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Art Biz

In response to:

The Art Biz from the October 13, 1983 issue

Dear Mr. Myers:

Your article on some puzzling variations in prices paid for contemporary art at recent auctions prompts me to offer a suggestion to you and other responsible writers who evaluate and attempt to understand such matters as changing tastes and monetary values in the art world.

My work on a current book having to do with a notorious crime in Los Angeles has put me in close touch with some members of the Robbery-Homicide Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. In the course of several evenings of general conversation with these men, our talk turned to the drug market, although this has nothing to do with my book: it just came up. My police sources tell me that a very large proportion of profits from the cocaine trade, amounting to many, many millions of dollars, is being poured into the art market.

I realize that this is rather far afield from the usual aesthetic considerations, but if the amounts mentioned by these sources bear any relation to the truth, the entire art market is being distorted by profits from drug dealers. The obvious effect of this would be an inflation of the market; at the same time, whoever is advising these dealers, who are probably not expert at aesthetic judgments themselves, is in a position to manipulate the market to an alarming degree.

I have no more specific information than that, but I thought it might be worth your consideration. The point is that the huge bundles of cash from drug sales have to go somewhere: art is apparently one important place for them.

Darcy O’Brien

The University of Tulsa

Tulsa, Oklahoma

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