TEDDY GREENSPAN is a longtime art collector who does not suffer doubt. He is a bond salesman at Libertas Partners, in Greenwich, Conn., and he and his wife, Emily, recently created an art consulting company in Bedford, N.Y., called tag-arts. The pieces he sells average about $20,000, with a few selling for as much as $90,000; his clients, many of whom work in the financial fields, can well afford them. So you can imagine his frustration when dealing recently with a friend and potential client he calls “Mr. No-Name Hedge Fund Manager.” “He’s in his 30s, probably worth 20-some million and feels poor because his personal net worth has gone down from 26 million since last summer,” Mr. Greenspan said. “He buys a Park Avenue apartment for $7 million, spends another $7 million decorating it, and now he quibbles over $15,000 or $18,000 for a painting.”
As an art consultant, Mr. Greenspan has encountered this kind of conflict before.
“If you are in the process of decorating a home, you know what the sofa costs; you have a good idea of what wallpaper costs,” he said, but art is different. “People don’t like spending big numbers on things they don’t understand. They understand the boat, the fur, the car, but for lack of homework or lack of taste, they just don’t understand art.”
Art paralysis: It is a widespread and often crippling malady, striking everyone from the new college grad in his or her first apartment to the super-rich banker, lasting anywhere from a few months to a lifetime. How many are affected is not known, perhaps because the victims are often too embarrassed to come forth. Who wants to admit that “I’ve had these posters since college, I know that as one of the American Top 10 Orthodontists I should get some real art, but I don’t know what that means”? Or that “It’s not that I’m trying to make a minimalist statement with these empty white walls, I just don’t know what to buy”? Or “I walk into those snooty galleries in Chelsea and feel like I just don’t belong”?
The fact that there are so many more of these galleries now than there used to be, and that their prices are so much higher — at least for the moment — exacerbates the problem. “Four or five years ago, Chelsea seemed like maybe 30 galleries,” said Bernard Lumpkin, a producer at MTV News, who began collecting around that time. “Now it’s more like 300. Why would you want to jump in now, when it feels like you’re going to drown?”