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Zombie abstraction has officially tanked


We all knew it was coming: zombie abstraction has tanked, as Bloomberg reports that auction forecasts for “process-based abstraction” painters Lucien Smith and Hugh Scott-Douglas are being listed at bargain basement prices–up to 90% off of their peak price in 2014. While I feel sorry for these artists (where do you go from here?), I absolutely do not feel sorry for the dealers and collectors who artificially drove up these artists’ markets. One of them, the dealer and collector Niels Kantor, is reported as saying that he’s okay with taking a loss because Scott-Douglas’s work is “like a stock that crashed.”

Read Katya Kazakina’s Bloomberg report in partial below, or in full here.

Art dealer and collector Niels Kantor paid $100,000 two years ago for an abstract canvas by Hugh Scott-Douglas with the idea of quickly reselling it for a tidy profit. Instead, he is returning the 28-year-old artist’s work to the market this week at an 80 percent discount.

Such is the new art season. At auction houses in London and New York, sellers are preparing to bail on their investments after the emerging-art bubble burst and the resale market for once sought-after artists dried up.

“I’d rather take a loss,” said Kantor, who is offering the Scott-Douglas work at the Phillips auction in New York on Sept. 20. “I feel like it can go to zero. It’s like a stock that crashed.”

Prices for works by young artists such as Scott-Douglas and Lucien Smith soared with the auction market in 2014, sometimes reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars, when they were traded like bull-market tech stocks. But since auction sales began to drop in late 2015, the emerging names have been hit especially hard. Sales by some artists are down 90 percent or more as the glut of work and nosebleed prices scare away buyers.

That’s because speculators purchase art to resell it, not to keep it.

“When those speculators realize that there is no end user at a higher price, then they scramble to sell the work before they lose everything,” said Todd Levin, director of Levin Art Group, who advises collectors. “The demand is driven by greed, the selloff by fear. It’s Economics 101.”

*Image: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered 3 by Lucien Smith Photographer: CLX Europe