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

Art Market Hedge Trends – artmarketblog.com

Art Market Hedge Trends – artmarketblog.com

Although investing in fine art is considered to be a hedge more mainstream investment markets, a new trend has emerged that has seen numerous attempts to launch projects that aim to introduce alternative methods of investing in art as a hedge against the traditional method of investing in art – purchasing a work of art and taking physical ownership. One such project is the collaboration between artist Tom Saunders and art collective Idefix Bloc which with an exhibition of Saunders’ work titled SHOP + OFFICE held at murmurART gallery East London. What makes the SHOP + OFFICE exhibition so unique is that Saunders was not offering his work for sale in the traditional sense. Instead of collectors and investors purchasing physical ownership of an art object that Saunders had produced, as would normally be the case, Saunders offered potential clients the opportunity to purchase the right to buy his art in 10 years’ time for £1 for an immediately payable fee of £2000 pounds, the price that Ferguson Solicitors, the UK law firm, believes is the correct price for an “option” contract, which is essentially what Saunders is offering. Basically, you can pay £2000 now for the right to purchase any piece of the artist’s work in 10 years time for only £1. The lure for investors is the potential to earn huge profits if Saunders becomes a highly successful artist whose work sells for large sums of money, or at least significantly more than the £2000 investment. Saunders’ work could, of course, turn out to be worth less than the £2000, but that is the risk investors take. There are, however, contract provisions that cover premature death or non-production.

Over in India, another innovative art investment project has been started by an Indian entrepreneur. Indian investor Arun Rangachari, chairman of venture capital firm DAR Capital, has purchased the rights to the entire life’s work of a reclusive Italian artist by the name of Montanari, who has lived in seclusion for the past 18 years. Rangachari is building up an art collection, of which the work of Montanari will play a significant part, with the intention of setting up an art fund in the future. Before selling any of the paintings, Rangachari plans to increase the value of Montanari’s work by holding exhibitions and building a foundation dedicated to the artist’s work. According to artnewspaper.com ‘His (Rangachari’s) first art investment consists of 40 paintings by the Italian artist Americo Montanari, with the option to buy many more……..When asked why his art fund would succeed when other ventures, including Indian-based funds, had recently failed he said: “Our entry level will be affordable, we’ll be focusing on artists who have not yet built a reputation and we will have no hidden costs, everything will be up front, so we’ll be quite different from everyone else.”’

The Chinese are also getting in on the act with Chinese financial corporation Shenzhen Artvip Cultural Corporation recently going public with China’s first openly traded art portfolio. The portfolio, which comprises of 12 paintings by contemporary artist Yang Peijing, is being traded on the Shenzhen Cultural Assets and Equity Exchange (SZCAEE) in the form of 1000 shares. All 1000 shares sold out on the first day of trading for a total of US$354480 with profits from trading the works of art to be dispersed by Artvip as the works are traded. According to artinfo.com: ‘Established in 2009 by the Chinese government, SZCAEE functions as an alternative platform for the trading of a wide range of cultural assets — including artworks, luxury goods, and films — as part of the Chinese government’s attempt to commercialize, diversify, and regulate the public exchange of such cultural properties. SZCAEE plans to offer a second 1000-share portfolio, featuring 40 works by Yang Peijiang, sometime in the future.’

Interestingly, each of the above projects are focused entirely on the work of a single living artist, which is comparable to investing in a single business. The benefit of focusing on the work of a single living artist is that the future output of the artist can be controlled by a certain degree by those with a vested interest. There is also the potential for a much larger return from the work of a living artist as a result of the progression of the artist’s career. In terms of downsides, the most obvious downside of investing in the future of a living artist is the uncertainty. Whether the rewards are worth the risk is yet to be seen……..

**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

2010 Art Market Status Report – 2nd half – artmarketblog.com

2010 Art Market Status Report – 2nd half – artmarketblog.com

The art market has found its self in a rather interesting predicament.  On the one hand, confidence in the art market has increased considerably since the beginning of the year.  On the other hand, the ever increasing likelihood of a major financial crisis has seen more cautious and selective buying.  Adding to the drama is the increasingly obvious lack of top quality paintings by the Old Masters, which the market is currently showing a very healthy appetite for.

