Scratches in the Art Market Gilding

LONDON — Sometimes art can be difficult to understand. Sometimes the art market can be even more baffling.

Back in December, the contemporary dealer David Zwirnersaid in a New Yorker profile that art was “an industry in its golden age.” His point seemed to have been proven during the June 17 preview of the Art Basel fair in Switzerland, when his gallery sold more than $20 million of artworks by Ad Reinhardt, Jeff Koons, Luc Tuymans and other investment-grade names.

But if these are such gilded times, what do we make of Sotheby’s share price of around $41 as of Friday, down from a high of $53 in January? And of the 48 percent drop in the auction house’s private sales in the first half of this year, according to an Aug. 8 Securities and Exchange Commission filing?



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