L’art de la finance

PRINCETON – Au milieu de l’effondrement financier du mois de septembre, un événement remarquable s’est produit à Londres. Alors que la City était secouée par l’écroulement de Lehman Brothers et la ruée sur HBOS, à Sotheby’s se tenait une vente aux enchères de l’œuvre de l’artiste Damien Hirst battant tous les records, et qui a produit une recette brute d’environ 200 millions de dollars. Comparé aux valeurs qui disparaissaient à Wall Street, la somme paraît modeste ; mais c’est un remarquable vote de confiance pour l’œuvre d’un artiste.

Les bulles financières, comme celle qui vient juste d’éclater, sont intimement liées au monde de l’art. À la Renaissance, Florence dépendait du mécénat des Médicis. Au XVIe siècle, Venise transformait la richesse du commerce des épices en toiles du Titien et du Tintoret.

Le centre du commerce se déplaça ensuite à Amsterdam, où de nouveau, les riches bourgeois suscitèrent une nouvelle forme d’art qui donna naissance à l’âge de Rembrandt. Les grands financiers du XIXe et du début du XXe siècle, des hommes comme J.P. Morgan, Henry Frick et Andrew Mellon, consacrèrent une grande partie de leur fortune à l’art.

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