Auction Houses, Friend or Foe of the Young Artist?

Jerry Saltz’s Instagram post from 23 November 2021.

 

Art critic Jerry Saltz took to Instagram to share his anger surrounding recent auction trends. In his post he marks auction houses as the enemy of young artists while galleries, undermined by auction houses, as a friend. This commentary seems shocking at first as auction houses can be a democratizing force in the ecosystem of the art world – allowing greater accessibility to buying art while also supporting more price transparency. The new buying trends at auction include a rise in young artists, female artists, and artists of color. While post pandemic changes can appear to be delivering on the calls for diversity in the art world, looking deeper, I question if these changing trends are really the benevolent forces that they appear to be.

 

During the pandemic, Art Basel’s 2021 Report found that the 2020 global art market was down 20% from 2019. The 2020 sales in London and New York fell 22% and 24% respectively. Lately, this downfall that took place in the height of the global pandemic is reversing itself. Auction houses are seeing great success following the pandemic. As collectors have had an increase of wealth, auction records are being broken at new rates. Blue chip artists are seeing new auction records and the contemporary art market is rising. In major marquee auctions, young and diverse artists are not only being increasingly featured, but experiencing skyrocketing prices.

 

The October evening sales in London — which brought in a total of £130.06 million, 27.1% more than October 2020 – were the first in person auctions in 18 months, an early indication to the success of the November sales in New York. Our research showed that total sales from Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips New York Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening auctions raised an impressive $1.95 billion, with total auction sales just 4.3% short of the record May 2018 sales. Half of the eight New York Evening auctions were white glove, and across all of the sales, only 11 lots were bought in.

 

The ArtTactic report, Post War and Contemporary Evening Sales evaluated the October evening auctions in London and found a rising demand and price for the work of young artists. Here, young artists accounted for 23% of the total sales value, almost double the year prior. Nine of the Top 10 performing lots (hammer price to mid-estimate) were by this generation of artists and 9 of the 13 auction records were achieved by them as well. The recent Marquee auctions in New York exacerbated the trends set by the London October auctions, as seen in our Marquee Evening Sales report. Here, younger artist’s auctions were pushed to record levels and guarantees reached a record high. The total sale value for artists under 45 was more than $58 million and the average prices of these artists were 84.7% higher than the prices seen last autumn. Our recent NextGen Report explored this rising success of these emerging forces in depth. These young artists had an impressive 185.5% increase in auction sales in the first half of 2021 and are seeing their wet paint sales (artworks sold at auction within 3 years or less of the creation date), on average, doubling their mid presale estimates. Overall, there is rising success and desirability surrounding these artists.

 

The Deloitte Art and Finance Report evaluates this growing demand for a younger generation of artists at auction. The change in buying trends could be the result of the rise in millennial collectors, who represent the highest spenders on art in 2020 (Art Basel). Some experts believe that this growing attention on a younger generation of artists “will likely benefit more younger artists of color, as well as young female artists that have traditionally been under represented” in the auction market. ArtPrice’s recent findings positively reflects this speculation – they found that the top five young artists (born after 1980) in the first half of 2021 were Matthew Wong, Avery Singer, Salaman Toor, Ayoko Rokkaku, and Amoako Boafo. These young artists and their recent auction success exemplify the strong and diversifying shift in what collectors are buying. Of these five artists, four of them are people of color, the other, Avery Singer, is a female. These artists hail from America, Canada, Pakistan, Ghana, and Japan reflecting a more global representation and display of artists at auction.

 

It is reassuring to see the rising prominence of a larger and more inclusive group of artists and seems as if change is coming from these auction results. Yet, evaluating these recent sales, there is cause for concern. Are the changing trends at auction truly supporting a diversified market? Or, could this dramatic shift cause more harm than good for both young artists and the market overall?

 

To better understand the cause and effect of the shift in post pandemic auction results, we must explore the latticed structure of the art market. Blue-chip artists and artworks are known to hold and steadily rise in value, despite market fluctuation. This is because they have established careers, critical acclaim, gallery representation, and strong exhibition history. Because of this, blue chip artists are sought after at auction and retain high prices. Auction houses, which function in the secondary market, seek to sell this work as they are motivated by profit. The auction houses have a responsibility to both their buyers and sellers; they are trusted to sell quality work for the best possible price that will also appreciate in value. The artist is lacking from this model and rarely profits from auction sales. Meanwhile, galleries mainly function in the primary market. They work with artists to sell their art and place it in collections, museums, and exhibitions which will overall positively affect and help to grow an artists’ market. The ecosystem of the art world has its weight  distributed differently across each of its pillars, and young artists rely on galleries to uphold them.  Helping support and develop their artists careers is a contributing factor to the opaque practices galleries operate upon. By not publicizing prices, galleries will never have to lower the price of an artist – something that is damaging to the career trajectory of an artist. Remaining exclusive in who they sell to can not only help land an artist in the hands of an important collection or museum, but also help avoid buyers who intend to quickly resell the work for profit (also known as “flipping”).

 

The market of a blue-chip artist is well established, and selling at auction won’t likely cause a negative disruption in their sales. This is not the case for young artists, who have not yet had the time or space to reach this same level of establishment. Their markets are still fragile, and any type of auction results, good or bad, can have an overall lasting and possibly detrimental impact. A positive auction result can lead to a negative result for the artist: price inflation at galleries and an unsustainable and speculative market that the artist must try to feed. The term “red-chip”, coined by Art Newspaper writer Scott Reyburn, applies to the current auction market and how “buyers continue to be only interested in the latest thing”. Reyburn sees the prices rising for an “ever-changing” list of “fashionable new names” such as these young artists. Deloitte’s report speculates that a driving force for this obsession with youth could be “collectors and investors looking for the next big thing” which would push these artists’ “prices far beyond justified limits, given the stage of these artists’ careers” which ultimately negatively impacts the artist.

 

The recent auction success of young artist Flora Yukhnovich provides insight into my fear of these auction results. Recently, her Rococo inspired work “I’ll have What She’s Having” (2020) sold for £2.2 million, almost 40 times its £60,000 low estimate at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction. Looking at this October auction, Art Price questions if her desirability stems from her being relatively unknown and therefore not on the books of prestigious galleries. This means that auction houses can offer her and similar young artists’ work without any price reference. In less than two years “I’ll Have What She’s Having” has already been sold twice; initially sold by Parafin Gallery to a private collector, and then resold by Sotheby’s. This work was essentially flipped, a tactic where speculative buyers quickly resell artworks for profit, and a tactic that could crash a young artists market. As Saltz sums up, “[Auction houses] now circumvent galleries and place the work of younger artists at auction” forcing galleries to raise their prices to reflect the market.

 

While these recent sales are helping gain attraction and attention to marginalized artists’ careers, it is done in an unsustainable way that could negatively impact the artist. These sales don’t purely represent support for a diverse market, but capitalize off of the artists. The buying tactics follow what’s in vogue, and can lead to harmful long-term results for the artists’ and an overall speculative market. Of course, this is not all buyers’ intention, and real change and desire is one underlying driver of the shift in trends that others are trying to profit on. But, to find lasting impact from this momentum, we must be critical and dig deeper, evaluating why these trends could be surfacing and what they implicate. Contemporary art is not solely a profit producing asset but a cultural commodity. As we see a growing and changing pool of collectors buying contemporary art, an artist-centered approach to buying must be reinforced.  The shifting collector base must continue to seek out new, interesting, and diverse art without reducing it to “the next big thing”.

[Art] History Repeats Itself: A Warning on the Current NFT Market

Beeple’s HUMAN ONE, 2021. Kinetic video sculpture with corresponding dynamic NFT. Sold for $25 million (hammer price)  in the 21st Century Evening Sale on 9 November 2021 at Christie’s in New York.

 

Following the historic March 2021 sale of Everydays: The First 5,000 Days by Mike Winkelmann, commonly recognized as Beeple, NFTs quickly became the hot topic of the art world. It seemed as if everyone in the industry had an opinion on them — some raving about incorporating the crypto world into art, and many skeptical, seeing it as a way of reducing art to a purely financial asset. Established artists spoke out against NFTs, such as David Hockney, who called them “silly little things”, following the historical trend of the traditional art market initially rejecting technological innovation. April 2021 saw a 39% drop in sales compared to the previous month which, for a moment might have indicated NFT skeptics were correct. However, today’s market has proven otherwise. Sales are back up — August 2021 levels peaking at almost 6 times higher than previous highs seen in March 2021.