On the 13th of July an impression of Edvard Munch’s controversial work Madonna sold for an amazing £1,252,000 at Bonhams – twice its lower estimate of £500,000. This makes it the most expensive print ever sold in the UK and the second most expensive print in the world. At Bonham’s 19th Century Paintings sale held on the 22nd Apr 2010, ‘Female figure study’ , a drawing on paper by John Constable with a hidden history, sold for four times it pre-sale estimate to make £24,000. Also achieving success was an interesting  ‘Portrait of a Gentleman’ by George Dawe (British 1781-1829) which was the subject of fiercely competitive bidding and finally sold for £43,200 against a pre-sale estimate of £4,000-6,000.

At Christie’s Victorian & British Impressionist Pictures Including Drawings & Watercolours sale on the 16th of June,  Sir George Clausen’s ‘Head of a young girl (Rose Grimsdale)’ made £505,250 against an estimate of 250,000 – 350,000 setting a new world auction record for a work on paper by the artist. The same sale also saw a new record for Archibald Thorburn with yet another work on paper titled ‘Grouse in flight’ which made £217,250 against an estimate of 60,000 – 80,000

At Christie’s 23 June 2010 auction of Impressionist and Modern Art the top price was achieved by ‘Portrait of Angel Fernández de Soto’, 1903, a Blue Period masterpiece by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), which sold for £34,761,250 against an estimate of 30,000,000 – 40,000,000.  Another portrait titled ‘Frauenbildnis (Portrait of Ria Munk III)’, one of the last great female portraits painted by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), sold for £18,801,250 against an estimate of £14 million to £18 million.

Yet more portraits achieved high prices at Christie’s Old Masters & 19th Century Art sale held on the 9th of July at their South Kensington saleroom. Margaret Sarah Carpenter’s ‘Portrait of a young girl’, who is thought to be Henrietta Carpenter, reached £32,450 against an estimate of 7,000-10,000 and achieved a new world record price for the artist at auction. A work from the Studio of Sir Peter Lely titled ‘Portrait of King Charles II’ also fetched £32,450 against an estimate of 6,000-8,000.

Over at Sotheby’s the ‘An Exceptional Eye: A Private British Collection’ sale held on the 14th of July saw a watercolour over pencil by John Robert Cozens titled ‘The Lake of Albano and Castel Gandolfo’ reach £2,393,250 against an estimate of 500,000 ‐ 700,000 –  the top price of the sale and a new record for the artist at auction.  The portrait miniatures performed particularly well with the Sotheby’s press release stating that “a very high price achieved for an early work by John Smart (lot 17, £56,450), and a record for a work by Bernard Lens (lot 10, Portrait of King Charles I, sold for £58,850)”

At Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale held on the 22nd of June, the top price paid was again for a portrait.  Edouard Manet’s ‘Portrait de Manet par lui-même, en buste (Manet à la palette)’ fetched £22,441,250 against an estimate of £20,000,000-30,000,000 –  a record for the artist at auction. The top-selling lot of the June Russian Paintings Day Sale was Boris Grigoriev’s oil on canvas Portrait of the artist’s son, Kirill, which sold for the sum of £253,250, above its high estimate of £200,000.  Another portrait, Alexander Evgenievich Yakovlev’s ‘Titi and Naranghe, Daughters of Chief Eki Bondo’, took top spot at the 7 June Important Russian Art Sale selling for £2,505,250 – more than triple the £700,000 – 900,000 estimate .  Sotheby’s sale of the long-lost art trove of Ambroise Vollard saw more records set for works on paper held in Paris on the 29th of June. According to the Sotheby’s press release from the sale: “Key works among the highlights of the group were an extremely fine impression of Picasso’s celebrated 1904 etching ‘Le Repas frugal’ (another portrait), which more than doubled its high estimate of €300,000 to bring €720,750 (£584,078), the highest price of the sale. A monotype by Edgar Degas, ‘La Fête de la patronne’, circa 1878-79 soared past pre-sale estimates (€200,000-300,000) to bring €516,750. Paul Gauguin’s ‘Trois Têtes Tahitiennes ‘sold for €312,750 (£253,445) well above the estimate of €100,000 to €150,000 and a record was set for a print by Pierre-Auguste Renoir when ‘Le Chapeau Epinglé, Deuxième Planche’ more than tripled its high estimate of €80,000 to bring €252,750 (£204,822). Man Ray’s ‘Autoportrait solarié’ fetched €168,750 ($206,138)”

On the 2nd of June at Sotheby’s in London, in the sale of 19th Century European Paintings, one of the finest figure paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot ever to have appeared on the market was purchased by the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva for £1,609,250, exceeding its pre-sale high estimate of £1.2 million.  According to Sotheby’s “‘Jeune femme à la fontaine’ enjoyed an exceptional early provenance before it was requisitioned during the Nazi period, and was recently restituted to the heirs of its erstwhile owners.”

