A New Sentimental Art Market Era Pt. 3 – artmarketblog.com

A New Sentimental Art Market Era Pt. 3 – artmarketblog.com

If you want some further examples of the sentimental and nostalgic direction that the art market is beginning to take then I shall provide you with two more. The first example is the direction that the Australian Aboriginal art market has taken recently in response to a severe drop in prices and a major change in perception caused by several factors that I will discuss shortly. Australian Aboriginal art experienced a huge boom roughly in conjunction with the global contemporary art market boom, which saw prices for Australian Aboriginal art skyrocket, and the market for said works expand at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, that boom turned to a spectacular bust for much the same reasons and at roughly the same time that the global contemporary art market took a massive hit.

Much like the global contemporary art market, the Australian Aboriginal art market boom saturated the market with a plethora of rubbish, which in turn diluted the overall quality and relevance of the works of Australian Aboriginal art that were available on the market. Although it may seem that such a situation would serve to increase the value and desirability of the top quality works, it is just as likely (if not more likely) to make people question the value of the entire market and become rather disillusioned with the whole sector or genre – which is exactly what happened. Rampant fakery, forgery and mimicry, combined with obstructive and useless attempts at regulating the Australian Aboriginal art market, caused collectors and investors to fly the white flag of defeat in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstructions. As an indication of how far the Aboriginal art market has fallen as result of the problems associated with the market, the Australian Art Sales Digest has calculated that the value of Aboriginal art put up for auction has fallen from a high of just under $24 million in 2007 to just under $11 million in 2009. 2010 is shaping up to be yet another disappointing year for Australian Aboriginal art with total auction offerings likely to be even less than last 2009.

In response to the rather dire situation that the Australian Aboriginal art market is facing, the market and cultural sector has begun to focus on the Aboriginal master artists of the past who were the real reason that Aboriginal art became so popular. With most art movements and styles there are a small group of artists who pioneer the movement/style and whose work is considered to be the most legitimate and authentic. As a new movement/style progresses it is inevitable that other artists will begin to imitate the characteristics of the work of the pioneering artists in the hope of reproducing their success. In conjunction with the progression of that movement/style there is a tendency for the original purpose and intent of that movement/style to become severely diluted as more and more artists join the procession. The further the movement/style progresses, the more disconnected the movement/style becomes from the original purpose and intention. This is what happened with the Aboriginal art market and also with the global contemporary art market. Fixing such a problem means regaining the integrity, legitimacy and validity that the movement /style once had. To regain the integrity and legitimacy of the beginnings of a movement/style one must return to the roots of that movement/style – a process that is happening with the Australian Aboriginal art market and the global contemporary art market. Australian Aboriginal art dealers and other interested parties have begun to “rediscover ” the work of the early pioneers and disassociate themselves with the work of the plethora of imitators. Because most of the original Aboriginal master artists are either dead or very elderly so focussing on this sector of the market is a very sentimental affair indeed – especially for the families of the deceased artists.

The other example I want to use is the recent reconnection that the French have made with Monet – one of their most famous sons. Although the western world has embraced Monet and made him one of the most valued and respected artists to have ever laid paint to canvas, the French have long considered his work to be far too commercial for their sophisticated tastes. The Paris’ Galleries Nationales recently launched the first retrospective of Monet’s work since 1980 in the hope of reviving interest in the work of one of the world’s most highly valued artists. What makes this exhibition so significant is the reasoning behind the decision to hold this exhibition at this particular time. Guy Cogeval was appointed to the Presidency of the Musee d’Orsay in 2008 and is the curator of the Monet exhibition which is currently on show at the Grand Palais in Paris. When Cogeval was asked by Juliette Soulez of ARTINFO France (fr.artinfo.com): Why have a Claude Monet retrospective today?, Cogeval replied “Fifteen years ago, I personally felt that everything had been said about Monet and that people talked about him too much. I lived in North America for eight years and there were many Monet shows — it was almost a craze”. Then when asked if he was happy with the retrospective, Cogeval said “Overwhelmingly, visitors walking through this exhibition — including Impressionist specialists and college professors and my fellow curators — feel that they’re seeing a Monet they didn’t know before”. Both these statements suggest to me that a similar thing happened to Monet to what happened to the Australian Aboriginal art market and the global contemporary art market. It seems that a long period of western commercialisation of Monet’s work combined with what was essentially an overabundance of Monet focused scholarship effected a gradual diversion away from the “real” Monet.

