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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,...

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...

March 19, 2018

Last month the Investec Cape Town Art Fair invited our art advisory to moderate a talk about investing in art and the kind of returns collectors can expect. The panellists, who included the founder of Artnaka, a London-based members club focused on contemporary African art, the CEO of Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) and the joint head of Wealth and Investments at Investec Cape Town, engaged in a stimulating conversation to explore the wide-ranging rewards that can be associated with investments in art. The discussion was particularly centered on contemporary African art and the continent.

Investing in art is about investing in value. It is about investing in the potential of artists and the potential of artworks. Art has dual values; a financial one, from which collectors can make healthy profits when they buy right, and an intangible one. The latter generally refers to the aesthetic value and cultural economists have coined the term psychic returns to describe the aesthetic pleas...

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...

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