The Great Contemporary Art Bubble

Also available as 58 or 90 min.

In a world of bubbles the contemporary art bubble turned out to be the biggest bubbliest bubble of them all – until it burst


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The Great Contemporary Art Bubble

The Great Contemporary Art Bubble

The art world said it was a new Golden Age, built on talent that could go on forever. Reality told something else. The contemporary art bubble blew bigger and lastes longer than the credit bubble, the property bubble and the oil bubble.

Prices for contemporary art increased 800% from 2003 till 2008.

In the peak of this boom a Rothko sold for $73 million, a Warhol for $71 million, a Bacon for $86 million. Works by Chinese contemporary artists were auctioned for $10 million, and works by Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons for $20 million. Works by others rose in value between twenty and eighty fold since 2003. This was the tulip fever of the early twenty-first century. Now that bubble has burst. Sotheby’s and Christie’s estimates for their auctions in February 2009 are just 25% of what they were in February 2008. Prices for leading artists like Hirst are down 50% and falling.

The virtually unimaginable amounts of money generated by the credit boom of the last ten years – the unregulated activities of hedgefunders, the asset and commodity bubbles of property, oil and minerals – are just the starting point for the contemporary art boom.

The film uncovers a darker story of speculation, greed and deception – the ingredients of a classic bubble, and how skilful operators in the art market – the auction houses and dealers – persuaded the new rich to part with ludicrously large sums of money for art, taking advantage of the unregulated nature of the art market to push up prices through the auction rooms.

Director Ben Lewis
Producer Fiona O’Doherty
Produced by Ben Lewis TV in association with BBC, ZDF/ARTE in association with DR, AVRO, SVT, NRK, ABC, SF TV, TG 4, NOGA & YLE
Duration 52 min.
Year of Production 2008
Original Title Brave New Art World