Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 11th, 2012

Even though I live in West Chelsea surrounded by hundreds of the greatest art galleries, I nevertheless schlepp myself over to the Armory Shows on the Piers every year not only for the art (the perfect place to get a nice global perspective of the art market) but also to see who is there, what people are talking about and wearing……and yes, its important in my field to understand what my clientele will be hanging on their walls and what kind of wall space they will need…..

This year the crowds were as intense as prior years. I am no art authority, so I will not even tread on the subject out of fear of the obvious. These were some of the highlights I observed:

1)   Michael Shvo was back in town, on the arm of a highly manicured, very-rich-looking dame. He looked a bit tired I have to say, a far cry from the mythical hot-shot playboy-broker he used to be…..and it made me scared for the new batch of brokers emulating his meteoric rise that at one point even toppled the inimitable Dolly Lenz. Remember when Shvo boasted about selling over $ 300million a year? These days brokers boast about selling over a BILLION. Then again, the entire world has spiraled into a mode of gross exaggerations to garner attention. Unfortunately, those gross exaggerations become fact for so many.

2)  I bumped into a friend whom I had met many years ago. She and her then fiancee had bought a huge Mansion upstate. Ultimately they sold it after years of painful renovations that never seemed to end. This same house has been bought and re-sold about 3 times since: I guess each owner learned the painful lesson about how a seemingly low purchase price on a mansion is just the start, and just like a super-yacht, its the maintenance that is the real cost. Heating the house was a killer, and made a strong argument about installing multiple zones for heating and cooling in large properties.

3)  The art I saw reminded me of another important message that is so important right now:  there simply is no one style or direction that dictates anymore. The freedoms in style of art are as broad as those in interior design. The only thing that seems to have some consistency is the framing and even then, many works have no framing at all. And this was just a contemporary art show! I don’t think there has ever been a time when so many different styles and fashions co-existed in almost all spheres of creativity. You see it in art, interior design, fashion, industrial design. Its quite astounding. From a real estate perspective I think this is a strong and important message about having the freedom to deliver a building that has a point of view as well as being spare enough to accommodate individual styles. I think being bland and generic is dangerous.

4)  It amazed me that something as old-fashioned as painting with paint and a brush is still so important in art. It also amazed me how much VOLUME of art exists out there. Lots of art, but lots of buyers too. Or were most of them just lookers?

5)  Pricing wise, just like in real estate $ 2,000/sf is the new $ 1,000/sf, it appears $ 40,000 is the new $ 20,000 for art. LUXOflation continues its upwards spiral.

6)  The volume of competition in this world is rather astounding: so many artists competing for stardom, not too unlike the hoards that circled the Javits Center auditioning to be Americas next superstar on THE VOICE….this world is definitely designed to encourage the Michael Shvo’s of this world.