If the market for contemporary art is in danger of overheating, the first canary in the coal mine will surely be those fashionable young artists whose prices have been driven up by speculators over the past few years.
Midseason auctions of affordable works by emerging names are telling temperature gauges for the contemporary market. Phillips’s quarterly “Under the Influence” sales have, in particular, become events where benchmark values are set for works by young artists. Many of these artworks are privately bought and then quickly sold on, or “flipped,” by insiders before a wider audience gets to hear about them.
As one art consultant observed, “once an artist appears at auction, people think they’re established.” That’s certainly how the Flip Artists got there.