For those of you who missed seeing the new documentary on the art market by Ben Lewis titled THE GREAT CONTEMPORARY ART BUBBLE, you can catch it again on Monday the 25th of May at 01:10 on BBC four or download it here:

ben lewis

Ben Lewis’s new documentary
An investigation into the rise and fall of the contemporary art market
Documentary; 60 min

Stop press:

· Prices for top contemporary artists fall 50% by May 2009!

· Sotheby’s given “junk” credit rating by S&P May 5th 2009

· London contemporary art auction sales down 75% in February 2008

· Art market awaits anxiously the Contemporary Art Auctions in New York May 13-14th 2009

· Hirst market near collapse. Art by Hirst fails to sell at Sotheby’s Doha auction, March 2009; no Hirsts in Sotheby’s NY sales.
The contemporary art boom is now over, but between 2003 and Autumn 2008 the world witnessed a craze for collecting contemporary art unprecedented in history
During the last frenzied year of this tulip-style bubble, art critic and film-maker Ben Lewis followed the contemporary art market, travelling to art fairs, auctions, museums, and the offices and homes of billionaire art collectors,, interviewing dealers, auctioneers, gallery-owners, art market analysts and art collectors, trying to find out the reasons behind this historic phenomenon. He uncovered a world of complicated deals, unusual market practices, widespread secrecy as well as passionate enthusiasm for contemporary art.

On September 15th 2008, the day of the collapse of Lehmans, the worst financial news since 1929, Damien Hirst sold over £70 million of his art, in an auction at Sotheby’s that would total £111 million over two days. It was the peak of the contemporary art bubble – the greatest rise in the financial value of art in the history of the world.
One art critic and film-maker was banned by Sotheby’s and Hirst from attending this historic auction: Ben Lewis.

Why? He had spent a year making a documentary investigating the reasons behind the booming contemporary art market, and they claimed he was “biased” against them and contemporary art.

During the easy-credit boom years, there were bubbles in many assets – property, wine, copper, oil. But there was one bubble that was bigger than all the rest: contemporary art. An Andy Warhol sold for $72 million, a Rothko for $73 million, and a Francis Bacon for $86 million. While the rest of the economy began to falter under the Credit Crunch in late 2007, the contemporary art bubble kept on inflating, bigger and fatter than ever before.

Art critic and film-maker Ben Lewis spent all of 2008 investigating this contemporary art bubble. Everywhere he went, the art world told him that the contemporary art boom would go on forever, fuelled by a new passion from the world’s super-rich. But Lewis found other big reasons for the contemporary art boom – a world of unusual market practices, speculation, secrecy and tax breaks that involved the whole art world – dealers, collectors, galleries, auction houses and even public museums.

In the climax of the film, Lewis’ discoveries lead him to play his own part in the bursting of the contemporary art bubble, which is revealed for the first time in this film
Finally the moment came that he had long predicted. A month after the Hirst auction at Sotheby’s, the contemporary art market crashed, dropping by 40% in November 2008 and 75% by February 2009, and still falling today.

The Great Contemporary Art Bubble is not only a film about the art market it is a parable for the mania, delusion and greed which drove the world economy over the edge in 2008. In future years the contemporary art bubble may come to be seen as the epitome of the boom-times we have been living through.

Watch ‘The Great Contemporary Art Bubble’ and discover the reasons behind the biggest, bubbliest bubble of them all!

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

8 Responses

  1. Hi Nicholas
    You have a great website. I wish I found it much earlier.
    I live in Sydney, Australia and seem to have difficulty in seeing or downloading Ben Lewis Doco on Contemporary Art. Please help as I really want to watch this. What options do I have to watch this.
    Rodney Swan
    0414 444 284

  2. Thanks for the interesting post. I will be sure to download this documentary. Thanks again.

  3. I watched the documentary and thought it was an inept offering from a film-maker who is not short of self-importance, but who clearly doesn’t understand the art market.
    His great revelations were:
    1. The contemporary art market boom has ended.
    2. The art market is unregulated and is therefore manipulated by the collectors and the galleries.
    3. Er, that was it.
    Well, knock me down with a feather. It took this guy a year to come up with these great insights!
    Lewis started by telling us that the ‘biggest bubble of all had ended’, misleading his audience into thinking that contemporary art is a bigger market than oil, housing or equities. He then meandered his way between New York and London, expressing disbelief at the amount paid for top end pieces of art. He seemed jealous of the collectors and tried to snipe at their taste in art, and then, as his filming coincided with the economic downturn, he took glee in the fact that market was adversely affected – ‘just as I predicted’.
    Lewis’s ridiculous claims that he had unearthed the great secret of the art market – that dealers support the prices of their artists at auction – was greeted by one of his interviewees with a ‘Du-uh’. Of course, you moron.
    What a chump. No wonder nobody important gave him an interview. The amazing thing was that the commissioning editor at BBC allowed the film to go ahead with such little content.

    • It may be obvious to people inolved in contemporary art, but as someone who isn’t, I found the documentary very informative.

  4. This docu was plain bad. Filmmaker Ben Lewis seemed like a bittered Michael Moore without his good sense of (sarcastic) humor. Lewis should check out the work of people like Louis Theroux and learn that sincere interest in his subject (without prejudice) reveals / tells you a lot more than hammering your point down the viewers throat.

  5. […] fact, there’s a film on  THE GREAT CONTEMPORARY ART BUBBLE, care of that would have been nice if I could have embedded it, here, but it might be possible to catch it […]

  6. The art cards that you show through out the show…did you make those for the show or is it possible to buy them somewhere?

  7. I love Ben Lewis documentaries. He really knows how to keep someone entertained, and can present information very clearly. I haven’t seen a film of his I didn’t like. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

    Art Gallery Scottsdale

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