April 8, 2008
A long article in the Miami Herald’s business section on April 7th, 2008 is headlined “Art Enters Its Black Period.” Writer Brett Sokol discusses the shifts in the market for high-end American art and cites the example of commercial mortgage broker Lang Baumgarten trying to cash in on the current boom preceding a predictable bust. This Miamian is putting a portrait of fashion designer Zac Posen by artist Alex Katz up for bid at Christie’s auction house for between $200,000 and $300,000. He bought the painting for $90,000 four years ago and feels it is time to cash in before prices plunge as the U.S. copes with a period of unfortunate economic recession.
Art as investment is always a tricky business. As in any collectible field, it is wisest to buy what you love, thus shielding the monetary investment you have made by the adoration you have for the object, regardless of market conditions. Prices usually do come back and occasionally increase over time.
Nowhere is this truer than with Haitian art. Prices for old master painters continue to increase at a value higher than the average stock because once someone like Andre Pierre dies, there is a finite number of works available forever forward into time. It is absolutely essential that a collector deals with a reputable dealer capable of providing a provenace for a work of art. Speculators who buy what they think is an Andre Pierre painting, because the thrift store owner downtown told them so, are in for trouble as fakes of Pierre and other masters enter the market.
The recent death of artist Frantz Zephirin, Jr. is an example of a promising young light of the new generation not able to reach his full potential. He could have reached the heights of his well-known father Frantz Zephirin. The younger artist’s fanciful imagery and respect for Haitian history could have carried him into museums, catalogs and books on Haitian art. But Zephirin, Jr., who made paintings of revolutionary heroes on horseback, swimming mermaids, and Vodou queens in mid-ceremony, succumbed to an unknown disease while either eighteen or nineteen years old. One person who believed in his talent was Haitian gallery dealer Axelle Liautaud, who oversaw and funded the thin and sickly artist’s stay in a Port-au-Prince hospital. She championed his genius and sold the handfuls of paintings he produced in a few short years.
— Candice Russell