When you own an art collection worth millions your death is sure to cause some squabbles; however, when your multi-million dollar collection can’t fund your own funeral, there’s a problem. The article”Art Worth Millions, Yet No Cash for Burial,” published yesterday in the NY Times caught my eye not only for the claims of exploitation, family dispute, scandal, and drama worthy of a crappy soap opera; but for the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about-the turmoil of the art market.
Though based upon the article the lack of money for, prominent gallery owner, abstract expressionist painter, and arguably the most significant dealer of traditional African art in the U.S., Merton D. Simpson’s burial could be blamed upon a mixture of family dispute, poor planning, and selfishness; I find the statement that Mr. Simpson’s collection was “illiquid,” the most telling. According to the general definition, antiques are generally considered illiquid assets due to the fact they cannot be sold quickly without loss of value because of the unpredictability of sales and small pool of buyers. Though this may be the case for Mr. Simpson’s collection, the fact that he and his family had no expendable money saved or earned from his “museum quality art collection,” for Mr. Simpson’s funeral is extremely confusing and troubling. Art is generally considered a good investment and asset, why? Because it is supposed to earn you some cash; so then why can’t Mr. Simpson’s family make end’s meet? I believe this situation goes further than family squabbles and poor management and is a true reflection of the turmoil the art, especially antiques, market. And with this story to press it will become even harder to convince people to invest in art when in the end it doesn’t pay up..
Merton D. Simpson, September 20, 1928 – March 9, 2013