 

This recent momentum in the NFT art market has led to a rise in recognition and acceptance. The traditional pillars of the art world — auction houses, galleries, and museums — many of whom originally rejected and wrote off the digital tokens, are making moves to incorporate NFTs into their art businesses. As a result of this momentum, the traditional art world is beginning to play catch up, finding new ways into the NFT market and access to the expanded clientele the crypto world offers. Many established artists are adding NFTs to their oeuvre including Damien Hirst and Urs Fischer. PACE Gallery has established a platform solely dedicated to the showing and selling of NFTs, signifying blue-chip acceptance of the digital medium. Computerized images and crypto collectibles such as Crypto Punks and Bored Ape Yacht Club are gaining momentum as well, creating communities around themselves while new ways to view and purchase the tokens are being established.

 

It seems pointless to add my opinion on whether NFTs are “good” or “bad” or try to speculate what I think their future role and place in the market will be. What I can do is investigate their current place in the market, expanded upon in our second NFT Art Market Report, and offer a warning based on a comparison to the current trajectory of this emerging market and that of the traditional art market.

 

Although NFTs offer a new client base for the art world, this market and its interactions with the traditional market sectors deserves further investigation. Client strategy likely plays a large role in the acceptance of NFTs by artists, auction houses and galleries. Alex Rotter, Christie’s Chairman of Postwar and Contemporary Art in New York tells Fortune Magazine that for the sale of Everydays: the First 5,000 Days the auction house signed up more new clients than ever before, indicating that NFTs offer an “entirely new category of buyers”.  Looking at the press release following this groundbreaking Christie’s sale we can see that 91% of the bidders were new to Christie’s, becoming clients of the auction house for the sale of an NFT. This is important to understand as Art Basel’s 2020 Market Report shows that buyers between the age of 40 and 64 currently represent the biggest segment for dealers and account for 62% of buyers in 2019. The Art Basel report finds that the Contemporary art market has the largest share of young buyers, with only 21% of collectors categorized as Millennials. In comparison, 58% of the participants in the Beeple auction were Millennials, exemplifying the expanded client base that crypto art offers. Tapping into the Millennial pool will be a very important move for the art market as the Art Basel 2021 Report found that “Millennial HNW collectors were the highest spenders in 2020, with 30% having spent over $1 million versus 17% of Boomers”. In May, Sotheby’s became the first auction house to accept cryptocurrency, a move that Stefan Pepe, Sotheby’s Chief Technology Officer said will help the auction house find new “ways to expand our client base” by taking the necessary steps to accommodate their interests.

 

Auction houses aim to introduce new markets to their clients and cross market categories. This can be seen by Sotheby’s July 2020 cross-category evening sale ‘Rembrandt to Richter’ which included Old Masters, Impressionist, Modern, and Contemporary art in one auction, introducing lots to buyers who may have never previously sought them out. This tactic of crossing market categories has been incorporated by all the large auction houses, and is being used to tap into the market offered by NFTs. One example is Christie’s inclusion of the NFT crypto collectible “YUGO LABS” which is part of the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT series in their recent evening sale in London. Further, twelve of the ninety-four lots sold at Sotheby’s recent Contemporary Art Day Auction accepted bids in cryptocurrency, offering a physical object to accompany the NFT. This strategy gave new bidders something tangible as to ease their way into the crypto-verse. The NFT market is fueled by a new generation of collectors and investors that the traditional art world is eager to retain.

 

It may seem like the new market of wealthy young collectors have the potential to diversify the art market and broaden the art buying clientele, but closer examination proves otherwise. The exciting space for growth offered by the crypto-sphere has led the art world to take steps to incorporate non-fungible tokens into their vocabulary but dissecting these sales further shows that these tactics have not led to a merge of markets. While the spaces for buying art may be moving to merge the traditional and NFT markets, the buying groups remain different creating a heterogeneous mix of fine art and crypto art buyers. An investigation by The New York Times dissects the market gap between “speculative buyers” who “flock to crypto art” and the traditional blue-chip collectors who hold back from this market. Surveying more than a dozen collectors, the New York Times finds that the majority of established dealers and their collectors have more reluctance about NFTs and what they can offer, keeping them away from the market. These art world personnel have “concerns about the quality, ownership and authenticity of NFTs”. Meanwhile, those who invest in NFTs traditionally belong to the crypto community and have historically made and/or spent their wealth on cryptocurrencies. For example, Chris Ciobanica, known as SilverSurfer to the community, has collected more than $10 million worth of NFTs. Despite his heavy involvement with the digital art community, Ciobanica says “I’d never collected traditional art” before his involvement with the digital tokens. Out of the top 10 most expensive NFTs sold, the owners who are not anonymous come from the crypto world rather than the art world.

 

Tina Rivers Ryan, a curator at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo says to the New York Times that “There is a sense that a parallel art market is emerging that comprises a new set of artists and a new set of collectors”.  The “parallel” market of NFTs which offers new artists and collectors eerily mimics the flaws of the established art market. Although they pull from two different client bases and sources of wealth, their demographics are the same. Without bringing attention to these shortcomings, the potential for this new and innovative space for art risks falling victim to the long tradition of race, gender, and geographic biases that the canon of art history presents.

 

The NFT art market, generating over $3.5 billion in just the first 9 months of 2021, addresses art world problems such as ownership of work, provenance, authenticity, and artist royalties. This model may be able to overcome some of the key issues found in the traditional art world, yet perpetuates its problematic foundation. Less than 16% of all NFT artists are female, which is less than the 39% of female artists represented by dealers working in the primary market in 2020 (according to Art Basel’s 2021 Market Report). Further, more than 73% of the creators are from England, America, or Canada. The majority of these artists live and create work from North America, mainly the United States which accounts for 91% of artists. Looking at the global distribution of NFT artists on the platform NiftyGateway the discrepancy in demographics is apparent. Of the NFT creators, less than 4% are from Africa and only 2.4% of the artists are from Latin America. Creators from the Near East are even more minimal, making up only 0.03% of the artists and contributing only 0.01% of the total sale value. Breaking up the global distribution by country, the top represented countries are all European or American, with Argentina breaking the trend generating the tenth highest total sales value on NiftyGateway.

 

The traditional art market has a history of overlooking players who fall out of the narrative of the West. It is rooted in a history that has only validated white males from Europe and America, and builds off of a canon that marginalizes those who challenge this norm, establishing a foundational bias for who could be considered an artist. There was no space or opportunity for those who fell outside of this norm which transitioned into artists today being “othered” and reduced to representations of their difference rather than creators in their own right.

 

Currently, artists and art institutions struggle to address the colonialist roots that lay the foundation of the art world. As a result, underrepresented groups continue to be neglected and marginalized. The NFT world has existed for seven years, but only became popular in the last two. In its short time the new creative sphere has begun to mirror art history’s exclusionary chronicle, but it has the opportunity to deviate from the foundations laid. We must stop and think if this is a history we really want to continue to follow, address the current state of the market, and ask what steps we can take to break from this trend. The digital world of NFTs offers more accessibility and amenities for art as well as a new place that has the potential to create an equitable ecosystem. To truly capitalize on this potential, we must bring attention to the current failures and avoid continuing along the path set out.

Guarantees and Burned Works: Takeaways from Changing Auction Trends

Detail of Andy Warhol, One Dollar Bills (Backs), silkscreen ink on linen.

 

As the weather starts to cool down, and the world continues to open up, the Autumn auction season begins in London. With the top houses – Sotheby’s, Christies, and Phillips – all holding prominent Contemporary Art day and evening auctions in mid-October. These parallel events have a variety of works to lure buyers and excite the market including Sotheby’s 3 extraordinary Gerhard Richters which have been in the Helga and Walther Lauffs Collection since their creation in 1985 as well as the notoriously shredded Banksy, now called Love is in the Bin. The energized re-emergence of an in-person art market coincides with Frieze week in London, all marking that the world of art is ready to function in person rather than virtually. Discussing the recent fair, Artsy noted that there was an “undeniable energy of the fair, driven by a high caliber of international collectors and the opportunity to reunite with colleagues from around the world” showing the excitement for the return to normalcy. With the recent shift of all aspects of the world, including the art world to fit these new remote models, and the recent move back, it is interesting to evaluate the current strengths and weaknesses of the art market, particularly auction houses as they transition back to live sales.

 

In an art market that has historically thrived off of the lack of  price transparency in an attempt to maintain exclusivity, the recent practices of auction houses have  functioned as a democratizing influence in the world of art. Price details are the driving force of these institutions — catalogues are published showing an estimated value of an artwork, providing a range of the expected high and low price threshold. Works put up for auction have a reserve price which reflects the agreed upon baseline for what an artwork will be sold for, and it is not uncommon for lots to largely surpass their expected value. When a work is put up for auction, many price databases and research firms take note, collecting information including hammer price and bidding interest, making price information accessible to the public. This access to information has increased art market transparency in many ways. However, it is also important to consider auction houses’ other practices when it comes to selling art – particularly when art fails to sell.