The French, who were on the outside looking in, obviously cottoned on to what was happening to people’s perception of Monet’s work and were quite rightly disgusted by what was happening. I recently read a review of a book called The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings by Grace Seiberling of the University of Rochester who I think summed up the situation perfectly when she said about the book that: “Their focus on Monet as an artistic genius is in accord with the demands of a particular kind of inquiry into Impressionism, connected with museum exhibitions, and focused on the formal achievements of the sort of artistic superstars who attract paying visitors”. What Guy Cogeval is doing is taking a sentimental and nostalgic approach to Monet’s work in the hope that it will fix the damage that has been done.

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

Christmas Gifts for Art Lovers 2010 – artmarketblog.com

Christmas Gifts for Art Lovers 2010 – artmarketblog.com

My ‘Christmas Gifts for Art Lovers’ posts are always popular so it is with great pleasure that I present the 2010 version.

1. ‘The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures’ book by Philip Mould

‘The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures’ is a collection of case histories that provide a fascinating insight into the sleuthing escapades of the art world’s answer to Sherlock Holmes

Residents of the USA can purchase a hard or soft copy of ‘The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures’ here:

http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780670021857,00.html?The_Art_Detective_Philip_Mould

Non US residents can purchase a copy here:

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Detective-Frauds-Search-Treasures/dp/0670021857/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1286417781&sr=8-1

2. ‘Cracking Antiques’ book by Mark Hill & Kathryn Rayward

Turn your home into a work of art with this awesome book by Mark Hill and Kathryn Rayward.

Shows you how to add style and glamour to your home by buying secondhand, vintage and antique furnishings. Companion to a new prime time series for BBC2, this book also shows you how to turn your back on bland, mass-produced flat-pack furniture and embrace secondhand treasures.

UK residents can purchase here:

http://www.octopusbooks.co.uk/books/general/9781845335564/cracking-antiques/

Non-UK residents can purchase here:

http://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Antiques-Mark-Hill/dp/1845335562/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287714747&sr=1-1

3. A great limited edition photo from focusmaine.com

Each week FOCUSMAINE.COM features one of Maine’s fine art photographers and one of their images. These photographs are exclusively available through FM until each edition size is sold out

http://shop.focusmaine.com/

4. Large Spot Clock – Damien Hirst

The clock uses Hirst’s popular spot paintings as its face, the front of which is printed with his signature and the Hirst/Hirst logo. The rear is printed with the Other Critera logo and the clock name.

https://www.othercriteria.com/browse/all/all/spotclock_large/

5. Art Safari series DVD by Ben Lewis

In ART SAFARI, Art Geek Ben Lewis travels the world in search of Great Contemporary Art – and art that might be great. A playful series of eight films that are both analytical adventures and adventurous analyses.

UK residents can buy here:

http://www.benlewis.tv/films/films_artsafari/art-safari-series-1-and-2-for-sale/#more-212

Non-UK residents can buy here:

http://homevideo.icarusfilms.com/new2009/arts.html

6. Limited edition print by Jitish Kallat from Saatchi Gallery

The lithographic print “Sweatopia (1000 People/ 1000 Homes)” has a simple image of a shirt hung to dry on a clothes line. As if the garment were a carrier of the city’s inner secrets, it drips a thousand narratives culled from a vast, colliding humanscape. The string it hangs on is formed by a text drawn from Tristan Tzara’s nonsensical and richly layered dada poem titled “The Great Lament Of My Obscurity Three”.

Price: £558

Purchase here:

http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/galleryshop/

7. Subscription to Modern Painters magazine

Modern Painters is your source for international contemporary art. Covering artists and works like no other, Modern Painters provides you with updates on avant-garde design, new artists to watch, and much more from all over the art world.  Ten issues for only US$20 !!

