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Art flippers in force

Thanks to Finance Trends reader, David, who sent along this article from Bloomberg, "Art `Flippers' May Push Spring Auctions to $1.4 Billion Record".

Here's an excerpt:

A growing breed of art buyer -- the ``flipper'' -- will be out in force along with new and established collectors and dealers today through May 17, when aggressively priced Rothkos, Warhols and Picassos go under the hammer at Christie's and Sotheby's in New York.

The auction houses predict that they will move almost $1.4 billion of Impressionist, modern and contemporary artworks during the high-stakes spring sales, 60 percent more than last May's record $854.9 million.

Not surprisingly, gallerists, collectors, auction-house executives and art advisers say they are hopeful, even confident, that the boom will continue. But almost everyone agrees that the rapid rise in prices -- especially for contemporary art -- has to do less with a love of art than with an influx of art investors.

``People who are buying these things are not collectors,'' said Miami-based art adviser Lisa Austin. ``They are traders, and they are buying and flipping as quickly as they can. It's like day trading.''

Dealers say the trading mentality is increasingly apparent. ``People think they will make money quickly and that it's a sure bet,'' said Andrea Crane, a New York private dealer. ``I know it happens. I've seen it.''

Well, it's not the first mention of art flippers we've seen in a Bloomberg article, but this piece does put the quick-buck artists front and center. Kind of reminds you of the media coverage about residential property flippers in 2004 and 2005, doesn't it?

And in the interesting coincidence department, didn't we just see an episode of Golden Girls with this sort of art-flipping storyline last night? Yes, I know - you're scared.

For more on the red-hot art market see, "That Booming Art Market", or search the blog for more.

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