The new collector

The New collector

With the patronage that comes with being Saatchi’d, it is undoubtedly more a blessing than a curse for Charles to invest in your work.  He is known to have spotted new movements among young British art and has enjoyed avidly tracking the journey of artists as their careers grew via museum shows over a period of years.  The act of ‘flipping’ has however also been connected with his approach to buying unknown artists in bulk and reselling their work 5-10 years later.  Despite such an association, back in 2011 he gave a rare interview with the Times outlining his outrage of how the art buying scene has changed:  

Being an art buyer these days is comprehensively and indisputably vulgar. It is the sport of the Eurotrashy, hedge-fundy, Hamptonites; of trendy oligarchs and oiligarchs; and of art dealers with masturbatory levels of self-regard.
— Charles Saatchi

It has been identified as the new hyper-speculative phase in the contemporary art market.  This new type of collector is focussed on the over night sensation and flurry of speculative buying and selling.  

Such aggressive flipping has been described as a ‘career killer’ for younger artists as their work is devalued after buyers feel burnt by the flipper.   The steep rise in value of paintings is also seen to cause instability in the market as it can hamper the pricing structure that a gallery or artist has tried to establish naturally.


Jean Michel Basquiat (American, 1960 -1988)

Jean Michel Basquiat (American, 1960 -1988)

In one striking example, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Warrior” sold three times at auction between 2005 and 2012, during which time it's price soared by 450 percent in 7 years to nearly $9 million.

Other stats might indicate a pattern as from 2011 - 2013, the number of works 3 years old and under that sold at auction topped 7,300, compared with 4,023 in 2007 when the art market was at its peak. 

How has this affected artists?

The pace can be unsettling for the artist, stifling creativity. After Peter Doig’s ‘White Canoe’ sold for a record breaking $10 million, he told the Times,

I was very nervous after the sale. I felt that things would change for me, that people would talk about that, rather than the work...I became more cynical. I just wondered why I was doing it: ‘Am I doing it to make rich people richer?
— Peter Doig

So is the art world spiralling into an unethical chamber in which work that was once valued for its aesthetic appeal has become a commodity to be cashed in on? 

White Canoe, Doig,  1990-91

White Canoe, Doig, 1990-91


Thankfully an evaluatoin of the art market data between 1995 and 2013 carried out by the New York Times by Tutela Capital and Beautiful Asset Advisors has found that flipping tends to be the exception, not the rule.  

One factor is that auction houses do charge both the buyers and sellers steep fees on high-priced art.  For example, a buyer of a $1 million painting typically must pay another $200,000 in fees, or the buyer's premium.

Christie's also called flipping "the anomaly" rather than a frequent occurrence.  Beautiful Asset found that postwar and contemporary artworks resold at Christie's and Sotheby's in 2013 had been owned an average of 11.2 years.  

However, the practice is on the rise in the advent of online auction sites, social media and other online factors.  There are even websites devoted to art flipping, and books written on how to make money off flipping art.

What are your thoughts on art flipping?   Should it be considered unethical?  Would you be upset if your work was purchased to earn quick cash by flipping it?