Get a digital or hard copy subscription here:

http://www.artinfo.com/modernpainters/

8.Limited edition photo by Alin Popescu from Pure Photo Collections at PurePhoto.com

Alin Popescu, a simple Romanian photography hobbyist, became internationally renowed after winning the first edition of Microsoft’s Future Pro Photographer contest in 2006.

http://art.purephoto.com/search?q=Alin+Popescu+

9. Artist of the Month Club Membership

The AMC works like a subscription. Each month for one year, a different curator selects an artist to create an original artwork. These artists can be established or up-and-coming, but must represent what the curator sees as vital and long-lasting. Someone worth owning. Subscribers to the AMC will not know the identity of these artists beforehand, which introduces Duchampian chance into the act of collecting.

http://www.artistofthemonthclub.com/

10. Custom sculpted mini portrait by Mark Swan

Portraiture has always formed an important part of Mark’s work and following recent commissions for a series of celebrity and sporting figurines, he has specialised in sculpting mini-portraits, which even though palm sized still capture the likeness and feeling of his subjects.

http://www.markswan.co.uk/mini_portraits.html

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

A New Sentimental Art Market Era Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

A New Sentimental Art Market Era Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

The demise of the world famous Polaroid Company, and the subsequent sale of many iconic and nostalgic images from the Polaroid Company collection, is yet another example of an event that ties in with the onset of a new sentimental art market era that I began writing about in my previous post. A casualty of the digital age, the bankrupt Polaroid Company was forced to sell off 1200 photographs by artists such as Ansel Adams, Mr. Close, Mr. Wegman, Robert Rauschenberg, David Hockney, Robert Frank, Robert Mapplethorpe, Warhol and Lucas Samaras to pay off creditors. The June 2010 sale conducted by Sotheby’s attracted huge interested and managed to exceed expectations with a final total of $12.5 million – well above the high estimate – and a new auction record for Ansel Adams whose ‘Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park’ achieved the sale’s top price of $722,500. Along with the sale of the Lehman Brothers collection, the sale of the Polaroid collection is yet another art market event that evokes a sense of nostalgia; the sale of the Polaroid collection was a particularly sentimental occasion because it essentially represented the demise of an entire artistic medium. Together, these two events signalled the beginning of the end of an era that started with the art market losing its innocence with the Sotheby’s price fixing scandal that surfaced in 2000, and the world losing its innocence with the life changing events of 11th September 2001.

The art market era we are in the process of farewelling will be remembered for three things: the rise of emerging markets, conspicuous consumption and a voracious appetite for the work of daring young contemporary artists. As much as I am enjoying an art market far less obsessed with daring young artists and conspicuous consumption, I am sure that we have not seen the last of either of them. I do, however, believe that we have almost seen the last of the mania associated with emerging markets. The maturation of what were some of the last undeveloped art markets capable of playing on the world stage makes me think that the global art market of the future may be struggle to fill the void that these now rapidly developing markets have left. South East Asian countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia have all experienced rapid rates of art market development that have thrust many artists from these countries onto the world stage. Also experiencing considerable development are markets in regions such as Latin-America and the Middle East. Even China is taking steps to develop a more mature and accountable art market with the development of an art trading organization that will set an example in helping to regulate the art market. The Beijing Imperial City Art Trading Center is, according to an article from Xinhuanet, a “two-story art-trading center covers 3,700 square meters and includes different sections for displaying, trading and education”.

Sentimentality is an unavoidable consequence of the maturation process that the few previously undeveloped art markets have undergone over the last few years. The hype that usually surrounds the “discovery” of an untapped, undeveloped art market has to be replaced by something when there are no longer any underdeveloped markets to discover. Those previously undeveloped markets also need to replace the momentum that an emerging, developing market experiences with a more long term and sustainable source of momentum. Emerging art markets are usually developed using fresh, emerging talent because it is easier to introduce unknown fresh talent into the contemporary art market than it is to introduce unknown (from a global perspective) established masters to the modern/classical art market. As one would expect, when the momentum associated with an emerging art market runs dry, that market will begin looking to the past for new sources of momentum and thus automatically develop a more sentimental and nostalgic market.

To be continued……………..

