investing in art – a view from the top
23 July 2010 § Leave a comment
Fifty years in the modern and contemporary art business at the very highest levels gives one a pretty good platform to make some lofty observations upon the current art scene! Sadly this experience is not mine but that of a fellow art consultant – one of the biggest names in London – who I had the pleasure to join with for a very pleasant sunny lunch, a couple of cold beers and an informal chat. The top auction houses, big galleries, elite buyers and the best artists have been his world throughout these years and his knowledge is extraordinary. Got a few million quid to spend from your gazprom shares? No problem – he is your man!
Naturally I took advantage of the occasion, in the nicest possible way, to scavenge as much valuable information as I could! We covered so much ground that all I will relay here are the edited ‘highlights’. There are no deep insights, big secrets, amazing revelations or instant solutions but it is perhaps a launch pad for some future in depth discussions – please join in!
Crash, what crash? The art market – especially at the top end has hardly faltered and prospects are bright – but stick to quality, second-best may suffer. For the greats like Picasso, Giacometti, Matisse – records will continue to be broken by the best works. Despite big names keeping their big price tags there is still excellent value to be found. And the best? Perhaps work by the great 20th century photographers – Cartier Bresson, Man Ray, Moholy Nagy, Brassai et al which can still be had for a few thousand pounds.
What are current trends in the galleries? The time of scruffy installations, Emin’s unmade beds and tedious navel-gazing of the 1990’s has now passed and painting will continue it’s ‘come-back’. Technical ability, workmanship, experience, effort – all those old-fashioned attributes – will once again be to the fore – but it goes without saying that invention and originality have to be there too! Richard Wright winner the 2009 Turner prize perhaps illustrates an element of the trend.
Public and corporate purse-strings of course have tightened enormously – and it is probable that they will tighten further. It is clear that artists will now have to stop churning out ‘showpiece’ works aimed at galleries and corporate lobbies. They will need to once again look directly at the real ‘consumer’ – you and I – and produce work on a modest scale for normal homes. How will they cope!? Artists have to get real after a period of being spoilt by big budgets. And who is going to buy all the video that has been produced? Surely we will see much less in future. What is the future for technology – interactive works, digital screens, downloaded ‘limited edition’ pieces and so on? It is a big question but last week Kindle downloads overtook physical book sales on Amazon – might something similar happen in visual art? Download a limited edition work on to your portable device, upload at home to your digital picture frame. One year licence please, option to renew. Oh yes, in red please. Not quite yet, but soon surely?
OK – hardly earth-shattering stuff, but it is only by carefully gathering many opinions and snippets of information that any real insight emerges. It is a tough job, but someone has to do it. Cheers.
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