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,...

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...

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...

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...

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...

February 20, 2018

Only 5% of the world’s artworks will survive the next 100 years according to the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. These are rather sobering thoughts and a reminder that conservation and collection care are inherent aspects of owning art. Artworks are very valuable assets. When not cared for properly, their longevity and future value may be affected negatively.

Conservation is as much about preventive care as it is about restoration when damage occurs. Prevention is key and there are some golden rules that collectors can follow, particularly when handling and installing art. It is estimated that 85% of damage to artworks happen during transit. Proper wrapping and stacking are absolutely critical. The use of bubble wrap for protection is good, but not without a layer of acid free tissue paper between the plastic and the artwork. It is important that the bubbles face outwards too because when a bubble pops, released chemicals may leave marks on the artwork surface.

Special care is also required...

November 28, 2017

The mechanisms of the art market economics are generally little known and considered as peculiar by many who are not familiar with it. At first glance, the dual nature of art may seem quite complex. On the one hand, art yields non-financial aesthetic rewards, sometimes called psychic returns, on the other, it is a capital asset that gives financial returns when its value appreciates over time.

We are often asked what makes art a financial asset. A principle reason is that the art market is an evolving industry, which grows through generating new customers and it is also continuously expands to new countries, raising the demand for aesthetically superior art works. The theory of the zero sum game explains the values, at times quite extraordinary, that are achieved in the art market. Contrary to other markets, increased demand doesn’t translate into increased supply. There is only one artwork that one collector can acquire at the expense of another. This is the value of desire and it make...

October 23, 2017

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art opened to the public last month in Cape Town with an inaugural exhibition that gives a prominent place to photographic works. Museum goers are treated to a diverse presentation of photographs by contemporary African artists such as the Gabonese Owanto, Beninese Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou, Kenyan Cyrus Kabiru, Zimbabwean Kudzanai Chiurai, American born Roger Ballen, and South Africans Zanele Muholi, Athi Patra-Ruga, Mohau Modisakeng, Thania Petersen and Nandipha Mntambo amongst others. In some instances, photography constitutes the exclusive practice of the featured artists, in others it forms part of their medium mix.

Photography emerged in the 19th century long spawning a debate around its acceptability as an art form. Its critics accused it of being too literal, reducing it to a mere mechanical recording medium, while its advocates praised its ability to capture and elevate the artist’s vision. It’s worth noting here that there is a distinct...

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