 

Unsold works at auction, typically referred to as being ‘burned’ or ‘bought-in’ are one aspect of the auction market often overlooked as evaluations on the market focus on the trends reflected by what sells. It’s a Pass Unsold Artworks at Contemporary and Post-War Auctions shows the value of taking an alternative look at the auction market and provides an in-depth analysis on the unsold works from evening auctions based on data collected from 2015 through the first half of 2021. From this report, we gather the rising strengths of the market, open questions into the growing market practice of auction guarantees, and explore the effect of guarantees on the overall auction market.

 

Unfortunately, we do not know what happens to the majority of unsold artworks after their failure to sell at auction as many will go on to sell privately or through other auction houses such as Bonhams or regional auctions (which our research does not cover). These works may end up with their guarantors, or remain off the market entirely. However, our research does evaluate unsold lots that were put back up for auction at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips in day, evening, and incubator sales channels providing insight into resale trends at the top end of the secondary market.

 

The stats of burned works are not promising when they come up for resale at auction.  The majority of works that finally sell, do so at a lower value. Our research found that burned lots are often re-sold at a different auction house and in a different location. This could indicate the consigner losing trust in an auction house after failure to sell the first time, and/or attempting to press their luck in a new market. It’s a Pass found that the majority (64.7%) of lots that were originally bought-in at Christie’s were re-sold through a different auction house while Sotheby’s retained 64% of sales. The analysis also found that 42.9% of bought-in works were resold in a different location.

 

Waiting to re-auction a previously burned work could be the best option for a consigner considering our findings of a very small success rate for these previously bought in works. To increase the value when re –auctioning a lot, the data proves that longer wait times are more lucrative. Those who re-auctioned only 1-2 years after their work was burned on average lost 54.7% of the works value, while those who waited 3-5 years only saw a 26.8% drop in price. Out of the lots that were resold, 8.2% of consignors were lucky enough to re-sell their burned work at a higher value than the original mid-estimate.

 

The practice of guaranteeing artwork is becoming increasingly popular among auction houses and It’s a Pass illuminates why. Guarantees on artworks are correlated to a strengthening art market, which can be as enticing of a practice as it is controversial.  In the last 6 years, the amount of lots that go unsold has decreased from 15.3% in 2015 to only 6% in the 2021 reflecting an overall strengthening of the auction market. This recent rise in success has a large financial gain for both consigners and the auction houses as the estimated missed sales value (based on mid-estimate prices) of unsold works at Post-War and Contemporary evening auctions decreased from $244 million to $71 million. This decrease in burned lots is inversely proportional to the recent increase in guaranteed lots from 15.1% in 2015 to 23.5% in the first half of 2021. This data shows why guarantees have become increasingly popularized and utilized, but as Eileen Kinsella of Artsy sums, their use can “distort the art market” while offering “auction houses and consignors a useful tool to hedge their bets”.

 

On one side of the spectrum, auction guarantees reflect an overall strengthening of the auction market. A guarantee allows the auction house to reassure a consigner of their risk by ensuring the sale of the artwork before the auction has even begun; an attractive opportunity for the seller to retain a minimum price on a lot no matter the result of the auction. The promise of a guarantee can also help sway consigners to choose one auction house over another and help an auction house build a system of trust with their consigners, promising a minimum value to the artwork being placed on auction. Amanda Lee contributed her opinion on guarantees in Secrecies, Guarantees, and Securities in the World of Auction Houses for the Center for Art Law website that guarantees give the seller comfort since they will have the knowledge that their “work will sell no matter the outcome of the auction, and if the work sells for more than the guarantee, the seller might enjoy an additional percentage from the upside” exemplifying the attraction of a guarantee. The promise of a sale can help entice sellers to consign their works, and reflects a strengthening contemporary market.

 

Despite the strengthened trust between auction house and seller, their ability to help retain sales and decrease the rate of failed sales, and their role in strengthening the contemporary auction market, the practice of guarantees remains debated as they can be seen as a deceiving tactic that can provide a risk for the auction house, affect the market and create and air of mistrust. In 2018, Anna Brady in The Art Newspaper questioned the practice of auction guarantees and their role in the market. She compares guarantees to a combination of a risk hedge and speculative gamble, and find that many guarantors have a direct interest in the market. Auction houses do not provide information on who has financial interest in a lot – be it themselves or a 3rd party guarantor. If a 3rd party guarantor is involved, there are no rules in place stopping the guarantor from also bidding on the lot, which could either increase the final hammer price or stir excitement around the work and alleviate the guarantor of their purchase. If the guarantor does end up with the artwork, it is typically below the estimated market value and often with a financial fee from the auction house. The auction house therefore benefits, the consigner gets their agreed upon price, and the guarantor receives an investment they found worthwhile. If a 3rd party guarantor is involved, they are typically the top clients of an auction house, and as noted by senior market editor of Artsy, Eileen Kinsella, ”It is arguable that these client-guarantors are being offered preferential treatment by the auction house; they are giving them access to these ‘fee deals’, and the ability to pre-purchase a work, in advance of the sale”.

 

Alexander Forbes, Artsy’s consumer marketplace strategist, discusses the need for more buyers in the market and tension between the art market’s resistance to calls for greater transparency, stating “the argument for “price transparency” isn’t about buyers at all, but rather the threat of external regulation on art sales and an ethical obligation to greater openness in a market that caters to the global elite”. The practice of guarantees reflects this evaluation, as it reduces transparency in the market and continues to benefit a wealthy few. Along with their lack of openness, guarantees are also not all positive for those involved. If an auction house is left guaranteeing, rather than outsourcing to a 3rd party guarantor, the auction house falls responsible for the payout if the work does not meet the reserve. This famously happened in 2007 when Christie’s and Sotheby’s had to payout $63 million worth of guarantees.

 

While guarantees do help to regulate the market, and create a relationship of trust, they also leave many questions for those not directly involved in the practice, presenting regulatory gaps in art and auction practices. Guarantees support the strengthening auction market, provide a sense of assurance for the seller, and help an artwork to avoid the doom of being burned at auction which could negatively impact future sales and the artist’s overall market. They not only provide a possibly lucrative investment for the guarantor but also help auction houses to remain competitive and retain clients. These positives reflect the findings in It’s A Pass of decreasing unsold rates in Post-War and Contemporary evening sales. But there are still questions around this practice and what they could mean. Do 3rd party guarantees leave bidders in the dark, artificially enlarge the market, and create an insular network within auction houses while unfairly advantaging an elite few?  Or does the practice help to fight off the volatile and grim market that exists for previously bought in works which just may not have been able to sell at that particular place in time?

An Emerging Art Market Lead by the Next Generation

Detail of Dana Schutz, ‘Lumberjacks’, 2020, oil on canvas.

Schutz is ranked as the #1 Top Artist in ArtTactic’s Top 100 NextGen Artists Report 2021. 

 

To understand the contemporary art market, it is important to evaluate the emerging stars and forces in the field. The younger generation of artists represent a changing market and provide insight into where the contemporary art market is heading. By evaluating the careers of the younger generation of artists we can understand changing aspects of the market.

 

The Top 100 NextGen Artists Report 2021 follows up on the inaugural 2018 report written in partnership with JLT (now Marsh) exploring the most successful artists in the world under the age of 45. While our 2018 report explored the top 1,300 young artists chosen by a variety of qualitative and quantitative data, this year’s report narrows our focus and explores the emerging artists of 2021 using auction sales to select the Top 100. Growing from our 2018 report, we evaluated these young artists’ by paying special attention to the cultural factors that contribute to their commercial success.

 

The Top 100 report reveals a changing market, growth in the economic role of women, and a strengthening market outside of the Western sphere. The report also utilizes cultural data to establish important factors that contribute to the success of a young artists’ career such as the choice to immigrate for school, the choice of attending university (if at all), and the choice of location for practice. The most notable finding of the Top 100 report is the rising prominence of Asia as a center of art, competing with North America and Europe. While the report shows a continued stronghold of male artists from Europe and the US, and the continued prominence of New York and London, we can see a growing and separate center emerging in Asia, specifically Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. In 2018 only 4% of artists in the Top 100 were born in Asia while our report shows major growth with 26% of artists born in Asia or the Pacific. Of the Top 100 NextGen Artists in 2021, those born in Asia and the Pacific now surpass artists born in Europe. This places Asia and the Pacific as having the second highest percentage of birth, ahead of Europe with 15% of births and following North America with 46%.