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

Social Networking for Art Collectors Update – artmarketblog.com

Social Networking for Art Collectors Update – artmarketblog.com

social-networkThis is an update of my previous post with a few new additions. Social networks are all the rage at the moment so I thought that I would put together a list of the top social networks that would be of benefit to art collectors and art investors. Joining a social network gives you access to the knowledge of other art collectors and investors as well as the opportunity to view the work of artists from all over the world.  Below is a list of the top ten social networking sights that cater specifically to people interested in visual art.

http://www.openartcollection.com/

Open up your collection — and reap the rewards. By sharing your collection with other members you can nurture a network of fans and followers. As a collector you will benefit from the feedback and input of discerning art lovers, which could raise the profile of your work.

http://www.artween.com/

Register for free and you can link up with all the galleries that enthuse you and receive their latest news, as well as invitations to events. You can also discover artists from close to home or further afield and give international exposure to your own art before a public which is inspired by a common passion: art.

http://artkabinett.com/

Make new art friends from around the corner or globe. Discuss, blog, critique, and interact with other fine art enthusiasts just like you. Join the world’s free and fun social network which allows independent savvy collectors to link up and share their passion for art!

http://fineartamerica.com/communicate.html

FineArtAmerica.com is home to more than 10,000 artists, art collectors, and gallery owners from around the world.   Each day, these members are busy: posting new artwork, participating in online discussions, issuing press releases, advertising upcoming events, forming new art groups, chatting live online, and much more!

http://www.myartspace.com
myartspace is an online community with more than 50,000 artists, collectors, students, teachers, gallerists, curators, critics and art appreciators across the world. myartspace is free and open to all. Members can create a profile of themselves and upload an unlimited quantity of their work including images, music, audio narration and video.

http://www.artreview.com
artreview.com is an exciting new social networking site for the artworld, creating a global forum for discussion, interactivity and debate. artreview.com is a unique blend of editorial and community content, combining the insight and critical weight of some of today’s most important artworld voices with the input and opinions of everyday enthusiasts from around the world.

http://www.artmesh.org
#artmesh is an inspiring and innovative network for those who live and love the fine arts. The difference to other art communities is the fact that – additionally to just showcasing artist’s work – #artmesh focuses on the interests of art lovers and art professionals as well.#artmesh is about communication and collaboration, about inspiration and the exploration of the boundless possibilities of a progressive and innovative virtual art-network.

http://www.artslant.com
ArtSlant.com, the #1 contemporary art network, launched in Los Angeles in February, 2007. It is a sophisticated website that brings a local and in-depth focus to the contemporary art scene. ArtSlant’s profiles put the spotlight on everyone in the art community. Artists, art professionals, art orgs, and art lovers can have their own showcase to exhibit their work, expose their business or talk about their involvement in the scene. In our community you will also find picks and reviews, jobs and opportunities, schools, blogs, and groups.

http://www.artlog.com
Artlog is the place for you to connect with folks, share your work and discover innovative new art & design. Artlog is for art makers, insiders, organizations and art lovers. This global community of art lovers, artists and industry insiders is only as vibrant as you make it. So follow interesting artists, make professional connections, post your work and let your voice be heard – “If you see something, say something!

http://www.independent-collectors.com/
Independent Collectors is an online tool targeted at modern and inquisitive collectors. It makes building a personal network and sharing information about topics like artists, galleries or events much easier and faster. In their personal profiles, collectors can talk about art preferences and present their own collection. Specific search functions help to find like-minded collectors or those living in the same area.

http://www.artselector.com
The artselector contemporary fine art collective was originally set up by MA Fine Art graduates of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art. artselector offers an innovative visual directory of international contemporary fine artists, independent curators and galleries

http://www.rhizome.org
Rhizome’s community includes thousands of artists, academics, curators, critics, and other new media art enthusiasts. Profiles is a collection of community profiles that contains artist portfolios, blogs, biographies, and other details on each individual member. Profiles was developed in the hope of sparking connections and collaborations across regional or cultural boundaries and strengthening the new media art scene as a whole.

http://www.labforculture.org/en/labforculture/browse
We work with and for artists, arts and culture organisations and networks, cultural professionals and audiences in the 50 countries of Europe, as well as providing a platform for cultural cooperation between Europe and the rest of the world. Our mission is both to ensure that all those working on cultural collaboration have access to up-to-the-minute information and to encourage the cultural sector to become more experimental with online technologies.

http://www.artbistro.com
ArtBistro brings members of the visual art community together to network, advance careers, and to foster a community with exclusive benefits where information about artists and designers is provided by artists and designers.

