Asher Edelman, ‘The Art World’s Gordon Gekko,’ Endorses Bernie Sanders’s Economic Plans

Capitalist endorses socialist.

Asher Edelman. Photo courtesy of Patrick McMullan.

New York art financier Asher Edelman has given a thumbs-up to the financial wisdom of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who’s running for president on the Democratic ticket and calls himself a Democratic Socialist.

Asked who would be the best candidate for the economy on CNBC’s Fast Money, Edelman doesn’t hesitate. “Bernie Sanders. No question,” he says, to the evident surprise of his hosts, one of whom is visibly taken aback.

“It’s quite simple,” he says. “If you look at something called ‘velocity of money’—that means how much gets spent and turns around—when you have the top one percent getting money, they spend five [or] ten percent of what they earn. When you have the lower end of the economy getting money, they spend a hundred, or a hundred and ten percent of what they earn. As you’ve had a transfer of wealth to the top, and a transfer of income to the top, you have a shrinking consumer base, basically, and you have a shrinking velocity of money.”

Edelman told artnet News via phone Friday that he wasn’t highly impressed with the show’s so-called experts.

“These same people were the big fans of the mortgage markets in 2005 to 2007,” he said. “They were saying that they were making Wall Street and the world rich again. For a group that is responsible for bringing economic news to the public, their level of economic understanding was limited-to-nonexistent.”

After starting out working for an investment bank, Edelman, 77, got into the business of buying up and retooling failing companies, and later pioneered the “leveraged buyout,” acquiring businesses with borrowed money. Fascinated with art since he started buying books of etchings at twelve years old, according to a Wall Street Journal profile, Edelman even founded a museum of contemporary art in Lausanne, Switzerland, funded by selling off some of his own collection.

Stanley Weiser, the screenwriter behind Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street, based aspects of the character on Edelman.

“The sophisticated part of Gekko, his home and the auctions and that veneer of culture—I modeled all that on Edelman,” Weiser told the Journal for a story headlined “The Art World’s Gordon Gekko.”

Edelman currently runs Edelman Arts in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighborhood, and is involved in art financing, or making loans backed by artworks.

He has raised eyebrows in the art world by getting into the auction sphere, aping a tactic of auction houses, which often guarantee sellers a minimum price on certain high-ticket artworks in order to convince them to sell. Edelman has offered many similar guarantees, but for lower-priced works.

Edelman’s endorsement of Sanders’s economic policies extends beyond his ideas about a downward redistribution of wealth and income, to his proposals regarding regulating big banks.

“Bernie is the only person out there who I think is talking at all about both fiscal stimulation and banking rules that will get the banks to begin to generate lending again as opposed to speculation,” he told CNBC.

“So from an economic point of view,” he concluded, “it’s straightforward.”

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