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Art Market

Become a Globetrotting Billionaire Art Collector in This New Board Game

Courtesy Laurence King Publishing.

Courtesy Laurence King Publishing.

After visiting the Venice Biennale earlier this summer, two art collectors went on a European tour. Aruna, a Bollywood star with a passion for contemporary art, made her way to London for a sale at one of the major auction houses. Danny, a U.S. tech tycoon, headed to Hong Kong, where he was hoping to acquire a prized graffiti piece. Aruna ended up in a pitted legal battle over a work, and Danny found out that a piece he’d loaned to an exhibition had been vandalized and deemed a total loss.
Aruna and Danny are two of the six characters in the new board game Going, Going, Gone!. Released this week by Laurence King Publishing, the game turns the art market’s circuit into a contest to acquire the most valuable art collection.
Players move around a colorful board from auction houses and fairs to art world cities, each represented by an evocative illustration by artist Simon Landrein. The illustrator also created images of the “previously unknown” works by major artists for which players compete—cheeky fictions like a painting of his dismembered ear, ’s “Judith Shampooing Holofernes,” and an enormous and irreverent equestrian sculpture by .
“It was a funny experience to try to infuse a bit of my work into those icons,” Landrein said. “Like Van Gogh, for example. I made a little texture to slightly mimic his famous brush strokes.”
According to Donald Dinwiddie, a senior editor at Laurence King who worked on the game, the original plan had been to use real artworks, but his team quickly came up with a much more playful idea. He said, “We’ll use real artists, but we’ll make up artworks that we wish they had done or wish they would do. I’d be really, really happy if Jeff Koons came along and made a gigantic faux-concrete little big pony to sit on a beach somewhere.”

Market forces in the service of fun

Courtesy Laurence King Publishing.

Courtesy Laurence King Publishing.

On their collecting journeys, players can broker private sales, sit out a round while relaxing on their private islands, and, if they fall on hard times, arrange loans to museums. The game’s creators, with Dinwiddie (a former art market reporter), managed to incorporate many plausible art market forces without creating an experience that is overly rigid or didactic.
“One could have gone into a lot of really vain, nerdy detail about how the auction works, and I had to think of it in its essence and bring in elements—real-life elements—from the art world that would make the game enjoyable and fun,” he said, “rather than trying to mold the player into following a particular series of actions, because that’s what would happen in a real auction.”
Certain features of the game are less realistic—like museums providing cash-strapped collectors with tens of millions of dollars in loans—but others ring true to current art market forces. Players who accrue more than two works in a given collecting genre (such as , , , and contemporary) see those works’ value increase. This feature of the game not only incentivizes players to compete for works in a given genre, but also aligns with tendencies in the real world, where collectors tend to focus on and become known for stockpiling specific kinds of work.
“One of us probably said, ‘What if you collect a group of these, then don’t you think that the value should go up, there should be something?’” Dinwiddie recalled.
A more mundane art market convention that served the game designers’ purpose was the auction house practice of setting a reserve price, or the minimum price at which a lot can be sold during an auction. Much like specialists at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, Dinwiddie and his colleagues were faced with the challenge of encouraging players to bid up to works’ pre-sale estimates in order to ensure not only a successful auction, but that the whole economic system they’d created for the game wouldn’t collapse.

Art flippers for the win

Courtesy Laurence King Publishing.

Courtesy Laurence King Publishing.

A pattern with real-world resonances that emerged as Dinwiddie and his team developed and tested the game is that the players who tend to win are the ones who are driven by economics, rather than personal taste or passion, not unlike the billionaires who amass troves of works by proven market forces like Koons, , , and . Early players who’ve excelled at Going, Going, Gone! tend to be art market novices who act purely on economic factors—unlike the real art world.
“You could say they represent the commodification of the art world,” Dinwiddie said. “Whereas other people are going, ‘I’d really like to have a painting of Leonardo in drag,’ if you get caught up in the actual role-playing in the art world, you may not win this game—but you’ll probably still have a really good time.”
By using devices that mimic real market forces, the game adds complexity and dynamism to a formula pioneered decades ago by Masterpiece, a game developed by Parker Brothers and first released in 1970. Dinwiddie said that at the outset, nobody on the team developing Going, Going, Gone! had played Masterpiece. “So someone bought the game and we had a look at it, and then we put it away and we never looked at it again,” he said. The new game was about creating an experience that reflected the art market today, while remaining accessible to a wide audience.
“Having lost every single time I’ve played this game, I have to say, I’ve always enjoyed it,” Dinwiddie said. “It’s not a game like Monopoly, where people are usually destroyed. At the end of this game, I’m still a billionaire.”
Benjamin Sutton is Artsy’s Lead Editor, Art Market and News.