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

Review of Philip Mould’s ‘Art Detective’ – artmarketblog.com

Review of Philip Mould’s ‘Art Detective’ – artmarketblog.com

Considering that I have just finished my series of posts on Portraits as Art Market Currency, I think it is rather fitting that I post a review of a book about the exploits of a British portrait dealer – a book that I absolutely loved reading and want to encourage everyone else to read. Seeking out works of art that he suspects have hidden secrets has taken world renowned portrait expert and art world super sleuth Philip Mould OBE all over the world on exciting journeys of discovery and enlightenment. His latest book titled ‘The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures’ is a collection of case histories that provide a fascinating insight into the sleuthing escapades of the art world’s answer to Sherlock Holmes. From the identification of a long lost Winslow Homer recovered from a rubbish dump, to the discovery of an amazing early work by Gainsborough that was misattributed to a “follower of Jacob van Ruisdael”, Mould’s true tales of art world investigation introduce the reader to a world of kookie characters and perturbing mysteries.

If you are a fan of the UK Antiques Roadshow then you have probably seen Mould giving valuations to hopeful visitors and would be aware of his position as a valuer of fine art. Die hard Antiques Roadshow fans will also know that Mould gave the first one million pound valuation for a design model of Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North sculpture which appeared on the 16 November 2008 episode. What you perhaps didn’t know about Mould is that he has made his mark on art history by breathing new life into damaged or misidentified portraits. In the hands of Mould and his team, paintings that once languished in obscurity are given the artistic and historical recognition they deserve.

Part memoir and part thriller, ‘The Art Detective’ has all the elements of a Le Carre spy tale – drama, suspense and intrigue – combined with rare glimpses into the usually secretive world of those involved in the detection of fine art fakes, forgeries and misattributions. As well as being extremely entertaining, Mould also provides fascinating and educational glimpses into the social and cultural histories that are an integral part of the objects that he deals with. The latest foray into the Mould files is a thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking read that will not only delight anyone interested in fine art, but also anyone who enjoys a good spy thriller.

When I met Philip Mould for the first time I was really impressed with how passionate he was about what he does – a characteristic that really shines through in his writing. Many of the art books that I have read, and history books as well for that matter, are filled with pretentious ramblings that give the impression that the author is just trying to prove how well educated they are, but with ‘The Art Detective’ one gets the strong impression that for Mould, his work is a labor of love that is more about the art than self promotion. I can honestly say that ‘The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures’ is one of the most interesting and entertaining books on fine art that I have ever read and I encourage everyone who reads this post to get yourself a copy now.

Residents of the USA can purchase a hard or soft copy of ‘The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures’ here:

http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780670021857,00.html?The_Art_Detective_Philip_Mould

Non US residents can purchase a copy here:

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Detective-Frauds-Search-Treasures/dp/0670021857/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1286417781&sr=8-1

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

Portraits as Art Market Currency Pt. 6 – artmarketblog.com

Portraits as Art Market Currency Pt. 6 – artmarketblog.com

As the final post in this series I want to summarise my findings, but before I do I want to reiterate the reason that I wrote this series of posts on Portraits as Art Market Currency. The catalyst for this series of posts was, and still is, the continuing saga relating to the supposed instability of some of the world’s most significant economies. Economists and journalists have been making predictions for quite some time regarding the supposedly impending crisis that range from “the extent of the crisis is being grossly exaggerated” to “it is only a matter of time before we experience a catastrophic global financial crisis”. Even though opinions relating to the extent of the crisis vary greatly, it seems that a majority of experts believe that there is at least a significant chance that there will be a series of negative events relating to the economic status of some countries in the near future. Although it is unlikely that a complete global financial meltdown will take place, hypothesising on the effects that such an event would have on value of the art market reveals extremely interesting information regarding the way fine art is valued, and the way we assign value to art objects. This information is extremely useful for investors in fine art as it highlights the importance of having a strategy, and provides indications of how that strategy should be structured.

