Ran Dian reviewed a large number of reported sales at Art Basel Miami Beach as reported in the international general and art press, and what we can tell you with certainty is that overwhelmingly, sales information was shared by Sutton PR, and none of it is verifiable. This is not to criticize Sutton, which is just doing its job. But it does underscore a fundamental problem with such reports. Not only is there no public record as for auctions, there is also no ratings agency as is true for banks. They do not speak to overall sales volumes or median prices, because there is no yardstick against which to measure anything. And even if there was, how do we measure the quality of the source? How reliable is the information supplied to Sutton? We just don’t know. The “sales” reported are really just in aid of promotion – but the problem is that they pretend to be more than that. Sales are generally taken at the word of whoever said there was a sale.
Many galleries still keep to the old way of maintaining strict confidentiality. Others feel compelled to disclose a few sales, to keep both the hosts of the party (fair management) and also the PR machine happy. Hauser & Wirth reported a USD 2 milion Mark Bradford sale (thanks Sutton), which makes Lehmann Maupin’s GBP 25,000-35,000 for Do Ho Suh (thanks Sutton) seem paltry. Is it? No idea! Meanwhile Blum & Poe sold a Yoshitomo Nara for USD 1.2 million (thanks Sutton). Apparently. I am sure they did. But unless it is checked, it is meaningless.
SOME, though, are just absolutely slutty about it, bragging willy nilly about their conquests from the rooftops, beachfront, or social media account. Interestingly, quite a few of the collectors subject to this treatment, however anonymously, actually enjoy it, thus proving there is more than a little BDSM in the peculiar world of contemporary art. (By the way, the Yan Peiming Bacon-Cardinal-rip-off looks green because he is being ravished by Erwin Wurm’s giant gurko-dildos. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!)