The results that I have highlighted above give a good indication of the current market sentiment and the market trends that are likely to define the market for the near future.  To start with, the popularity of portraits is a major indication that buyers are seeking the safety of the academic and the scholarly.  With portraits in particular, the level of skill and talent of the artist is pretty much immediately obvious to even the most untrained eye. When it comes to fine art, and portraits in particular, I do not think that people use the term craftsmanship to describe the work carried out by some artists.  To accurately portray the physical attributes and the personality of the sitter is, in my opinion, a craft that requires skill, training and a healthy dose of talent.  When one adds the historical value and importance of portraiture, the appeal of a famous (or not so famous) face from history to an investor becomes even more apparent.

I have spoken about the concept of fine art as a form of currency in previous posts.  If ever there was a type of art that was more suited to being used as a form of currency, it would have to be portraiture.   The number of common features that most portraits share, combined with the ease with which one can judge and value a portrait based on intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics, makes the portrait a prime candidate for an art world currency.  As I have said before, scholarship is the key to successful art investment, and successful wealth preservation using art for that matter.  Portraits are usually afforded the honour of in depth scrutiny and attention by scholars and academics because of the information that portraits can provide about various branches of history.  For this reason, among others, portraits are given the sort of long term continued attention that constantly adds value.

The second trend that I have alluded to is a greater interest in works on paper – in particular original drawings and watercolours.  I personally of the opinion that the increased popularity of watercolour paintings, particularly those by British artists, is due to the greater interest in the art of the Victorian era which was the golden age of British watercolour painting. Although original works on paper, such as drawings and watercolours, are often looked upon as the less valuable mediums in the scheme of things, the tide can change very quickly as it has recently.  As well as the revival of interest in Victorian art, a shortage of major works by the Old Masters and the Impressionists has driven buyers to seek the qualities that they are looking for in other mediums and periods. An article titled ‘Young masters in an old game’ from The Guardian newspaper written by John Windsor in November 2009 sums up the situation surrounding works on paper perfectly with the following statement: “Taste is shifting from new, ill-conceived conceptual art of the Brit-pack variety – costing thousands but faltering at auction, towards old, traditional skill-based art……. but you do need to develop an eye for quality – the easy, confident line of a master draughtsman, the luminosity of a watercolourist’s washes.” It is a shame that the watercolour painting is considered the poorer cousin of the oil painting because there are so many amazing watercolours by some of the world’s greatest artists that do not receive the exposure that they deserve.

**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

Art Investment: The Cold Hard Truth pt. 2 (Time Will Tell) – artmarketblog.com

Art Investment: The Cold Hard Truth pt. 2 (Time Will Tell) – artmarketblog.com

Is art a long term investment?

Yes, art is definitely a long term investment.  In fact, art is really only a good investment if it is able to be held for long periods of time. As an indication of how long an investment in fine art should be held, most fine art funds require a ten year commitment  – the same length of time that I would recommend anyone investing in art should be prepared to hold on to their investment for.   Although it is quite old, a study completed in 1985 by Michael F. Bryan on behalf of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland titled ‘Beauty and the Bulls: The Investment Characteristics of Paintings’ provides a good insight into the characteristics of the art market.  According to Bryan:  ‘Over the 15-year period (1970-1984), the rate of appreciation in paintings typically outpaced the rate of increase in the general price index (consumer price index). However, within short intervals (1973-1977and 1980-1982), painting’s price appreciation did not keep pace with inflation. During one year of inflationary pressure (1980-1981) paintings actually depreciated in value. In short, while the rate of appreciation in paintings is positively related to the general price level, and moreover has outpaced inflation over the full period of analysis, its year-to-year performance has been considerably volatile.’

Dr Rachel Campbell, an Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of Maastricht , came to a similar conclusion as Bryan in her paper ‘The Art of Portfolio Diversification’.  According to Campbell:  ‘High volatility stems from the whimsical nature of the Art market to current trends and fads in society’s taste for Art. The nature of Art shall always be subject to such trends and as such results in a higher volatility portrayed in the prices and returns found in the Art market. A more prudent investor can alleviate the peaks and troughs from the returns on the Art market by focussing on the longer-term investment. Moreover, the high transaction costs involved with investing in Art result in the benefits tending to be reaped on the longer term.’