The reason I made the comparison between portraits and currency is because the way we assign value to currency can tell us a lot about the way we assign value to fine art. For several decades there has been heated debate surrounding the way currency is valued – a debate that stems from the global change to a fiat money system from a Gold Standard. To recap , the Gold Standard “was a commitment by participating countries to fix the prices of their domestic currencies in terms of a specified amount of gold” (US Library of Economics and Liberty). The benefit of the gold standard is that currency essentially had intrinsic value because it was basically able to be exchanged for a certain amount of gold. According to gold expert Paul Nathan in an article on Kitco.com “The intrinsic theory of value holds that worth or value is contained within an object. It holds that economic goods possess value inherently, innately, despite the market, despite supply and demand, i.e., in spite of men’s values, choices, and actions”. The Fiat money system, on the other hand, is currency that a government has declared to be legal tender, despite the fact that it has no intrinsic value and is not backed by reserves. Historically, most currencies were based on physical commodities such as gold or silver, but fiat money is based solely on faith. Because fiat money is not linked to physical reserves, it risks becoming worthless due to hyperinflation. If people lose faith in a nation’s paper currency, the money will no longer hold any value.

What I found particularly interesting when researching this topic is that the art market can essentially be divided into two different markets – one market that has similarities to the Gold Standard, and another market that has similarities to the fiat money system. Just like the fiat money system, the contemporary art market relies very much on faith in the artists whose work is being bought and sold. The value of the work of contemporary artists is dictated by the galleries who sell the work with buyers basically expected to have faith in the valuation set by the gallery. Just like with fiat currency, if people lose faith in a contemporary artist then their work is severely devalued, or even rendered worthless. The market for classical figurative works of art, on the other hand, resembles the gold standard because of the intrinsic value many of these works contain due to their physical characteristics and their status as historical documents. Regardless of what happens to the art market or to the reputation of the artist in question, such classical figurative works of art (portraits in particular) will always have significant technical, historical and documentary value; just as currency backed by gold will always have value regardless of what happens to the economy of the country whose currency is backed by the gold. When it comes to art investment and wealth preservation, the security and stability of the value placed on a work of art is extremely important. Although the glamorous world of contemporary art market speculation may seem to be the most popular and most viable method of profiting from the purchase and sale of art – fine art is, by the very nature of the art market, a long term investment. In fact, the benefits of investing in art can only really be taken advantage of when a long term approach is taken.

To finish with there are three important points that I want to emphasise:

1. the long term value of a work of art is linked to a certain degree to the extent to which one can disassociate the work of art from the artist, and the extent to which one can assign value to the actual characteristics of the art object as an independent entity.

2. the value that can be placed on portraits because of their status as historical documents is the sort of future proof intrinsic value that will always remain with the portrait and cannot be disassociated from the portrait. It is this sort of intrinsic value that makes the portrait a good candidate for use as currency.

3. when it comes to art investment and wealth preservation using fine art, it is possible to take a strategic and mathematical approach that virtually guarantees success over the long term. This sort of approach requires, however, require discipline, patience and objectivity.

Part 1:
http://artmarketblog.com/2010/08/10/portraits-as-art-market-currency-pt-1-artmarketblog-com/

Part 2:
http://artmarketblog.com/2010/08/19/portraits-as-art-market-currency-pt-2-%e2%80%93-artmarketblog-com/

Part 3:
http://artmarketblog.com/2010/08/31/portraits-as-art-market-currency-pt-3-2/

Part 4:
http://artmarketblog.com/2010/09/10/portraits-as-art-market-currency-pt-4-artmarketblog-com/

Part 5:
http://artmarketblog.com/2010/09/17/portraits-as-art-market-currency-pt-5-artmarketblog-com-2/