 

The data supports a strong correlation between location of education and the final location of an artist’s work. Artists need to work in a location that financially and culturally supports the creation of art, resulting in many artists migrating for their education, and inevitably, their career. While New York remains the most important artistic hub, more artists being born and studying in Asia has resulted in Beijing becoming the third largest hub of artists in 2021. It is important to note that all of the Chinese artists of the Top 100 continued their education in China and 92% of artists from Asia remained in their country of birth; the highest rate of artists remaining out of any location. Compared to 2018, when Beijing saw below 5% of artists, Asia now has 19% of the market, closing in on Europe with 22%.

 

Looking at the role of auctions, Asia continues to have a growing and prominent role in both value and volume of lots sold. While the main gallery hubs remain in North America and Europe and the majority of artists are represented in New York or London, Hong Kong had a higher total sales value than both New York and London combined, with 52% compared to New York with 36% and London with 12% of sales.

 

These findings show a large rise in prominence of the Asian market, although it remains very insular. Artists from Asia tend to remain in Asia, and spend money on art produced by Asian artists. Meanwhile half of the artists from Latin America migrate, typically to the US, and the majority of European artists move to a different country from the one they were born in and continue their career in this location. The choice of Asian artists to remain in their country of origin, as opposed to artists from Latin America or Russia moving to the US or UK, is a result of a growing art economy and ecosystem within the continent, creating a virtuous circle of the creation of art, and the support of an art market that can maintain itself economically, institutionally, and culturally.

 

Art and culture journalist Vivienne Chow states in  Artnet that the biggest boom in China  “has come not from the global marketplace, but rather from the tremendous economic growth right across its border, in mainland China”. The art market in China is directly linked to the economic success of the country, and is separate from the global market, and finding success on its own terms. The growth of wealth in China has allowed for the creation of more centers of cultural importance. There has been a rapid growth of the institution of art within China. The Chinese Art Gallery Industry Report in 2017 found that Shanghai had 770 art galleries, surpassing London’s 478. Shanghai’s artist district, the West Bund, is also growing with the number of galleries and museums booming, and is largely supported by the government.

 

The Top 100 report also provides data that displays the changing role of women in the Top 100 international artists. While women are playing a larger role overall, our reports show that there is a widening gender gap in the upper echelons of the market despite a growing place for these women economically. While in 2018, 39% of the Top 100 artists were female, this year’s report shows that women now make up 30% of the top artists. Despite this decline in representation, women make up 11 of the Top 25 Auction Artists from 2020-21 and auction sales by younger female artists have increased by 72.8% in the first half of 2021. Auction houses such as Sotheby’s have taken initiatives to increase the visibility of female artists. In May they hosted their first cross category sale, (Women) Artists, devoted solely to work created by female artists.

 

Renowned institutions are also taking it upon themselves to support NextGen female artists. Almost half of the women represented in the Top 100 artists have international endorsements such as a solo or group exhibition and institutional endorsement from global players including the Tate, MoMA, MoCA, the Guggenheim, and the Whitney. There is a large discrepancy between gallery representation of men and women, and the Top 100 report unsurprisingly found a bias of blue chip galleries favoring male artists. Meanwhile, of the Top 100 NextGen artists, the majority of women are represented by incubator galleries, which are important locations for young artists to foster their career.

 

While the Top 100 report shares some not so surprising  findings such as  New York remaining a central market hub and male artists’ markets dominating over female artists’ markets — the nuances of these findings provide important insight into a changing future. These statistics display an emerging artistic market outside of the hegemonic West. An artistic hub in Asia is gaining momentum and can compete, and at times surpass, Europe and the US. While Artists outside the Western sphere typically migrate to New York or London, the Asian market continues to grow on its own and support itself, keeping both its artists and money within. The data also shows opportunity for financial growth for women, as well as larger spaces for representation and commercial success.

 

Looking broadly, it is obvious that much change still has to come. The ‘global market’ is not so global if artists must move to centers such as New York or London for their education and to find success in their career. Markers of artistic success, such as the establishment of ‘global’ blue-chip galleries, remain located in Europe and North America and the most notable museums and biennials follow suit. Although women far surpass men in taking the preliminary steps for artistic success, with almost one-third of the Top 100 female artists earning a Master’s in art while less than half of men do the same, the number of artists in the Top 100, amount of solo shows, and blue-chip  gallery representation still remain dominated by men. As sociologist Taylor Witten Brown sums up in Artsy, “Only two works by women have ever broken into the top 100 auction sales for paintings, despite women being the subject matter for approximately half of the top 25”. Not only does representation need to grow, the support from the market does as well.

Celebrating 20 Years of Art Market Research and Analysis

Image: Detail of Ed Ruscha, 20-20-20, 1962.

 

This summer, ArtTactic celebrates its 20th anniversary!  To commemorate this milestone, we would like to take a moment to reflect on the success, challenges, and immense growth our company has experienced over the last two decades.  Since ArtTactic’s genesis in 2001, the art world at large has undergone remarkable changes that have both influenced and been influenced by ArtTactic’s quest for market transparency.  Traditionally, the art world has been defined by its opacity and the informational chasm dividing industry insiders and outsiders.  Until the early 2000s, even those considered ‘insiders’ – namely art buyers and sellers – willing to do their due diligence, had a hard time finding the right market intelligence to inform their multi-million-dollar consumer decisions. This is exactly the asymmetrical gap in information Anders Petterson saw that led him to create ArtTactic in 2001 amid the data revolution – a movement that created sweeping and lasting change for the art market, not to mention the global economy.

 

After several years in the data-driven industry of financial services, Anders decided to apply the economic models, analytical tools and data-collection strategies he had accumulated, to the art market.  Having spoken to many of his former colleagues about their lack of interest in art investment, despite increasing evidence of fine art’s enticing financial returns, he determined that it was largely due to a lack of knowledge and confidence as a result of not knowing how to access data, information, and research on the market.  Thus, ArtTactic was born with the goal of creating more transparency in the art market through education and information.

 

Around the same time, data-providers such as Artnet and Artprice had launched online databases, which aggregate public auction results, in the pursuit of market transparency.  Consequently, Anders saw an opportunity to build on these services by focusing on in-depth analysis and exhaustive summary of artists and their markets.  While there was immediate curiosity from art world professionals and patrons alike, data-analytics remained an unfamiliar and unwelcome concept to many stakeholders in the industry.  When asked why market data was initially dismissed by so many, Anders reflects, “At the time, decisions were not made on the basis of data and research, but on relationships, networks and trust.”  Thus, an ‘outsider’s’ opinion – as Anders acknowledges – was received with some skepticism.  However, over time, after witnessing the power of analysis and comprehensive market reports, critics began to realize the value ArtTactic could bring to the industry as a benchmarking tool.

 

For Anders, a pivotal moment occurred in 2004 when he fortuitously met one of the world’s foremost contemporary art collectors in a lift during the ARCO art fair in Madrid.  A brief conversation led to a second meeting in Miami later that same year, which would ultimately bear ArtTactic’s initial Art Market Confidence Report – launched in May 2005.  To this day, Anders remembers the quote given to him by that encouraging collector, “[ArtTactic] is an idea whose time has come, the question is why no one has thought about it before.”  His kind and supportive words spurred on the development of ArtTactic and in Anders’ expression, “kept [him] going for another 15 years.”  Numerous other inaugural reports such as the first Art & Finance Report in 2011 in partnership with Deloitte, the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report in 2013 and the Art & Philanthropy report published in 2017, broke new ground and paved the way for transparency in new areas of the art market.  Since those initial reports, the mechanics of ArtTactic – from the way we present information to the global reach of our network of experts – have changed and improved.  However, the spirit of the initial reports and our guiding question – how can we use data to educate, communicate, translate and present to audiences beyond the traditional art world? – remains the same.  More than ever, ArtTactic has faith in the power of data and visualization to broaden the art market, increase transparency and facilitate accessibility among stakeholders, both old and new.

 

Over the years, ArtTactic has maintained a small, productive and highly motivated team of art world professionals with diverse backgrounds.  From the outset, Anders sought to foster a work environment that would allow people to develop their own interests and projects under the umbrella of ArtTactic.  For instance, in 2009, Adam Green joined the company with the vision of creating an art industry podcast, which emerged as one of the first podcasts to discuss art market trends and has produced over 600 episodes to date.  The free exchange of ideas has catalyzed some of the most pioneering and innovative features ArtTactic offers.  Anders remarks on his philosophy, “In order to survive in a world of selling art market information, I believe in a small, agile set up;” the kind of set up where success and failure sometimes go hand-in-hand.  “It’s become part of our DNA,” Anders admits when asked about how challenges and failures along the way have shaped the company, “I see failure as an integral part of our organic growth, and the only way to improve and find out what works.”  It is seeing beyond market participants’ current needs and forecasting future needs that drives interesting and relevant research.  By remaining self-funded and self-sustaining without external investors’ judgements for the sake of growth and scale, ArtTactic has always created space to take risks, experiment and innovate.