What the two studies above show is that although the average yearly return is quite high over a long period of time, those paintings that did increase in value often did not do so in a linear fashion.  In fact, the year to year change in value can be considerably volatile.  What the two studies also show is that just because you hold your investment in art for a long period of time, you are by means guaranteed to end up with a painting worth more than when you purchased it.  Due to the changing tastes and fashions of the art world, as well as the various economic factors that play a role in what people are willing to pay for fine art, the rate of return over the short term can undergo major and rapid changes.

The key to successful art investment is being able to know when the best time to sell is which may mean utilising the services of an advisor or consultant.  It is also extremely important to know how much you need to sell your art investment for to cover the selling costs, and to make a percentage profit that you are happy with.  Because of the nature of the art market it is important not only expect to have to hold your art investment for a long period of time, but also to expect to have to sell your investment at any time if the opportunity comes along to make a considerable profit.  A particular event or occurrence could potentially have an extremely positive effect on the value of your art investment which would be too good to ignore, but could also eventuate at any time with short notice.  Therefore, I cannot stress enough how important it is to know how much you need to sell your art investment for to cover the selling costs, and to make a percentage profit that you are happy with, so that if an opportunity comes up to sell your investment you are able to make an informed and quick decision.  In short, be prepared to hold your art investment for a long period of time, and also be prepared to sell at any time.

**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

Art Investment: The Cold Hard Truth pt. 1 – artmarketblog.com

Art Investment: The Cold Hard Truth pt. 1 – artmarketblog.com

I have read and heard so much incorrect information regarding art investment of late that I think it is about time that the cold hard truth about art investment is made available.  So, here it goes.

Should I invest in art?

The answer to this question depends on how much money you have to invest. Only a very small percentage of the works of art in existence will experience an increase in value that is rapid enough and sufficient enough to provide the investor with a worthwhile return on their investment. Those works of art that can provide a good return are inevitably going to cost significant sums of money due to the fact that the characteristics that make a work of art a good investment are really only found in highly valued works of art. There is really no inexpensive way of successfully investing in art. Another option is to invest in a fine art fund, which essentially allows investors to purchase a share in a managed portfolio of carefully selected works of art. Once again, however, the minimum investment for such funds is quite high at around the US$250,000 mark, which is more than the average person is likely to be able to afford. The other problem with fine art funds is that the investors do not get to experience any of the pleasures of owning the works of art which, quite frankly, is one of the very few benefits of art investment. It is fair to say that people who want to buy art generally want to see it and enjoy it. That is, unless one has enough money to be able to invest in a fine art fund and purchase art for their own pleasure. Investors in fine art funds should expect to get a 10-15% a year return on their investment according to Philip Hoffman, manager of an art fund called The Fine Art Fund. Proper art investment, ie. using fine art to generate a worthwhile return on your investment, is really only a pursuit for the wealthy as success really is relative to the amount of money one can invest. For those that do have the money, however, the returns can be quite high and the risk quite minimal.

Can I successfully invest in contemporary art?

Since contemporary art appears to be relatively cheap compared to the work of, say, the old masters, it is often presumed that buying contemporary art is an easy and Large profits can be made from investing in contemporary art, but investing in contemporary art is a very risky business. Successful investment in contemporary art usually requires a “flipping” approach that involves buying and selling works in relatively quick succession to take advantage of short term trends. This approach is very, very risky and requires that the investor have large sums of money to invest that he/she is willing and able to lose. Not only does one need lots of money and bravery to be a successful “flipper”, one also needs to have the right knowledge and contacts at hand, which very few people do. With the right advisor it is possible to profit from investing in contemporary art over the long term but the risks are still high. What it comes down to is that there are plenty of way better investment vehicles for those investors who are wanting high risk with the potential for high returns. In other words, contemporary art is not a good investment.

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

Danger of Careless Art Market Talk – artmarketblog.com

Danger of Careless Art Market Talk – artmarketblog.com

A Sotheby’s auction here in Australia on the 26th of August did not go as well as was anticipated with just less than half of the works selling and a final sales figure of AUD$5.77 million without buyers premium against an estimate of $9-$12 million. According to an article in the Australian newspaper, Georgina Pemberton, Sotheby’s head of paintings, described last night’s result as “a reflection of our economic climate and we are now going through a correction in the art market” After making this comment to the Australian newspaper, Georgina then went on to make the following comment regarding the auction to Bloomberg news “Some of the collectors are becoming more conservative, but overall the art market is still very strong”. Hmmm, seems like someone doesn’t know whether they are coming or going.

