To reduce Jeff Koons’ sculpture to a stainless steel rabbit, I admit is KINDA wrong but my reasoning for doing so comes from the question that I have been asking myself since his record breaking sale has happened: Should any piece of art be worth 91 million dollars? There are many factors that got this sculpture to this point - a lot of hard work, (I say this sincerely, Mr. Koons has been hustling the art market since the 80s) along with some great PR. His work with its all-encompassing Americana attitude has become nothing short of iconic, with Jeff himself now also considered an icon. When you mix this all together with an unregulated system and a select few (and I mean like 6 people) controlling sales, you get a quite unimaginable $91 million dollar Christie’s auction sale.
Regardless of these factors is it really worth $91 million?
Let’s break it down:
Koons created the sculpture in 1986 and it is one of three, plus one artist proof. The rarity of the piece could account for the high price alone. However, this piece was purchased in 1992 for $1 million by the owner of Condé Nast S.I. Newhouse. So within the span of 27 years, the value has increased by 90 million dollars. Over this same time period, Koons did gain popularity which resulted in his works steadily increasing in value and as a result, Koons is represented by the top galleries in the world and his work is collected by the 0.01% and his smaller pieces by the 1%.
But to really put this into perspective: gold, diamonds, and oil have not increased in value as much as Jeff Koon’s Rabbit. Even further, pieces of jewelry that are brought out of vaults for celebrities to wear have not increased in value like Jeff Koons Rabbit. There is no other commodity in the world that increases like art, specifically male (usually dead but now also living) artists’ art.
The guy who bought the sculpture, Robert Mnuchin is worth 17 billion dollars, so for him to spend 0.53% of his wealth on this, is like me buying a latte every day for a month. The market didn’t tell us its value an individual buyer did. And who is the buyer? Mr. Robert Mnuchin started out at Goldman Sachs and retired at 57 to start his art dealing business. He has collected artists such as Rothko, Willem De Kooning, etc. etc. etc. A couple of years ago he made the largest purchase of a Rothko which he then sold to another buyer increasing Rothko’s market value to $72 million dollars in 2012 (today with art inflation it’s worth over $90 million). This one man along with a select few, are changing the value, market prices and determining inflation of art. On a different note, but equally, as fascinating, his son, Steve Mnuchin is currently working under United States President Donald Trump as Secretary of the Treasury and is worth a cool $300 million. So here we have a successful businessman turned billionaire art dealer controlling a market that is unregulated with the ability to pull out any price from his ass and make it stick - talk about real power. Anyone know how to meet him?
If you see this man please let him know that I would love to chat :)