 

As we head into a new phase of the art market, defined by momentous change and uncertainty propelled by the global pandemic, data, information and research will become exponentially more valuable with time.  While ArtTactic’s vision endures, our challenge will be adapting to support stakeholders as they transform and modernize their art businesses in the face of significant technological and demographical shifts.

 

When asked about the next 20 years, Anders hopes to “continue the current momentum and enjoy the discovery of new research domains,” as well as “meet and collaborate with great people, and play our small part in making the art market a better and more exciting place to engage with.”  In this next decade, we also see an opportunity for ArtTactic to focus more on inequalities in the art market and research new models of philanthropy aimed at finding solutions for creatives to develop sustainable practices both inside and outside of the traditional art market.

 

Finally, we would like to thank you – our loyal followers, contributors, and clients – for your continued support.  Cheers to the next 20 years!

 

The hardest question for 2021: What do we really, truly want?

Amoako Boafo, The Lemon Bathing Suit, 2019, Oil on unstretched canvas

 

Desire is more desperate in this new age. In the shared ocean that is the COVID-19 pandemic – not to mention the accumulated years of far-right extremism, political turmoil and climate crisis – our longings aren’t trivialities but life-crafts. So what are we looking towards to keep ourselves above water? Now riddled with politics both personal, financial and social, there is a new depth to sales figures, and what do we really want? is a harder question than ever.

 

It is figurative painting that has seen the most unstoppable popularity in auction and private sales. The hottest tickets in contemporary art right now are those painting representationally – Hernan Bas and Salman Toor’s queer characters, Toyin Ojih Odutola and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s fantastical black figures, Shara Hughes and Jonas Wood’s decadent interiors. Similarly, of Artnet’s most visited artists in the past 5 months, 7 out of 10 of them are photographers, and mostly of people. There might be something in this need for reality; of course we are skirting around abstraction when our brains are overfull of upended information. Still, these paintings don’t have to be literal. In fact most of them depict dreams – both Yiadom-Boakye and Odutola’s subjects are purposefully fictional, Bas and Toor also paint in a story-tellers dreamscape – so it is perhaps a desire for something recognisable but not too real, that doesn’t too deeply question our beliefs.

 

As we saw a 511% increase in online-only sales over the past year, it helps that figurative painting translates well onto screens, though it’s dominance in art history might suggest that it has always been the most popular form of visual art. Still, there is something new to the painting that is dominating sales now. It’s no Dejeuner sur l’Herbe. It’s current practitioners are carving a new genre as they bring previously unrepresented bodies front and centre. A large proportion of the painters rising now are black painters depicting historically under-painted black people.

 

But the rise of these artists is a dangerous ascent. Demand for their work is increasingly frenzied. Odutola saw an increase of 1,390% in sales between 2015 and 2019, with 38% of all auction lots produced 3 years or less before the sale. Amoako Boafo too has had a notoriously high-speed trajectory characterised by repeated ‘flipping’ of his works at auction – the phenomenon of selling work on the secondary market at a significant price jump, often causing a temporary imbalance between an artists economic and cultural value. The story of his Lemon Bathing Suit (2019) is a particularly cautionary tale; bought for $22,500 by Stefan Simchowitz, he then flipped it at auction for a 3,815% return at $880,971. Only the buyers were collaborators of Boafo and were helping him to take control of his market in exchange for new works. Just two months later those same gifted works were back on the auction block.

 

At these kinds of figures, the popularity of artists is as much financial as aesthetic. As Nate Freeman wrote of the rise of black artists; ‘where some see a movement toward a fuller story of art, others see a financial opportunity’. There is a similarly disconcerting flipping trend when it comes to a contemporary artist’s death, or their proximity to it. Matthew Wong, after his death in 2019 aged 35, has entered the top 10 contemporary artists of 2020 by sales value. The demand for his work has been rabid, with one dealer speaking of a client ‘who’s going to have a heart attack if he doesn’t get one—he will pay, like, any price’, that price being a phenomenal $4.5 million at Christie’s late last year up from a $700,000 high estimate. The 92-year-old painter Alex Katz is also anticipating major market growth as he approaches his final years. ‘He’s painting in the last period of his life and he’s doing it at full speed’ his new gallerist, Gavin Brown has said.

 

There is something disconcerting about these market movements. The endless cycle of flipping, the voracious appetite for scarcity following an artists death, the perverse speed at which their sales figures can rise when they receive the right attention. There are individuals trying to catch up with the market, particularly when it comes to artists of colour. Young curator Destinee Ross Sutton for example deals work with a meticulous contract; 15% of all resale proceeds should return to the artist, no auction resales will transpire for three to five years, and artists retain first right of refusal for that period in case of a private sale.

 

The work being made by these artists should stand apart from its prices, and they deserve every attention they are receiving. Only what their popularity highlights is that desire is never simple, but is always marred by tokenisation, fetishisation, economics. The rise in attention to artists of colour post-2020’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ moment doesn’t necessarily feed back into the social good that is supposed to support, but straight back into dealers and collectors pockets. It is worth thinking about; how popularity dictated by social movements can tangibly feed back into those movements and individuals, most especially on the secondary market.

 

So considering how much of the demand for figurative painting (and especially black figurative painting) is self-determined by increasing sales figures, it is doubtful how much our desires can reveal the collective mood. Over the past thirty years, art has become as much an investment asset as a personal belonging, so our endorsement is less aesthetic than economic. It would be foolish to read into the popularity of dancing portraits, young men in the rain, luxuriant greenhouse interiors, a need for human touch or a collective loneliness. In actuality the demand for a Lemon Bathing Suit doesn’t come from the need for a poolside vacation but the dollar signs floating behind the figure’s sunglasses, the promise of making six-figure profits on your purchase.

 

What remains to be seen is whether this is the swell, crest or tumble of a trend, since we’re too deep inside it to know. Trends in the art market look like this; fast, frenzied and full of flipping. It is a new time for art history when the most memorable names are associated with high price tags, so our desires mean more now to the shaping of visual arts than they ever did. Artists are no longer going it alone in ramshackle studios, so we must think about how our appetites change history.

 


 

Stella Botes is a freelance art critic and writer, find more of her writing via her Instagram @gallerina_ldn

After JPEGs: How We Buy Art Now

 

Is COVID-19 a catalyst or a switch? Changes have swept nearly every industry on the globe, and most of that change has taken the form of a mass adoption of technology in lieu of conventional in-person practices. The question is especially pertinent when applied to the art market, in which all that feels novel is actually just neglected, and questions are raised as to whether the rush to digital is a migration or vacation. That things have changed is evident, yet it is plain to see how this change reflects more traditional values than at first appears, and that we are finding it difficult to stretch our imaginations beyond our screens.

 

The usual annual trade reports have this year been published during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has greatly effected their coverage and accuracy as the world continues to change. Both the Hiscox/ArtTactic July Report, Part One: The Online Art Trade, and the Art Basel UBS mid-year survey chose to publish their findings while still in the eye of the storm – making every statistic, whether sales are up or down, where people are buying and how – a surprise. Still findings remain relevant to the fast changing and fluid situation at hand, painting a picture of the art market before the dust has settled. There is now no baseline, the bottom has been taken out from under so many galleries, and they’re standing on new ground.

 

What commentators are now referring to as the post-COVID ‘landscape’ is quite an apt metaphor. We are looking at something like a garden – there are large trees, established modes of selling artwork online that have stood quietly for decades, then there are the fast-blooming flowers, hastily-planted and heavily-tended new techniques for art commerce, and finally there are small withered stalks, attempts past and present to nurture a digital presence that withered without attention.

 

Of those flowers that are blooming are the astonishing sales from Gagosian’s #ArtistSpotlight initiative, rounding off their series with the sale of a Jenny Saville painting for an undisclosed price upwards of $5 million. The Spotlights focused each week on selling one work by one artist, using targeted social media posts to build anticipation, desire and fever. Ever the bellwether for the rest of the industry, Gagosian’s studied avoidance of the Online Viewing Room (OVR) said something funereal about the format.

 

For some years now galleries have maintained a ‘room’ on their websites, unkempt and collecting dust until its readoption as everyone fell to the familiar in the early pandemic. What was already a neglected and unexciting program underwent an attempted revival as invites and advertisements to exclusive OVRs appeared everywhere. But it was soon learnt that four walls does not make a room, and after all of the inverted-comma vocabulary one is still left with a screen-sized scroll of JPEGs.