Other than the fact that these two statements contradict themselves, stating that the market is currently experiencing a correction that is seemingly based on this one sale is rather silly. A market correction is generally understood to mean a drop of between 10% and 20% in a financial market over a short period of time which would require a general market downward trend. Taking into consideration that there has been very little indication that the market is losing strength other than the Sotheby’s auction and that there are no figures relating to the definition of a market correction to back this statement up, to state that the market is experiencing a correction is very premature and at this point, incorrect.

Further evidence that the market is not in a correction came from an auction that took place the next evening by Bonhams and Goodman which experienced a far different result to Sothebys. According to the Bonhams and Goodman website “Record numbers had inspected the paintings at viewings in Sydney and Melbourne, with over 1500 people attending the auction venues, 30% up on the numbers for April. On auction night 250 people packed the Prahran saleroom to see Masterpieces of Australian Art from The Julian & Miriam Sterling Collection sell for $1,976,000 (including buyer’s premium), well over the lower estimate published in the catalogue. The sale of the Australian Fine Art catalogue contributed another $3 million to the result. ” Geoffrey Smith, Director & National Head of Art at Bonhams and Goodman went on to comment that “It was our most successful sale ever.” In total $4.9 million of art was sold against a lower estimate of $3.6 million although interestingly, only 49% of works sold which was the same percentage of works that sold at the Sotheby’s auction. What these results do show is that people are paying more money for the best works and that, although the sale rates may give the appearance of a correction, an proper analysis of the whole market points to more of a market transformation (ie. a change in buying trends and habits as opposed to a down-turn)

Another telling indication that the problem may be with Sotheby’s and not the market is the fact that only around 150 reportedly turned up at the Sotheby’s auction compared with 250 at the Bonhams and Goodman auction. With several more important art auction scheduled in Australia over the coming weeks it will be interesting to see what the results will be.

**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

Damien Hirst Screws Himself – artmarketblog.com

Damien Hirst Screws Himself – artmarketblog.com

On the 15th and 16th of September a total of 223 previously unsold works by Damien Hirst will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s. The collection consists mainly of different versions of Hirst’s most iconic concepts including versions of his spot paintings, spin paintings, butterfly paintings, medicine cabinets, formaldehyde works and photo realist paintings.

In continuation from my previous post on this auction I have conducted some further research on Damien Hirst and the market for his work which resulted in some rather interesting results. The online art auction result database Artprice.com lists a total of 1013 Damien Hirst works sold at auction since 1992, 169 of which were auctioned in 2007 which means that the Sotheby’s auction of 223 Damien Hirst works will account for more than a years worth of auction results. Comparatively, Jeff Koons, who is 10 years Damien’s senior, only has 524 auction recorded auction results since 1991.

The fact that Hirst has made the decision to sell at auction partly because the commission rates charged by an auction house are lower than those charged by most galleries suggests that his motivation is mostly, if not purely, financial. Although the demand for Hirst’s work is very high there are already plenty of works on the market due to the huge number of works that Hirst produces. This makes me wonder how many people will be buying from this auction purely because of the nature of the sale as opposed to the quality, price or attraction of the work on offer. I would say probably lots. If there are lots of people buying purely as a result of the nature of the sale then this could result in people buying works from this auction at inflated prices created by a false perception of scarcity and immediacy created by Sothebys when in fact there are already plenty of Hirst works available for sale elsewhere.

There are basically two different outcomes for this auction both of which I perceive as being potentially detrimental to Hirst’s career. Firstly, a successful sale where a majority of the works are sold for above estimate will result in a glut of Damien Hirst works being thrust onto the market which could well result in the demand and desirability Hirst’s work to drop due to the availability of works increasing dramatically. The effect that the sale of these works will have on the market for Hirst’s work depends on how many people are purchasing with the intention of on-selling within a short period of time. Scenario number two is that the sale goes terribly which would of course result in Hirst’s reputation and value dropping.

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

Oz Artist Resale Royalty Boost – artmarketblog.com

Oz Artist Resale Royalty Boost – artmarketblog.com

For those who regular readers of my blog, you will be aware that I am an Australian and that I am a strong supporter of the implementation of an artist’s resale right in Australia. Just because the current Australian government made the decision to introduce a resale royalty scheme does not mean that the whole resale royalty saga is over. All that the Australian government has done is made the promise to implement a resale royalty, they have not said when it will be implemented or what model will be implemented. There are many different resale royalty model options that the government could choose to implement some of which are downright ridiculous and potentially ineffective.

