do very well financially.

I mean, certainly in my collecting, I can say that buying art is one of the best things I've ever done, in theory. In practice, you know, I buy things because I love them, I want to live with them, I want to lend them to museums and perhaps one day exhibit them myself in some form or fashion.

MANN: OK. One last quick question. Any advice for someone who wants to start out as a collector?

LINDEMANN: Be brave. Don't be cowardly. Go with your gut, go with your instinct, buy what you fall in love with and, as in life, if you change your mind down the road, you'll adjust.

MANN: Adam Lindemann, the book is called "Collecting Contemporary," published by Taschen, thanks so much for being with us.

LINDEMANN: Thank you.

MANN: We take a break once again. When we come back, there's more than meets the eye behind some great work. The fine art of forgery, when we return.


MANN: Art is a billion dollar industry, entirely legal and at the same time largely unregulated. As a result, experts can only guess at the number of forgeries that are bought and sold. A former director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art says up to 40 percent of the market may be fake.

Welcome back.

Where there is money to be made, there are going to be people making it, legally and otherwise.

CNN's Richard Quest meets a different kind of contemporary artist.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is a corner of rural England where time passes slowly. A quiet, unassuming place, where country folk go about their business in a landscape almost unchanged by the centuries. This is the sort of charming town that would attract an artist.

But not just any artist. Between 1986 and 1994, this man, John Myatt, turned out more than 200 forgeries of the biggest names in the art world. Myatt was sentenced to 12 months in prison in 1999. He's now rehabilitated and he paints those fakes for a living, getting his first commission from none other than the policeman who caught him and put him behind bars.

(on camera): What was your nickname in prison?


QUEST: I say, that's a rather splendid -- that's a Monet, if I'm not mistaken, on the wall behind you, isn't it?

MYATT: You are mistaken, Richard. It's a fake. A genuine fake.

QUEST: But you went from fake to forgery.

MYATT: Yes. There is a distinction between a faking a forgery. I met a man called John Drew. I painted about 12 or 13 paintings for him, perfectly legally. Number 13, which was a small, elliptical, cubist painting, he took into Christie's and he said I can either pay you 150 pounds for this painting, or I an pay you 12,500, because Christie's have just valued it at 25,000 pounds. Which would you prefer?

I should have said I'll have the 150 and go away and never trouble me -- never darken these doors again. But, in fact, I took the 12,500, and that was the beginning of it.

QUEST: Were you surprised, during your forging career, that you got away with it for so long?

MYATT: I couldn't believe it. I mean, the paintings that I provided for Mr. Drew in the first three or four years were complete rubbish. They were painting in house paint on inauthentic materials, on modern canvas. You couldn't really -- you couldn't try to be less authentic than I was.

To be fair, Mr. Drew did distress the paintings as best he could. He would empty a vacuum cleaner over them and so forth. He got quite clever, actually. He'd make new stretches for the back of the painting. If you're doing a forgery, you see, the back of the painting is as important as the front. That's what -- you know, the sticker is on the back and what a Monet looks like from the back, the little furniture tacks that hold the canvas in are rusty. You deep them in salts and that. A nice black cup of coffee over the front of the painting and the back does no harm. The stretches have got to look old, all that stuff.

QUEST: What does that tell us about the art industry and the so- called experts?

MYATT: Well, it's very, very easy. It's easy for me, and you, of course, to say, well, they're all a bunch of idiots, but it's a business that relies on trust. It relies on trust. And long may it continue to rely on trust. I don't take any satisfaction in having kidded those people. When you walk through the door in Christie's with a painting under your arm, the first thing they don't think is, oh, hello, it's Richard, and he's got a fake.

They look at you, see you're a guy wearing a suit who speaks properly, and you tell a credible story about your auntie having died and finding something in the attic, and they take you at face value.

QUEST (voice-over): They may be fakes, but there are still around 120 undiscovered Myatt originals in circulation. And truth be told, they are a site to behold. It's such a fantastical story, as Hollywood is making John Myatt's tale into a film, "Art Cop."

And so the legend of the Staffordshire forger lives on.


MANN: And that's INSIGHT. I'm Jonathan Mann. The news continues.



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