Art Market Oversight: Opacity And Lack Of Regulation During Auctions Under Scrutiny

Less than a month after the New York Times' invitation to dialogue regarding the art market bubble, the art market continues to be the subject of scrutiny from the paper of record. Robin Pogrebin and Kevin Flynn examine the theatrics and lack of transparency throughout the art market in a piece entitled "As Art Values Rise, So Do Concerns About Market’s Oversight." The authors argue the realm is free of traditional regulations yet laden with its own "bespoke auction rules."

In one of the more humorous moments of the piece, the journalists venture into David Zwirner Gallery and are iced by a gallerina when asking if she had a price list. "I do not," she simply stated." Ouch.

The piece also discusses the prevalence of chandelier bidding, or as Art News describes, "nonexistent bids that auctioneers call out — usually with their gaze fixed at a point in the auction room that is difficult for the audience to pin down — in order to create the appearance of greater demand." (To jump start the bidding process, auctioneers will reportedly point at chandeliers instead of genuine bidders to help drive up the price.)

Yet perhaps the most corrupt facet of the art auction ritual appears to be the third-party guarantee, whereby a buyer agrees in advance on a fixed price for work of art. If another bidder exceeds the guarantor's price, the guarantor gets a cut of the profits, often motivating her to bid on a piece to drive up its price, regardless of any genuine interest in the piece. Even if the guarantor does end up winning the piece she receives a discount. In other words, "the price is not the price."

Reactions to the piece range from amusement to disgust to a resounding well, obviously!

What do you think, readers? Do elite players need protection from the theatrics of the art market, or is all the drama fair game? We've compiled our favorite reactions from readers so far in the slideshow below. Add your own opinion in the comments!