On Friday an announcement was made that will be signal a major boost to the Australian art world with a press release being made public announcing that Joanna Cave, CEO of the UK’s primary copyright and collecting society for artists and visual creators DACS (Design and Artists Copyright Society), will be moving to Australian in January 2009. Joanna will be moving to Australia to take up the position of CEO of Australia’s copyright and collecting society for artists and visual creators and sister society of DACS, Viscopy. What makes this announcement so exciting is that Joanna Cave is probably the world’s most knowledgeable and experienced person on the resale right for visual artists having successfully implemented the resale right in the UK. Now that such an influential person will be coming to Australia there is a much better chance that the resale right model that is implemented will be the most effective and managable model. There is also now a much better chance that the resale right will be implemented smoothly, effectively and with the smallest amount of disruption due to the experience, knowledge and wisdom of Joanna cave.

See the press release from DACS below.

Design and Artists Copyright Society

News release

22 August 2008

CHANGE OF LEADERSHIP AT DACS

DACS’ Board of Directors today announced the resignation of Chief Executive Joanna Cave after eight years of dynamic leadership.

During that time, DACS (the Design and Artists Copyright Society) has changed in both size and profile, and now enjoys a strong reputation among artists whilst generating almost £9 million annually through its three rights management services.

Most recently, Joanna led the campaign for the Artist’s Resale Right in the UK – against fierce opposition in some quarters – which culminated in the government introducing legislation that delivers genuine benefit to artists without harming the market for art.

Since 2006, DACS has collected £6.3 million in resale royalties for over 1500 artists and DACS’ service is recognised as the best in the world.

DACS Chair Andrew Potter says: ‘Many thousands of artists, designers and photographers have every reason to be grateful to Joanna for her hard-won achievements on their behalf. She leaves DACS in great shape, doing a brilliant job on behalf of its members. I, the Board and everyone at DACS will miss her greatly, both professionally and personally. Everyone who works with Jo holds her in the highest regard.’

It is the success of the UK Resale Right campaign that has led Joanna to her next challenge, spearheading the campaign for the Artist’s Resale Right in Australia and New Zealand.

Michael Keighery, Chair of DACS’s equivalent organisation, VISCOPY, in Sydney, says: ‘Jo has been a tireless advocate for artists in the UK and on the international stage. Under her leadership Australian and New Zealand artists can look forward to VISCOPY championing their rights with great commitment and energy.’

Joanna says: ‘It’s a privilege to have been part of the DACS success story and leaving after eight happy years is going to be a wrench. But I am excited about the opportunity to work on behalf of artists in Australia and New Zealand. The Artist’s Resale Right is hugely important not least for indigenous artists, many of whom continue to be poorly rewarded for their work, despite its current popularity throughout the world’.

Joanna Cave will take up her new post in Australia in January 2009. DACS has commenced its search for her successor. Details of the vacancy will be available on http://www.dacs.org.uk.

For further information, please call Joanne Milmoe on 020 7336 8811.

**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

Indian Art Fair and Summit 08 – artmarketblog.com

Indian Art Fair and Summit 08 – artmarketblog.com

Today marks the start of the Indian Art Summit, India’s modern and contemporary art fair, which is taking place from the 22nd to the 24th of August. According to the Indian Art Summit website (http://www.indiaartsummit.com) the “India Art Summit™ 2008 has received an overwhelming response with over 90 applications from galleries and art businesses. The art fair will house 34 of the best exhibitiors of Indian art representing over 12 regions from India & overseas. The India Art Summit™ will therefore showcase the most diverse range of modern and contemporary paintings, sculpture, photography, mix media, prints, drawings and video art by veterans and upcoming artists from across the country. The 3 days in August will see the largest congregation of art collectors, a new wave of investors and art lovers from different geographies.”

It is no secret that the market for contemporary Indian art is red hot but you may be surprised to learn that an Australian gallery was partly responsible for one of the first major international touring shows of contemporary Indian. The exhibition, titled “Edge of desire: recent art in India”, was a joint initiative of the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the Asia Society in New York that, according to the exhibition catalogue, captured “the breadth and depth of practice in India and demonstrated why Indian art today plays such a vital role in the current international art scene. The first stop for the traveling exhibition was the Art Gallery of Western Australia from the 25 Sept 2004 – 9 January 2005 after which the exhibition moved to the United States where it was shown at the Asia Society and Museum from March 1 – June 5, 2005 and then the Queens Museum of Art from February 27 – June 5, 2005.

