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April 26, 2019

When finance minister Tito Mboweni concluded his recent budget speech by highlighting the importance of our arts and culture, and went on to promote the idea of a new national museum among other artistic conduits, he certainly surprised many in the sector.

The question is, do we really need a new museum when our existing ones are underfunded and in a state of disarray? But maybe Mboweni was simply echoing the spirit that is currently sweeping the continent about the importance of national cultural heritage. Maybe what really matters is that the government has publicly stressed that art and culture should be a priority. The details of how it should be done can be refined later.

In 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron commissioned a report by Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and French historian Bénédicte Savoy to make recommendations on how to deal with African cultural assets taken during the colonial era. He invited other European countries with important collections of African art o...

January 21, 2019

Following the general recovery of 18% in the first half of 2018, art collectors around the world continued their quest for sought-after artworks.

The prestigious global October and November auction calendars yielded mixed results for auction houses.  Contemporary art sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in mid-November brought in totals of $357m and $362m, respectively. These handsome turnovers were generated from only 93 lots sold.

Christie’s highlight was a painting by David Hockney, entitled Portrait of an Artist — Pool with Two Figures, which sold for $90.3m, making Hockney the most expensive living artist to date. Sotheby’s achieved three new records for African-American art when Jacob Lawrence’s The Businessmen sold for $6.2m,  Jack Whitten’s Ancient Mentor I for $2.2m and Henry Taylor’s I’ll Put a Spell on You, for just under $1m. In addition, six works by  Basquiat generated a total of $50.2m.

Christie’s Impressionist and modern art sale generated $279m,...

November 28, 2018

The growth of the art market is tightly linked to tax regulations. Policies relating to import VAT, tax incentives and artists’ resale rights have a profound effect on the art trade.

According to cultural economist Clare McAndrew, there is a growing perception that Europe has become an expensive and complex place to transact. This explains why, after the 2009 economic contraction, the recovery in the UK has been slower than in the US. The looming possibility of a no-deal Brexit will have further impact.

In a report on private art museums, the US and Germany boast, respectively, 48 and 45 private museums out of 350 worldwide in 46 countries. The art market knowledge company Larry’s List points to favourable tax breaks in both countries that encourage collectors to build museums and share their art with the public.

The US tax regime also favours private donations to museums. Collectors can deduct from their income tax the fair market value of an artwork at the time of a donation without hav...

October 22, 2018

Knowing the origin of expensive artworks has become a prime requirement in fine art markets. Provenance is exact information that leaves no doubt that an artwork is genuine and executed by the artist whose signature it bears.

The best practice is when the paper trail of an artwork can be traced from its current home back to the artist’s studio. The absence of good provenance has led to the attribution of well-known artists to lesser paintings.

The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, popularly known as the NGV, announced in 2007 that one of its prime portraits, Head of a Man, was found not to be a work by Vincent van Gogh. The painting, attributed to Van Gogh in 1920, entered the NGV collection in 1940, when the museum acquired it from a touring French and British contemporary art exhibition.

Its attribution was rebuffed by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. While experts in Amsterdam determined that the material properties corresponded with those used by Van Gogh, they re...

September 21, 2018

Sotheby’s announced stellar results in August for single-owner auctions in the first half of 2018. In May, the collection of Morton and Barbara Mandel raised $107.9m with a 100% sell through. The American entrepreneur and his wife had assembled a collection representing important artistic movements of the 20th century.

At Christie’s, the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, comprising of about 1,500 objects spanning art, furniture and a variety of collectables, achieved a staggering $832.6m — the highest price realised for a single-owner collection.

Collectors play an important role in the preservation and display of works of art. Private collections often form the backbone of major institutions through important donations or the creation of museums.

It nearly doubled the previous record held by the collection of Yves St Laurent and Pierre Bergé, which sold for $443m in 2009.

While art collectors usually do not achieve the same level of attention as the artists and their dealers, th...