 

So, having patience with regards to selling seems like a good idea, though it’s a patience that is rarely afforded to smaller galleries. Such galleries cannot stretch their budget to hire more digitally-fluent staff or consultants (though the priority for this might be changing), nor can they afford to wait and strategise until their next sale, so a format which required little more than a site re-design became the mercy-bench of many.

 

And sales were made. At the OVRs of art fairs, handfuls of works were sold for millions of dollars, armfuls for hundreds of thousands. The 2020 mid-year  Art Basel UBS report showed that the share of online sales rose from 10% of total sales in 2019 to 37% in the first half of 2020, though the statistic owes more to the forces of circumstance than genuine appetite. Only, as will be seen, despite its name the art market isn’t entirely about selling, and a desire has remained to create platforms that don’t just sell but which inspire, which support artists and ignite audiences.

 

Enter the initiatives that have been working in this space for years. Selling art online is not new, only the openness to it is. These are the metaphorical oak trees that have paid attention to the potential of digital long before we all were forced to. Take Daata, a digital platform for video and new media art that began as a commissioning site only to find demand developing its business into a streaming service, gallery host and now an art fair. Of this post-COVID rush to digital, Daata’s founder David Gryn says ‘we are all in a state of dread, panic, fear and anxiety. So it is our duty to share something positive you feel you can offer others’.

 

Still, though the commercial art world is rushing to the innovators that have been working on solutions for years – David Zwirner working with Vortic to create virtual-reality experiences, major auction houses relying on their digital departments to stage an online-only circus of auctions, Hauser and Wirth and Thaddeus Ropac joining Daata’s new fair – these digital platforms still find themselves bending to the templates of traditional art commerce. Gryn describes the process of building Daata as a matter of trust; ‘It’s taking its time but people are starting to recognise that the value model is really there’ he says. Just as Frieze was an established magazine for many years before it launched its fair, Daata had to make itself familiar and comfortable to the traditional art world before it could approach with new solutions. To quote Gryn, ‘it’s easier to get eyeballs when you fit to what people already know’.

 

So, is the newly-popular digital art world a fresh start or will it look just like what we knew before, un-regulation, ugliness and all? Daata has timed their new fair to the traditional art fair calendar, which is one example of the ways in which digital art commerce is tapping into the Pavlovian responses of its audience. In theory, there is little to distinguish online galleries and auctions from platforms like Saatchi Art, even (whisper it) Etsy and eBay, so in order to maintain a sense of luxury galleries are raising prices, cultivating prestige. Art Basel has raised its ‘booth’ price, reinstating the hierarchies in which access to space comes at a premium. Gagosian’s Spotlights run on culturing a scarcity mindset in its buyers, a ‘get it before it’s gone’ mentality. What many have hailed as a great democratisation of the art market that comes with scrolling from your bedroom might be a fantasy, as it’s a much smaller step to imagine pay-to-enter viewing rooms, interminable ‘waiting rooms’ just like the non-existent waiting lists for works, freeport storage replaced by harddrives hidden in a bookcase.

 

Nonetheless, there is room for optimism. With technology in every corner of our lives, we have learnt a helplessness that restricts us only to the tools we are given, yet there are people imagining ways to create new commercial options that feel fresh. One of those is Zien, a WhatsApp-based platform for selling art, and its founder Peter Holsgrove. It functions via a text broadcast, from which clients receive notifications of its ‘drops’, the first few editions of which can be claimed for free. The art takes the form of ‘scarce editions’; a digital file of an artwork, with a licence to produce it and instructions on how. In creating Zien, Holsgrove says he wanted to counter the exclusivity of the art world, closing the chasm between participation and observation by allowing anyone to collect. It feels novel, fresh, to participate in dealing and collecting from your phone, with no sense of its being a substitute for real-world connection.

 

With that said, what is a common theme of these digital projects is the humanity of them all. It may sound counterintuitive at first, but a digital-only art world, as the past year has shown, is not one that can sustain the magic that keeps us engaged. It is why all of the platforms mentioned have an emphasis on the translation from IRL to URL, ‘the online digital process is very human in its conception’, Gryn says, ‘the technology is the means to an end.’ And that end, however unlikely it might sometimes feel, is to support the creation of art. The digital initiatives that have lasted are the ones that have engaged artists, enticed them to new and exciting mediums, and the ones that have sold their work successfully in order to commission more. There has been what journalist Jenna Wortham calls a ‘context collapse’ in which we have all fallen into the same space, with the same tools. Those led by the core impulse of supporting artists, along with the creativity and optimism to imagine something beyond a website page, are those that will have the greatest impact on how we buy art in this new terrain.

 


 

Stella Botes is a freelance art critic and writer, find more of her writing via her Instagram @gallerina_ldn

Buying and selling art with confidence post COVID-19

Image from Art Forgery: Why Do We Care So Much for Originals? (Medium)

 

When assessing the current status of the art market, it is worth remembering that around twenty to fifty percent of the works in circulation are fakes, forgeries, misattributions and unknowns. Some studies that startled me indicated that one artwork out of ten held in museums are fake – and that’s without taking the enormous number of misattributions into consideration.

 

In the challenging environment we are currently navigating, an increasing number of high-value transactions are taking place online, often with the artwork purchased sight-unseen (only from images on a screen). When a collector spends a significant amount of money on a work of art, this poses a real and substantial risk – asking for additional reassurance is not only a fair request, more robust support becomes almost a requirement. But what pieces of information or data points really matter when determining if an artwork is genuine and if it is in good condition when buying – and, maybe more importantly, to potentially enhance its value if one is selling? An information package that includes provenance and technical art history is very advantageous when seeking to obtain a connoisseurial opinion or to bring a work to sale.

 

Provenance.

 

The provenance of a piece is a very important component in determining its authenticity. It is also one of the biggest drivers of an item’s worth, but it needs to be investigated seriously and with some skepticism. Too often, I see clients so enamored with an artwork that they are blind to its more dubious features, convinced for instance that any documentation related to the piece that they have been given or received is accurate, or, that the fact that certain documents are missing is immaterial. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. One artwork we investigated was a painting thought to be by Heinrich Campendonk, which turned out to be made by the German forger Wolfgang Beltracchi, who faked provenance documents along with paintings, in order to make his pieces more credible. It is sad to say that his efforts to deceive were not readily discovered and subsequently sold for millions at reputable galleries and auction houses.

 

Provenance can also be incomplete or in some cases missing, in parts or in its entirety. One important point to keep in mind is that provenance comes in many different forms: from signed statements of authenticity to sales receipts, artists’ archives to exhibition records. It is rare that all of this information is preserved – especially for older pieces.

 

When there are gaps in the provenance, we often see this as a red flag, as it indicates the greater possibility for problematic issues: misattribution, forgery, sometimes theft. However, in lucky instances, the piece in question may be found in the artist’s catalogue raisonné (if one exists) – which is, in theory, the most complete documentation of the artists’ production. Many times, catalogue raisonnés are few and far between, and are often reserved for those artists who are internationally recognized. What about the less fortunate or lesser-known artists who have not had their works documented in this manner?

 

Science and Technical Art History.

 

For a very long time, post-modern approaches to art history did not consider the artwork as a material object. Consideration of technique and material composition of works of art was not considered to be useful.

 

In light of the current lockdown situations world-wide, which prevent many connoisseurs and potential buyers from travelling to see art in person, art market participants are finding alternative ways to sell their pieces, and in doing so, are slowly embracing new technologies that allow them to collect more information. This provides the dual advantage of knowing that what they are selling is authentic while maximizing the value of their sales. At Art Analysis & Research, we have been offering such services for more than a decade and are just now finding ever more acceptance of the value that analysis of the artwork can offer. Our scientific approaches use newer technologies to examine works of art, providing evidence-based information on the history of the piece, its dating, attribution as well as on condition.

 

Our experts have spent decades collecting and analyzing data on an extensive range of reference materials, especially pigments – our database of pigments is the world’s largest, privately owned collection as is its associated spectral library! As a result, we are able to refer to this rich historical data, ensuring that our results are accurate, consistent and comprehensive.

 

Technical analysis may be applied to all sorts of media, ranging from paintings to sculptures, to drawings and more. We undertake pigment analysis, technical imaging, material identification and carbon dating to cite just a few. Our aim is to provide a range of techniques and the historical context to make them meaningful in order to help collectors increase the value of their pieces and the buyers decrease the risk of buying forgeries, misattributions or highly restored objects. A recent example is our work for Dickinson Gallery for TEFAF 2020, for whom we provided the technical imaging for Vincent Van Gogh’s “Peasant Woman in front of a Farmhouse”. The x-ray revealed an abandoned composition underneath the visible painting, which corresponded with a known drawing by the artist. The work was eventually sold by the gallery for a TEFAF record-breaking price of €15 million!

