At JTC, we administer structures with a wide range of assets. Many of our clients have large art collections and often want us to help them buy, sell, insure, move and manage the works. We interviewed Henry Little, Executive Director of The Fine Art Group, to get his take on the current market.
What are the most common questions customers have asked you over the past year?
When the art market weakened following the start of pandemic restrictions (March 2020 in the UK), the first question many customers asked was: what deals can I get?
The art market – like pretty much everyone else in the world – experienced a “bunny in the headlights” moment from March to the end of June of last year. However, the auction continued and the dealers had yet to sell. We were able to acquire works by top notch artists at knockdown prices for our clients during this brief window. Since then, the market has pivoted online and rebounded at an incredible rate. Merchants have undoubtedly struggled – at all levels – while auction houses have invested huge sums in sophisticated digital infrastructure. After the initial trough, the market warmed again at the end of June / July 2020. The momentum continued until the last auctions in Hong Kong in May 2021, where many buyers with deep pockets launched themselves into the search for sought-after works. The Asian art market supported overall numbers last year and the considerable “heat” persisted there. We took the opportunity to spot the trend early enough to record the big jobs in recent sales with big profits for our customers. The pandemic has initiated a major upheaval, but our job remains the same: forecasting rises and falls in the global art market (s) and making the best use of the situation for our customers, whether they buy or sell.
Has COVID-19 impacted people’s appetites to buy art?
The onset of the pandemic in March 2020 had a polarizing effect. Some clients wanted to sit idly by as the situation unfolded, others took it into high gear to raise as much as possible when it was a buyer’s market. These affairs of state persisted until about the fall of 2020, when all of our consulting clients were firmly focused on fundraising, whether for investment, passion, or both. Since then we have worked hard to research, control and acquire works at all prices from £ 10,000 to £ 10 million and above. The period from late January to Easter 2021 has been particularly hectic for me personally, and is my busiest time for private client acquisitions. It was a perfect combination of clients with less travel and less distraction and a freshly digitized art world with galleries and auction houses fully online.
On the contrary, a return to real life may be what keeps collectors away from buying art for a short time while they are busy socializing, taking vacations, and everything else they forgot about. existence! What I do know is that we – the trade – are desperate to travel again. Not to travel for the sake of traveling, I think this ship has sailed the art market. But be in New York for the big auction weeks, to go to the Venice Biennale or to go to Basel for the fair. The art market calendar was too busy before the pandemic, but our usual pace and routine have shifted. We want to get it back. The art market is a social beast and it thrives on personal contact, let alone seeing as much as possible.
What do you think people will buy more in the next 12 months?
The most dominant taste segment in the market right now is Asian millennials. They have unparalleled purchasing power and their experience with art has often been influenced by engagement with other collection categories and luxury brands. Young artists whose work photographs well and harnesses current contemporary themes associated with identity, ethnicity, gender and sexuality are doing well. We expect this to continue. Undervalued but historically validated female artists, especially those of the mid-twentieth century, are also on a long-term upward slope in terms of price and aggregate demand.
Despite these much-talked-about highlights and rapid taste cycles, much of the volume of what is bought and sold is well-worn tariff. Picasso, Dubuffet, Fontana, Monet et al. The media and the talkative classes of the art market can distort the underlying reality of what is going on. We love to talk about new records, hot new artists rising in the auction ranks, or the upcoming opening of a young gallery. But ultimately, the bread and butter of the market are artists like Warhol or Picasso with voluminous releases and “brands” to suit all ages, tastes and budgets.
Our job as advisors is to cut through these trends and guide our clients on the real value of things. We are inherently cautious and spend most of our time saying “no” to private council clients. No it’s too expensive. No – the condition is not good. No, this artist’s market is overheated. Etc. Conversely, we work day after day to have access to the best material from highly sought-after artists. And it’s our job to get our customers to pull the trigger when the right job presents itself.
Why do you think there has been a recent increase in the demand for independent artistic advice?
The art market is a wonderfully Byzantine place. In many ways, this opacity is what makes it endlessly entertaining and engaging, for collectors and professionals alike.
In the secondary market, where works of art are resold, art dealers have only one goal: profit. This means that they can ask the price they want and woe to the buyer who does not ask for the asking price and does not negotiate. In some cases, especially for well-known artists, we have negotiated discounts of up to 30% on the prices charged.
In the primary market, where works are sold for the first time, the “noise” around an artist, which can quickly fade from moment to moment, is difficult to decipher. You need an advisor who has been around the block a few times, seen many cycles in the art market, and is inherently skeptical. Our general credo is that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Either the condition is bad, the provenance is unclear, or the artist is not as good as they all claim.
The infrastructure around the art market is evolving rapidly in the digital sphere and there is a lot of talk about “democratizing” the art market or increasing “transparency”. These companies are all very good. But the somewhat old-fashioned reality is that nothing beats the connoisseur, knowledge of art history and a sense of price. There is no shortcut to transactional knowledge. The more you’ve bought and sold, the better off you are. And this expertise is at the heart of everything we do.
About the fine arts group
The Fine Art Group is an independent global team of art advisors and art finance experts. It is committed to supporting its clients at all levels of the art market through five main services: Expertise, Art Consulting, Agency, Finance and Investment.
Founded over 20 years ago, The Fine Art Group has an unmatched track record, occupying a unique position within the art ecosystem. From building a collection to acquiring works of art, appraisals, sales strategy and management to investment opportunities and art funding, The Fine Art Group has the experience and the ability to meet a wide range of needs and interests.
The recent incorporation of Pall Mall Art Advisors into the Fine Art Group has expanded the renowned team of experts and extended valuation services worldwide. Pall Mall Art Advisors benefits from an established presence in the United States and a strong track record of performance that complements The Fine Art Group offering. Together, in-house expertise spans Western art from 1500 to the present, with an emphasis on Impressionism, Surrealism, Modern and Contemporary in addition to valuable jewelry, watches and collectibles. With a network of trusted, licensed consultants, The Fine Art Group is also well positioned to provide advice in most other categories of the market.
JTC plc published this content on June 11, 2021 and is solely responsible for the information it contains. Distributed by Public, unedited and unmodified, on 11 Jun 2021 02:19:06 PM UTC.