You can burn a whole career on a failed sale

Amy Cappellazzo, International Co-Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie's, New York

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Amy Cappellazzo is currently the International Co-Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art for Christie's, where she has worked since 2001. Before holding this post, she was an art adviser in Miami. She also worked as a curator for the renowned Rubell collection, and has curated several museum shows and exhibitions.

Separating Contemporary and Post-War art
When I got to Christie's there was a distinctly separate Contemporary department from what was called Post-War. The idea, at the time, in creating two distinct departments was that there was a whole area of cutting-edge, young Contemporary Art that needed to be singled out and developed on its own. There was a really defining moment when Christie's sold the Jeff Koons Woman in Tub (1988) for the second time, in May 2001, for over $ 2.5 million. It had sold for $ 1.7 million the year before. In a very short period of time, there had been this big run up in the Koons market, and it felt like there was no separate treatment of cutting-edge art. And when Koons made that enormous price it felt like there was this coming together of those two areas and departments. Actually, the real decision was made after 9/11.

On selling works made in the last ten years at auction
It is often said that Contemporary is the only area of the auction house that has a growing inventory. Every season, there's a new artist who has a deep enough market to come to auction and sell well and, maybe eventually, become a night-sale artist and sell at a higher price point.

For example, all the hot Contemporary artists: Takashi Murakami, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons etc., when they make new work every year, the market absorbs them. I might not see them at auction right away, but I will see them at some point. The nostalgia loop of holding something gets shorter and shorter. So it's not uncommon for me to see something a year or two after it was made. In taking charge of that new area of the market, you have to really do an extraordinary amount of homework to understand: How deep is the market? Where are things buried? How well are the other works placed? Are they likely to come up to auction, given the demand on the primary market? Who were all those people standing in line who never got a painting by that artist? Would they be buying at auction, and if so, at what price point? Are they true auction buyers or are they the kind of collectors who only buy on primary market because they get things inexpensively offered to them? You have to really study the market forces.
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Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Toxic Schizophrenia, 1997, 516 xlamps, holders, coloured UFO reflector caps, foamex, aerosol paint, vinyl, 51 channel multi-functional sequencer, 260 x 200 x 7 cm (102 3/8 x 78 3/4 x 2 3/4 in.) Courtesy of Stuart Shave/Modern Art London (c) Tim Noble and Sue Webster