 

Provenance research and technical art history are key first steps. Once done, it’s the right moment to approach a specialized connoisseur for their opinion. The order of these steps is important, as a connoisseur benefits from having as much objective information as possible regarding a piece to give the best opinion – which can often make or break the reputation of a work of art. An information package that includes both provenance research and technical art history provides the most secure starting point from which to obtain a connoisseurial opinion or to bring a work to sale.

 

Connoisseurship.

 

The role of the connoisseurial expert is to determine when, how and which artist created an artwork, by looking at the stylistic characteristics of the piece along with other key information. Nevertheless, there are many factors at work in this opaque market; legal risk, reputational risk, market dynamics, personal influence and other unforeseen aspects often play significant roles. That said, this is not to imply that connoisseurs, dealers, or others in the market are working in bad faith – but rather they often have a multitude of pressures and considerations. Isn’t it better to have more information available to the connoisseur, and subsequently to dealers, gallerists, advisors and others to equip them with more authority in evaluating or representing the work?

 

A few years ago, a newly discovered painting thought to be by Wassily Kandinsky was brought to our lab upon the request of the Kandinsky Foundation, to provide an assessment to assist the artist’s foundation in reaching a decision on the authenticity of the work. After conducting a technical examination, we found the painting to be consistent with Kandinsky’s materials and with technical imaging, were able to decipher an underdrawing that depicted a harbor scene. The Foundation discovered the underdrawing matched a sketch done by the artist in his authenticated sketchbook and, thanks to this discovery, the painting was accepted into the catalogue raisonné. Needless to say, its value increased enormously. This is just an example of why we have seen the power and value of embracing new ways to investigate artworks.

 

The Future of Authentication.

 

Opaque and unregulated, the art market has long been vulnerable to forgeries and misattributions and the number of fakes will undoubtedly increase due to the new tools available to forgers. From using old canvas or adding some cracks that would make one believe the work is from a specific artist’s period – it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep one step ahead of the forger. And in the challenging environment we are navigating with many transactions taking place without seeing the artwork first, authentication is becoming increasingly more important.

 

If you ask me what makes technical art history so powerful, I would say it is the multidisciplinary approach that fuses science and art together. It is incredible to observe first-hand professionals with backgrounds in conservation, art history, physics, forensic science, engineering and business all working together. This sort of collaboration is what I hope for the future of the art market. Collaboration is the way forward; we all have our areas of expertise and working together is the key. Collaboration is powerful and perhaps most importantly, beneficial for the buyer, the seller, and the various professionals involved.

 

With the help of science, art history, provenance research, connoisseurial expertise and an open mind to new technologies, I am convinced that together we can create an art market that is less risky and easier to access for future generations.

 


Buying and selling art with confidence post COVID-19 ArtTactic

 

Dehlia Barman leads customer and partner engagements in the UK and Europe for Art Analysis & Research previously working at galleries, auction houses, online art businesses and art advisory companies. Dehlia also guest lectures at Sotheby’s Institute of Art and Regent’s University, delivering sessions on the importance and value of art authentication. Her journey in the art world started in Lugano, Switzerland where she completed a bachelor’s degree in Communications. Passionate about the dynamics shaping and influencing the art market, Dehlia moved to London and completed her MA in Art Business at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. 

How will the art world redefine its use of space post-pandemic?

 

As Covid-19 modifies consumer behaviour in all sectors of society, conversations in the art world have centred around the necessity of physical space – what will happen, institutionally and artistically, if space for art as we’ve come to know it is no longer available? The design of rooms, larger sequences of space, audience movement and more are all suddenly open topics of discussion.

 

Fears about how physical spaces will operate have been on the forefront of everyone’s minds since the pandemic began. Agile work environments, open plans, hot desking, social integration and other quality and performance improvements could now become things of the past, unfortunately moving the industry backwards in fostering healthy and productive work, gallery and collateral spaces. While opportunities for social and professional interaction in the art world have clearly been limited by Covid-19, the outlook is not as clear for evolution of the art world’s physical spaces.

 

Re-imagining the Landscape

 

At this time, many industry professionals are realising that work can in fact be completed at home instead of in the office. However, the art world is unique in that it’s an incredibly social industry reliant on social spaces. For participants in the industry, there is a clear need for belonging and participating offline. Take for example, those who attend auctions. Yes, many who attend are seeking out a specific art work they’d like to bid on, but for the most part, auctions are about the experience and the feelings of exclusivity synonymous with attending such an event in an intimate space. There is something enchanting about sitting next to others at auction in a high-intensity atmosphere, physically raising paddles as bids soar into the millions. Some are attracted to the competitive theatre of it all. Which makes me wonder, will these interactions and experiences ever be replicated online?

 

This past summer, a series of Global Hybrid Evening Sales of Impressionist, Modern, Post- War and Contemporary art took place amongst auction houses Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Philips. While all three auction houses produced new virtual platforms for the summer season, Sotheby’s Hybrid sale was particularly cinematic and well-designed. The  seemingly high-budget production included a series of collateral from pre-filmed introductory videos by the evening’s auctioneer, Oliver Barker, Senior Director and Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, along with rendered simulations of the space. A multi- camera set-up catered to online viewers across the globe. Collectively, the Hybrid sales raised $709.2 million, comfortably within the pre-sale estimates of $623.6 million to $738.8 million. This signaled a positive return to the auction market for international buyers. Although the ‘big three’ auction houses proved they are able to field bids from telephone, online, and in-room, with the added implementation of immersive catalogues and additional vehicles for bidding, will these factors be enough to compete with the thrill of offline auctions in the upcoming season?

 

How will the art world redefine its use of space post-pandemic? ArtTactic

Limitless audiences. Sotheby’s rendering of its new online auction platform.

 

Aside from auction sales, the importance of relationships and interactions is underscored by a plethora of offline industry events such as art fairs, gallery openings and previews. That being said, there is a strong global interconnectedness within the sector that has been building for many years online from gallery arms and auction houses’ e-commerce abilities with multi-city expansions, to fairs operating offices as global organisations – all of which increase the accessibility of art to span globally. David Tung, Director of Lisson Shanghai notes Covid-19 may mark a turning point in the way we think about traditional art market models. With technology, Lisson Gallery is able to “do a tour of up to 500 people at one time (theoretically this could be limitless) and work with galleries across four cities”. With the interest in digital models now increasing, from social media followings to welcoming new digital visitors, art world bodies through digital investment can now communicate and have access to a wider scope of audience. This accessibility is something that now the whole world can have access to, drawing old and new audiences in comparatively to the in-person sales model.

 

In my own research, I’ve recently started looking at digital space like filled real estate – where entities are holistically creating more content – from interviews, films, to virtual rooms. We’re no longer just looking at the artwork, but now… artist interviews, studios, personal spaces and new forms of content. This surge of alternative content creation is novel, as there was never a need for viewers to absorb this amount of online content pre-Covid-19. This new form of interaction provides viewers the opportunity to see things they otherwise might not have offline. For example, virtually visiting artist studios is a curated intimate experience that is readily available for immediate access and absorption by viewers. A lot of effort is placed into creating an experience as real as possible – in a way, online platforms are re-designing a whole new user experience for purchasing art online.

 

Approaching the design of future spaces should be thought of not as a back-step but rather an improvement. This could be promising for buyers as they begin to see the intimate and personal connections that can be fostered through digital realms. With virtual and physical worlds rapidly merging, the emergence of innovative platforms may be the reality moving forward.

 

Codes and Restrictions

 

While we wait for the return to the physical space – reminding ourselves of our favourite museums and galleries – it may be a while until new policies and architectural codes are implemented. The redesign of physical spaces may actually be optional for the time being. However, through the lens of an employer, in order for employees to come back they will have to provide a provision of safety that’s guaranteed. This may mean the restriction of spaces to prevent social movements, screens for social distancing measures – a luxury where deliberate spacing was once driven mostly by concept. Physical spaces from salesrooms, galleries, museums, and auction houses will need to rethink floor plans, and where objects are placed to minimise the risk of transmission – new protocols that are inherently part of the new workspace and art world behind the scenes.

 

However, as restrictions are loosened, we can’t imagine everyone will implement large changes in these spaces. For the time-being, we see numerous visitor protection guidance in place, from limited hours, to allotted time slots and ticketing, staggered entries, along with face mask provisions and occupancy restrictions to a quarter of full capacity. Other physical spaces have remained closed in efforts to support various cities’ efforts to contain Covid-19.

