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Art marqué

05/03/2009 - par Mark Tungate

During a recession, having a powerful brand becomes more vitally important than ever. This is the case in every sector – including the art market. I mention this because, as you know, the recent sale of artworks from the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé at the Grand Palais netted a record total of €373 million. And this in the middle of one of the worst downturns the art market has ever known.

Now, admittedly there were some fabulous pieces in that collection: Piet Mondrian's Composition in Blue, Picasso's Musical Instruments on a Table, a wooden Brancusi sculpture – all these are branded artists in their own right. Another sort of brand organised the auction: Christie's, which is owned by François Pinault, owner of the Gucci Group. And one of the most famous brands in the Gucci Group is... Yves Saint Laurent.

Yes – Yves Saint Laurent was the real brand behind the sale. That's why the Christie's website featured an image of the late designer. It's why people who might not normally have been interested in art or attended an auction pressed into the Grand Palais. It's why the sale broke records. This was a branded collection, which every art dealer or auctioneer will tell you automatically elevates the prices of the works.

Many art collectors are snobs. Some of them know very little about art. But they know one thing: it's cool to own a Matisse. And it's even cooler to own a Matisse that once belonged to Yves Saint Laurent.

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Art marqué

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