How did the art auctions business become a multi-billion-dollar industry? The first film in a series about the art market explores this question, leading viewers through the complex history of auctions, with specific attention to the last 20 years. The film unpacks record-breaking sales, like last week’s epic Jean-Michel Basquiat painting Untitled (1982), hammering in at $51 million, and anomalies such as Ai Weiwei’s Kui Hua Zi (Sunflower Seeds) (2010), which pop up at auction in countless different quantities, making the connection between the auction price and market value of art. Interviews with auction-house specialists, financial analysts, and art-world influencers like Adam Lindemann, Xin Li, Sarah Thornton, Josh Baer, and Don Thompson add personal insight and shape the narrative.
Auctions launches a four-part documentary series, followed by Galleries, Patrons, and Art Fairs, released weekly through mid-June. Together, the four segments will tell a comprehensive story about the art market’s history and cultural influence, providing an approachable yet nuanced introduction to a extraordinary subject.