The fact that Australian’s have shown such an interest in Indian art is not that surprising when you consider between similarities between Australia’s beloved Aboriginal art and Indian art. Both cultures, for instance, have extremely old and unique visual and pictoral traditions that are key components in the visual representation and expression of various components of their culture with a particular focus on spiritual and religious beliefs. Both cultures have also experienced, and continue to experience, a sort of identity crisis at the heart of which is a struggle to maintain and preserve their traditions in a rapidly developing and progressing world. This struggle between tradition and contemporary society is often played out on canvas with many Australian Aboriginal and Indian artists having adapted the traditional visual representation of their social values, spiritual beliefs and cultural practices to the modern mediums of video, photography and installation. Many of Australia’s indigenous artists also use art as an expression of the trials and tribulations that a relatively unchanged ancient culture have faced, and continue to face, in a rapidly changing environment – just as many contemporary Indian artists do.

As an art collector and investor whose latest purchase was a print by the fantastic Indian artist Manjunath Kamath, I can tell you now that I will be continuing to expand my collection of contemporary Indian for as long as contemporary Indian artists continue to produce such amazing work.

**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

Hirst Art Auction Reality Part 1 – artmarketblog.com

Hirst Art Auction Reality Part 1 – artmarketblog.com

The upcoming auction of new works by Damien Hirst to be conducted by Sotheby’s (see here) has generated a huge amount of hype that is sure to result in a packed saleroom and at least a few major results. According to the Sotheby’s website the auction, which has been given the rather romantic title “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever”, is “a major auction of works by Damien Hirst, [that] will include an important series of new pieces which have been created over the past two years, including monumental formaldehyde sculptures; paintings which expand on the artist’s classic themes such as butterflies, cancer cells and pills; exquisite new cabinets and insightful preparatory drawings.”

Ok, now that all that is out of the way, it is time for a reality check. I have identified many potential problems with this auction, the first being the fact that versions of many of the works being offered at the auction have already been sold at auction. It is no secret that Hirst gets as much mileage from each “theme” as he can, producing multiple versions of many of his works such as the spin paintings and butterfly paintings, which presents a conundrum for those planning on purchasing a version of such a work from the auction. Because of the hype surrounding the sale of these works it is quite likely that high prices will be paid for the works being auctioned. The conundrum is, is it worth paying more for one of the works from this auction considering that it is quite likely that a very similar work will be available for sale at a lower price elsewhere? . As far as I can see the answer is no because once the hype is over the buyers are potentially going to be left with a work of art similar to other works on the market except for the fact that they paid more for theirs.  And personally, I don’t see the fact that these works were part of a “landmark” auction as being enough to justify a higher value. For those of you thinking that people won’t pay more for a work of art just because it is being sold at a landmark auction event or because they don’t want the other ten people bidding for the work to have it, think again

Savvy investors and collectors would be better off purchasing a version of the works being offered at the Sotheby’s auction from elsewhere before the auction takes place to take advantage of the increase in price that the auction is likely to generate for Hirst’s work. Be warned though, that any price increase as a result of the auction may only last for a short period of time so to take advantage of the price increase may require any works purchased to be sold relatively soon after purchase. To be continued…

image:

Beautiful Helios Hysteria Intense Painting
(with Extra Inner Beauty) (lot 227, Afternoon Sale)
household gloss on canvas
diameter: 45.7cm.
executed in 2008
estimate: £ 60,000-80,000
€ 76,000-102,000
US$ 119,000-158,000

**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

Affordable Investment Art 12 – artmarketblog.com

Affordable Investment Art August 19 – artmarketblog.com

In 2007 Britain’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) launched a new project called All Tomorrow’s Pictures in conjunction Sony Ericsson which involves a number of high profile artists using the state-of-the-art Cyber-shot TM mobile phone manufactured by Sony Ericsson to produce an image which has been made available to purchase as a limited edition print. The All Tomorrow’s Pictures project was launched as a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Institute of Contemporary Art which was first established in 1947 by a group of artists, poets and writers as a meeting point for exploration between artists and audiences. According to the ICA website: “since its establishment, it (the ICA) has been at the centre of many of the most significant artistic and cultural developments in the past 60 years. It has also introduced numerous artists, performers, writers and other cultural figures to a wider audience, both nationally and internationally.”