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

Portraits as Art Market Currency pt. 3 – artmarketblog.com

Portraits as Art Market Currency pt. 3 – artmarketblog.com

The last installment of “Portraits as Art Market Currency” received an interesting comment from a reader who said: “Is that why we have portraits on our banknotes? hehe! Maybe that’s what they thought when they designed them….”. All jokes aside, this comment is actually a good introduction to the concept of the portrait as a historical document – a concept that I want to explore with this post. Although we tend to think of paper money as merely a means of acquiring goods, the coins and notes that we use everyday are in fact historical documents of great value. The fact that there is such a vibrant and growing market in old and obsolete coins and notes confirms the fact that we place a considerable level of value on the historical value of money. I constantly hear of coins and currency notes being sold for astronomical amounts of money, thousands of times beyond their face value, because of their rarity and historical significance. There is no doubt in my mind that bank currency often has an intrinsic historical value and that most forms of bank currency could be considered to be historical documents in themselves. Considering that one of the most recognisable and common features of paper money is a portrait of some sort, it would be reasonable to assume that those portraits which appear on notes and coins also have a significantly high level of historical value. And if you think that people don’t care what the portraits on money look like then think again. When Australia changed over to decimal currency in 1966 a new portrait of Queen Elizabeth appeared on the one dollar bill . The new decimal currency bills were designed by Gordon Andrews who was widely criticised for portraying the Queen with what some people thought was a look of unhappiness, and for giving the Queen what some people saw as a slight scowl. Mr. Andrews defended the portrait by pointing out that “if you have someone grinning at you on a bank note, which you have to look at over and over again, you get to hate the sight of it”. A fair point I think. Another example of the extent to which the portraits on paper money are assigned value is a newspaper article from 1962 about counterfeit currency in which a US Secret Service Chief advised people to look at the portrait. According to Chief James J. Rowley “Counterfeit currency has a lifeless portrait, the fine cross-lines are not clear or distinct”. Sounds more like the musings of an art critic than a secret service agency.

Some may disagree with the concept of historical value as a type of intrinsic value but I think there is more than enough proof to suggest that the historical value that many portraits have can be considered to be intrinsic. The sort of value I am talking about is the value of what a portrait can tell us about various areas of history, not the value we place on a portrait because of the positive opinion we have for the person depicted – an opinion that could change depending on the information we have about that person. The US National Archives conducted an investigation into the Intrinsic Value In Archival Material in 1982 which came up with some useful definitions and information that is relevant to this post. According to the ‘Report of the Committee on Intrinsic Value’ it was determined that “Intrinsic value is the archival term that is applied to permanently valuable records that have qualities and characteristics that make the records in their original physical form the only archivally acceptable form for preservation. Although all records in their original physical form have qualities and characteristics that would not be preserved in copies, records with intrinsic value have them to such a significant degree that the originals must be saved.The qualities or characteristics that determine intrinsic value may be physical or intellectual; that is, they may relate to the physical base of the record and the means by which information is recorded on it or they may relate to the information contained in the record.” It is also worth noting that the committee determined that one of the characteristics of records with intrinsic value is “General and substantial public interest because of direct association with famous or historically significant people, places, things, issues, or events”. The findings of this committee confirm that historical documents can have intrinsic value.

One of the best sources of evidence that supports the idea that a portrait can have value as a historical document is the fact that the National Library of Australia has Guidelines for the acquisition of portraits that are acquired to “provide a documentary record of Australian life and achievement”. According to the guidelines “The National Library collects portraits of Australians of national significance as well as portraits of individuals and groups who are not necessarily known but who are representative of different occupations or of various social, racial or cultural aspects of Australian life. Portraits are acquired to provide a documentary record of Australian life and achievement”. Even more revealing is one of the selection criteria that the library uses to determine whether a portrait is worth acquiring. The following is one of the selection criteria:

2.2.2 The documentary value of the portrait

Portraits acquired must provide an authentic record of the physical appearance of the subject. In addition, some suggestion of the field of achievement of the subject is looked for in background details, dress or any objects shown in the portrait.

The extent to which the portrait offers insights into the personality and character of the sitter, and the originality of the portrayal, are also considered important. For some individuals an original portrait as well as a photographic portrait may be acquired if it is considered that they provide differing insights. However, for an original portrait to be preferred to a photographic portrait when both are available, the original work should display this quality to a much greater degree (see 2.2.1).

In the case of original works, a portrait painted from life is preferred to one painted from a photograph, as being more likely to provide the added dimension of character insight. The relationship of the artist to the sitter may also be of relevance here.
From a really young age, we learn to read faces. They have a language and can articulate themselves with nuance in a way that nothing else in the world around us can quite reach. The way an artist paints a face is highly distinctive, and portraiture tells you far more about the artist than it does about the subject. Get to know the vernacular of one artist’s face compared to another, and you can use that knowledge to hunt down other examples.

Non-representational works of subjects are not collected as generally these do not convey documentary information about the subject’s appearance.

Cartoons that offer insights to personality and character will be considered for acquisition.

As far as I can see the value that can be placed on portraits because of their status as historical documents is the sort of future proof intrinsic value that will always remain with the portrait and cannot be disassociated from the portrait.  It is this sort of intrinsic value that makes the portrait a good candidate for use as currency – a concept that I will continue to explore.

To be continued……………….

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