August 21, 2018

Global art markets continue to grow, affirming that art is an attractive asset class. Private investors and institutions who are wary of investing in "emotional" assets can minimise financial risks with the aid of art advisers.

However, the rising incidence of fakes and forgeries appearing on global art markets is a different risk for investors and makes it essential for buyers to get confirmation of the authenticity of an artwork before the purchase.

While forgers scam unsuspecting buyers into paying top prices for worthless paintings, some artists like to imitate famous artists — either to improve their own painterly skills or to demonstrate that they have masterly talent.

When skillfully executed examples of fakes surface in the market, even experienced collectors and museums are occasionally duped. When art professionals or law enforcement officials doubt the authenticity of an artwork they need to determine a link between the work and the artist.

The New York-based College Art Associa...

July 18, 2018

We’re often asked what the artworks that attract top prices are and what can explain the figures that reach stratospheric heights. To date, the most expensive piece of art is Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi which sold in November last year for USD450 million at Christie’s in New York. King Louis XII of France commissioned the 44 x 66 cm painting in 1605. Next comes Interchange, an abstract canvas painted by Willem de Kooning in 1955. It was sold privately in 2015 for USD300 million, the highest price ever paid in a private sale for an artwork. The third highest price goes to Paul Cézanne’s The Card Players, painted in 1892, which was bought for USD250 million by the Royal Family of Qatar in a private sale in 2011.

Art existed well before money, as evidenced by prehistoric rock art. Like currency, the financial value of art is based on a collective agreement. Nowadays, increasingly wealthy buyers compete for instantly recognisable artist names. As a result, the art market announces on...

June 18, 2018

Art economist Clare McAndrew’s 2018 total art market report was published by Art Basel and UBS in March. She found that the art economy in 2017 reached $63.7 billion in total global sales, a rise of 12% since the previous year. Private and gallery sales were estimated at $35.2 billion, with auction sales contributing $28.5 billion. The staggering $450 million paid for Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi in November 2017 at Christie’s in New York made up 11% of the auction market figure.

This year, the strong growing trend of the art market seems unstoppable. Global art buyers spent almost $3 billion on art sold in New York over a two-week period in May. Christie’s’ turnover amounted to $1.79bn, of which $833 million was raised from the collection of the late David and Peggy Rockefeller. This impressive collection broke the previous record of $484 million raised for the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge’s private collection. During the auction twenty-two world records were also set and...

May 21, 2018

E-commerce has long revolutionised music and books but its impact on the art market is more recent. It was only a matter of time though. Over the past 10 years, the move online has been one of the biggest trends in the art market, second to the inexorable rise of the art fairs. ‘The biggest driver is the wider acceptance of e-commerce. This is how collectors buy everything else, so why not art?’ says cultural economist Clare McAndrew.

The online art market has matured and buyers have a number of options. Traditional auction houses offer timed auctions where the bidding takes place online only and over a period of time, as opposed to live auctions. Early adopters like Sotheby’s launched their online formats as early as 2004. Next to this bricks-and-clicks business model are online-only auctioneers of the likes of Paddle8 or Heritage Auctions, the largest online platform for art and collectibles.

Online marketplaces, such as online galleries and aggregators that offer fixed price options,...

April 24, 2018

Collectors often raise the question of creative value, particularly regarding the way it is linked with the different media that artists use to express themselves. In the art world nowadays the latest trends in artistic expression relate to electronically generated images and installations. This category of art can be viewed and experienced in contemporary art museums, galleries and fairs.

While the scale of installations and projections are unlimited, such works may offer special challenges to exhibit. Damien Hirst’s installation Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable filled the historical Punta Della Dogana and the Palazzo Grassi venues at 2017’s Venice Biennale exhibition.

Installation pieces can incorporate all kinds of materials, including video medium and performance art.

The artist’s main aim in designing and creating installations is centred on informing the public about social, environmental, political, identity and gender issues. Ai Weiwei’s formidable rubber sculpture at...

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