In total, 60 artists contributed images to the All Tomorrow’s Pictures 59 of whom were high profile artists invited by the ICA with the 50th artist selected from submissions by the public through an online competition. Each artist was invited to produce a single image or series of images inspired by the theme of ‘Tomorrow’ – using the Sony Ericsson K800i – a state-of-the-art Cyber-shot TM mobile phone. The ICA describes the project as a “pioneering venture [that] aims to highlight the creative potential of fusing art and technology and present a searing vision of the future as imagined through the eyes of some of our most influential and creative talent”. Highly desirable artists such as Idris Khan, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Sue Webster and Tim Noble, Tracey Emin and many others created works for the project each of which were produced in a limited edition of ten which range in price from 250 pounds to 350 pounds.

This unique project has resulted in some fantastic images, many of which have sold out, by a range of awesome artists that have been released as a very limited edition of affordable and good sized (A3) prints that can only be described as extremely good value for money. To see the full range of prints available go here:

http://www.ica.org.uk/?lid=14604

image: Idris Khan, A Memory of Lampposts
A3 print on inkjet photo satin paper. Printed with long term pigmented inks.

**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

2008 Aboriginal Art Awards – artmarketblog.com

2008 Aboriginal Art Awards – artmarketblog.com

Well, today is my last day in the extremely beautiful Darwin which, as well as being the capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory, is the centre of the world renowned Australian Aboriginal art movement. Last night at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, the winners of the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award were announced during an outdoor celebration which took place in a spectacular location on the edge looking out onto the water which framed a brief but mesmerising Darwin sunset. The Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award is a really big deal for the Australian art market as well as for Australia’s Indigenous artists many of whom live in third world conditions. A first price of $40,000 is a lot of money in anyone’s books but for someone living in a remote desert community where many of the residents still live a very traditional lifestyle that involves periods of “going bush” (periods of living out in the bush as the Aboriginal did prior to the occupation of their country by white people). Winning a Telstra Art Award pretty much guarantees that the value of that artist’s work will be increase in value and desirability so every one who is anyone in the Australian art market has their radar tuned into the awards. If you are wondering how important the Australian Aboriginal Art movement is to the art world then consider that Australian Aboriginal culture can claim to be the oldest continuous living culture on the planet (more info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Aboriginal_art

Although I had already spent three days wondering around the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair I was saving my money for the last day of the fair which was also the day after the announcement of the winners of the Aboriginal art awards. The reason that I was saving my money was that many of the artists whose work had been entered into the award was available at the fair meaning that the likelihood of me picking up a work by a winner of an award at the fair before the price of that artist’s works reflected the accolade. Sure enough, works by all of the artists who won one of the four awards on offer were available to be purchased from one of the art centres who were represented at the Darwin Art Fair. My recent interest in some of the amazing prints being produced by Aboriginal artists had me particularly excited about finding out who the winner of the works on paper section of the awards would be. To my delight, the winner was a world renowned Torres Strait islander artist by the name of Dennis Nona who also won the overall award last year. Having seen a Dennis Nona print available for sale at the Darwin Art Fair the previous day I knew that this was the work I would be spending my money on, if it was still available. Luckily for me the one and only Dennis Nona print for sale at the fair was still available when I arrived at the fair and was in my possession a short time later. Suffice to say I was extremely pleased with what is a beautiful work of art and a great investment.

According to the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory website, “The $4,000 Telstra Works on Paper, was awarded to Dennis Nona from Badu Island, Torres Strait, Queensland, for his etching on paper, Dugam. Winner of last year’s $40,000 Telstra Award for his 3.5m bronze crocodile Ubirikubiri, Dennis is widely acknowledged as an important Torres Strait Islander artist. His entry in this year’s award is named after the star that is visible in the early morning sky for about two weeks during August and September. Its presence tells the Torres Strait Islanders that it is the time to harvest the wild yams, kutai, gabau and saurr”. Dennis’s work is is held in most major Australian art institutions and in a number of important overseas collections including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Victoria and Albert Museum London, British Museum, London and Cambridge University Museum, UK.

To see more info on the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award check out these links:
http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/museums/exhibitions/natsiaa/25/index.html

http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/museums/exhibitions/natsiaa/25/gallery/htmlversion/index.htm

Image one: Winner of the 2008 Telstra Art Award, Makinti Napanangka

Image two: Dennis Nona – Dugam, Etching on paper

**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