Zevitas seems to think that money is not what is driving the art market's control of the art world, an art world that is at this time dominated by the spectacle of art fairs, "[b]ig art, big artists, big dealers, and big money." Instead of money, it's the individuals who constitute the art market:
money does not have motivation or intent, people do. I would argue that the cart is actually the insidious forces that have, over several decades, narrowed the gap between art and financial instruments, and in doing so have forced art to submit to criteria once reserved for commodities. Money is simply the scapegoat for a problem that is pervasive and systemic.
Nor do I disagree with Zevitas' observation that the enormous sums being spent on a very small segment of the total population of good artists is the result of speculators, people who are buying art not because they love what they are buying but because they are convinced that the odds are good that what they are buying will increase in value: " the only justification for paying such money for emerging artists is speculative."
What I disagree with is Zevitas' belief that it is the auction houses, art journalists, museums, et al. who are driving the money to a tiny fraction of art, that tiny fraction about whom all those players have arrived at a consensus. In fact, his observation that speculators, not art lovers, are behind the money in the current art market belies his belief that "money does not have motivation or intent."
Money may not literally have intent, but the people who have it certainly do, and the top half of the top 1% of the income earners in the U.S., "Wall Street and the top of corporate America," are doing quite well. As G. William Domhoff, an investment manager, writes, these people make the vast majority of their wealth from investments rather than from income. In short, these people have an incentive to find things to invest in that have the potential to grow in value. It is that demand for investment vehicles that is one significant factor in the creation and growth of new forms of investment. Thus, the sub-prime mortgage market was in part the result of the huge amounts of money investment and pension funds needed to invest in the years prior to 2008 and Wall Street's realization of the opportunity to create CDOs and the like as a result of the changes in regulatory and investment environments over the previous 20 years.
There simply isn't that much these days that promises a financial upside to investors. Real estate is slowly recovering from the 2008 collapse, interest rates on loans remain infinitesimal, and the stock market is already at all-time highs. Corporate America is not creating new jobs or even expanding production. So what is someone in the high-roller investment class to do when he wants to invest his money? He finds new investment opportunities. One such opportunity is to invest in lawsuits, as Jason Lyon observes in "Revolution in Progress: Third-Party Funding of American Litigation," 58 UCLA L. Rev. 571:
There is a growing phenomenon of for-profit investment in U.S. litigation. In a modern twist on the contingency fee, third-party lenders finance all or part of a plaintiff’s legal fees in exchange for a share of any judgment or settlement in the plaintiff’s favor. There are a number of international corporations, both public and private, that invest exclusively in this new “market.”
"[m]any of the artists I have selected here I have been following for a number of years." I'm not sure I read any coverage that concerned artists that hadn't previously been covered, usually to exhaustion.
So I think Zevitas is right:
Going to an art fair or gallery and spending a lot of money on the latest "hot" artist is not collecting, it is trophy hunting. When the art world slows down, these individuals will be the first to jump ship, as their motivations for interacting with art in the first place will have evaporated with the value of their art portfolios.