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Robert Trigaux

What do you call hyped art market for Greenspan portraits? Irrational exuberance



Wake up and good morning.
The bursting of America's economic bubble also deflated the massively puffed-up adulation of former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan. Now the sound you hear is the air escaping from the art market of once wildly popular Greenspan portraits.

Nowhere is that more true than here in Tampa Bay. In 2006, just two weeks after Greenspan retired from the Fed, Dunedin insurance agency owner and local bank co-founder Matthew Schirmer and brother Nathan paid $150,400 for a hastily done oil-on-canvas painting of Greenspan (as shown, above) by then-hot artist Erin Crowe (in photo). Bidding began four years ago at 99 cents on Jan. 31. Schirmer's was the highest of 233 bids when action ended on Feb. 3 of 2006. Schirmer's story at the time was covered by the St. Petersburg Times (read the story here). 

Proceeds of the purchase went to benefit a charity for autism. And Schirmer hoped to ride the Greenspan-is-a-god wave and profit in time from buying the Fed chairman's likeness and using it to attract interest for charities.

It was not to be. When the economy crashed, so did Greenspan's fan base and the value of Schirmer's investment. Now, according to a front page story in today's Wall Street Journal, Schirmer keeps his Greenspan painting, which he named Irrational Exuberance in honor of Greenspan's best remembered phrase, in a coveted spot in his home. Under his bed.

As Schirmer told the Journal: "There was no interest." To this day, he has not sold any prints, "not a single one." But the original painting could still recover some value, he says:

"I hate to tell you, but we are kind of waiting for him to pass on."

In response to the Journal story, the office of Greenspan, who is 83, said the former Fed chief "regrets he won't have the time to comment."

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:27am]


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