Pop artist attacks 'disgraceful' price inflation

One of Britain's most eminent artists has criticised the "distasteful" trend for ever-rising art prices – just days before a leading auction house launches a sale that could fetch more than £72m, smashing all records for the contemporary art market.

Even as Sotheby's prepares its evening sale featuring masterpieces by Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter and Francis Bacon, one of the original group of British "pop artists" of the early 1960s accused art dealers of placing inflated price tags on works that were not always worth the money.

Gerald Laing, most famous for his images of Brigitte Bardot and Anna Karina, said he found the commercialisation of the artistic process "revolting".

"The creative act is now being made by dealers who can convince people that a Jeff Koons sculpture is worth however many millions of dollars. On the other hand, it might not be a very difficult sculpture to make. What we are talking about is the banality of the work and the creative processes of the dealers who raise their prices," he said. "I think it's pretty revolting. The quality of some of the work fades into insignificance compared to the deals being made. I have heard how the major dealers of contemporary art can look at you and convince you that this price is right. Auction houses are riding on the back of this."

Laing, a painter and sculptor whose own work goes on sale next week at The Fine Art Society – but at prices in the thousands rather than millions – said even the £18m estimated value of a Francis Bacon work, Study of a Nude with Figure in Mirror, seemed rather high. The sale next Wednesday will include works by Peter Doig, the subject of a retrospective at Tate Britain, Gilbert and George, whose work featured in a Tate Modern show last year, and Warhol's Three Self Portraits, painted a year before his death and valued at more than £10m.

Oliver Barker, senior specialist in the contemporary art department at Sotheby's, said the rising prices were not just "dealer-inspired" but also inspired by the quality of the art itself. This sale was so strong, he said, partly because "key lots" were modern masterpieces of extraordinarily high value.

"A lot of people who are selling are seduced into doing so because they see the market is very strong. Some of these works have an extraordinary premium and this sale is the fruition of many years of talking to clients about the financial climate and what a buoyant level the art market is at.

"There has never been a time before when the passion and appetite for contemporary art has been as strong as this," he said.

Melanie Gerlis, art market editor at The Art Newspaper, said that the current boom may partly be down to the rush to put great works on the market for fear that the climate will change. "It's a seller's market right now and no one knows how long that will last. People might think, 'if I don't sell now, the market might not be as good next year'," she said.

Ms Gerlis added that the art market typically tended to "lag" behind other markets by up to 18 months, so it was perhaps not surprising that the impact of the credit crunch, which has sent financial markets tumbling, had yet to be seen in the prices fetched by works of art.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam