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To the Editor:
Re “Forging an Art Market in China” (front page, Oct. 28):
It’s apparent that we’ve “seen this movie before.” The Times is to be commended for exposing how a nouveau riche China is falling into the predictability of another boom and bust cycle of artwork speculation, monetized investment and boneheaded thinking.
America’s avaricious robber barons of the Gilded Age loaded their uptown residences with boatloads of works by Rembrandt, Rubens and van Dyck before a good many were declared clumsy forgeries. The 1980s saw Japanese buyers falling over one another to bid on — and later regret — dubiously overvalued, bottom-of-the-barrel works signed by Impressionist masters. Recent hedge fund tycoons have roiled markets with “in your face” stunt artworks created by celebrity artists sacrificing rigorous judgment for pop cultural cachet.
Now frantic Chinese art collectors are falling into the same mindless routine, buying iconic artists as if they were signature luxury items in the exclusive malls of Beijing and Shanghai. The historical realities of truly inspired art collecting prove that only committed patrons who value artistic quality and innovation will stand the test of time.
Fairfield, Conn., Oct. 28, 2013
The writer is a professor of art history at Fairfield University.