The economic meltdown is supposed to "reenergize [the] creative economy" of New York by breaking the city's expensive obsession with finance. Instead, it's wrecking artists' best shot at wealth: Through Larry Gagosian.

The top-tier art dealer, who bridges the worlds of art and finance, seems panicked by the recession, turning into even more of a workaholic jerk than he was before the crash. Gagosian won't talk, but the New York Times surmises he's in trouble along with the rest of the art industry:

Everyone is vulnerable. Especially Larry Gagosian...

The prices of work by the young artists he has been luring into his galleries... are falling like bank stocks.

Christie's and Sotheby's are in trouble, too, but Gagosian's bread and butter is brokering private deals between rich people. Since the wealthy have lost much of their taste for art acquisition, Gagosian is especially vulnerable.

Why should anyone care about Gagosian's fortunes? Because this was the guy who, through his access to the filthy rich, could make a young artist. That's why most in his stable were poached from rivals: Gagosian could pluck the best.

As the Times put it, "the postwar art world is basically a stock market with a couple of thousand really valuable shares." Gagosian was the gateway to being listed on that market.

His apparent decline indicates that artists have seen their own bubble burst along with Wall Street's other false economies. The vast majority of artists won't have to adjust their lives to that, but they will have to adjust their professional fantasies.