 

Post-Covid, we may be more likely to see an advent of museums and institutions merging the physical space with the virtual realm – exploring ways to creatively present work online during the pandemic. Virtually, institutions have the ability to drive in traffic numbers in the thousands – incomparable to its footfall counterpart. Walk-in traffic for galleries, museums and physical retailers have dropped off in recent months, transforming the behaviour of buyers and museum goers. Online-only shows and appointment visits seem to be the movement in the foreseeable future, limiting numbers for the general public. However MoMA is implementing ‘pay as you wish’ admissions opposed to its $25 ticket in hopes of encouraging footfall.

 

How will the art world redefine its use of space post-pandemic? ArtTactic

Codes and restrictions from the Interior Design, Reference + Specification Book.

 

The implementations of additional code and restrictions may further impact visitor numbers for the museums and galleries we love so much, but whether this will be enough to sustain the budget and operations levels and offset some of the financial damage due to Covid-related closures is uncertain.

 

The heightened need for art and personal spaces

 

A question I’ve been asking myself lately is ‘do we need to return to the physical space?’ What can employees and consumers do at the office or commercial spaces that they can’t do at home?

 

Indoor environments are a critical component of well-being, productivity, and safety – particularly the things we see every day. This experience has heightened the need of personal interests, hobbies and intimate spaces in the home particularly. Artcurial’s specialist in design and Art Deco, Sabrina Dolla, noted buyers’ appetites hadn’t appeared to diminish during lockdown but were sharpened.

 

Although the scope of physical spaces is large in the art world and my perspective just briefly covered some aspects, maneuvering through a global pandemic is new to all of us, and we are all learning how to best optimise our lives to fit this current reality. What will the lasting output from these last several months be on the industry? I often think about the next generation and what kind of climate they’re born into and this new sense of normalcy. It’s difficult designing a solution for something where we don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s been uplifting to see the voices of artists and those in the artistic community continuing their practice. It’s about the little things in life that spark the most joy and supporting artists and those behind the scenes that make the art world turn.

 


Joanna Hirsch is Product Manager/Head of Content of AucArt, a London-based hybrid online auction house and gallery featuring international emerging artists. She manages website content, design & development, and communications. Joanna has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spatial Design from London College of Communication and a Master’s degree in Art Business with distinction from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. 

State of the Community: Art in Quarantine

 

One must look no further than Sci-Fi classics such as Blade Runner or Back to the Future to know that by 2020 we were supposed to be living in a world full of flying cars, holograms, and Self-Lacing Nikes. Our reality is instead much closer to a world described by Contagion. In the midst of a pandemic, humanity has been forced back inside; scrolling through social media, re-watching the Office, and using video chat services such as Zoom, Skype and Facetime to connect with everyone from bosses to loved ones. Looking at the pandemic through the lens of my own industry, I wondered: what are the implications of Covid-19 for the artists and the greater world of Fine Art? Historically, in times of unrest, artists have often flocked to creative havens like the salons of Paris after World War I, or in New York’s ‘Village’ in the wake of World War II. More recently the emergence of the Young British Artists in London has seen young artists coming together during art school. What do all of these moments of explosive creativity have in common and what does it have to do with living life six feet apart?

 

In my Master’s dissertation for Sotheby’s Institute of Art, I looked extensively at the statistical significance of groupings within the Pop Art Movement, comparing the fortunes of British Pop Artists and their American counterparts. I defined Network Strength as being based on “shared galleries, shared education, and any shared groups or connections within the movement.” Combining aggregate scores of network strength, institutional prestige, and market rating, I was able to create a multivariate hybrid index comparing the two adjacent movements. While the British Pop Art Movement predated the Americans, it was not Richard Hamilton that has become a market bell-weather, but instead Andy Warhol who found significance in the local proximity of the group of American’s living in New York City in the 60’s.

 

In today’s context, what will happen when artists are contained to their living spaces? The ability for artists to group in any manner has been taken away, or at the very least, restricted to six feet due to stringent quarantine measures around the world. In the wake of social distancing and a worldwide lockdown, galleries have been forced to adopt new ways of connecting with both artists and buyers with virtual gallery visits, salons, artist talks, round tables, art fairs, and openings. So how have artists coped with being alone?

 

During my own time in lockdown, I reached out to artists in both the US and UK practicing in a range of different mediums and creative fields to survey how they’re connecting with each other and with the wider art world at this time. I chose to speak with artists at the beginning of their careers as it is during this time that they are most likely to create meaningful connections and/or networks of fellow artists and art world contacts.

 

Virtual Communities

 

With the absence of studio space and their own proverbial East Village haunts, today’s artists have banded together online. Charlie Goering and Alex Lewis touched on the topic of the absence of gallery space and how artists have found new and creative ways to collaborate from isolation. Goering provided his own unique insight as an artist based almost solely on Instagram by noting that he has utilized the platform to build a following and connect with artists prior to the international lockdown. Long accustomed to facilitating sales, connecting with galleries and keeping up with other artists nationally and internationally, Goering noted that “without Instagram I am not so sure I would have the confidence to live and work outside New York or Los Angeles.” As a student, Lewis benefitted greatly from his school community with Zoom sessions with his fellow classmates, noting that there was a diminishment in effectiveness to these sessions when students would turn off their camera, a new social faux-pas borne out of the increased use of video chats. Like Goering, Lewis also noted having used Instagram to reach out to other artists not previously contacted on Instagram.

 

On a larger scale, in a recent article, the Art Newspaper’s Louisa Buck highlighted the #artistsupportpledge, a charitable initiative created by artist Matthew Burrows in support of fellow artists and makers. Every time an artist reaches £1,000 of sales, they pledge to buy £200 of work from other artists. Having raised nearly £20 million, the #artistsupportpledge on Instagram has garnered over 100,000 posts. Providing an accessible platform for all artists, regardless of gallery, practice, or connections to help each other through tough times, the Artist Support Pledge is the arts community at its best. Other creative projects born from Covid-19 include the aptly named Shelter in Place Gallery, a platform created by Eben Haines to allow artists to submit miniaturized versions to larger works to be displayed in a model structure. With large scale art hard to create at home, Haines’ was able to support the Greater Boston community of artists with help from a grant from the City of Boston by providing artists with a stipend and a way to create and show work. In a more whimsical solution to the lack of gallery space, artist Nicole Shinn launched a show based on the hit video game “Animal Crossing, New Horizons” with artists pixelating their art into works to be hung in a virtual space, with even an interpretation of Marina Abramovic’s The Village is Present showing on “opening night” in the game. Subverting the limited space of a bricks and mortar gallery, Shinn’s use of Animal Crossing allowed her to include over 20 other artists, a feat many galleries could not accommodate on their wall space.

 

Covid-Creativity

 

Despite being forced to create makeshift studios at home, artists have also been blessed with even more time to think and create works in their newfound surroundings. Alex Lewis, and Yulia Iosilzon provided insight on how quarantine has affected their ability to create works without access to their studios by finding ways to work at home, or, in Lewis’ case, investing in a pottery wheel and finding a garage to create a makeshift workspace. Iosilzon on the other hand, was able to use her new found free time to find a small Italian manufacturer to fulfill a long-held idea to place her works on bespoke blankets. Others like Armand Kazem found himself more aware of social unrest during this time, referencing both the Black Lives Matter Protests and the annexation of the West Bank. Expounding on this further and how it affected his own work, Kazem stated “that one of the main aims is to talk to people” and also, “it (art) should be something more”, referencing such things as climate change or wealth inequality.

 

Digital Dash

 

While many artists have grown accustomed to posting their works on Instagram, the loss of wall space has forced many to meet new challenges of placing their work in the new digital world. Touching upon this, Iosilzon noted that learning how to best represent her works in a virtual viewing room posed a new challenge, a newfound conundrum facing artists and the wider art world. Despite technologies best efforts, digitizing an artwork can still prove to be challenging, painstakingly combing the work on a screen for colour discrepancies, issues with lighting, and ensuring the work is presented in a manner that attempts to replicate the walls of the gallery. While many of the top galleries and auction houses were able to provide these virtual services pre-lockdown, Loic Gouzer has progressed further into the digital space by rolling out Fair Warning, a new invite-only app-based auction that offers a single lot to its users to purchase at one time.  Gouzer’s foray into the online marketplace is intriguing as its success may signal to others a new route away from the traditional auction/gallery space. While many smaller galleries have been slow to take on the costly practice of digitizing their works, quarantine has forced many to reevaluate their position. Relying on their wall spaces and PDF’s to sell work, many were unaccustomed to the process of digitizing artworks and as a result have had to rapidly learn how to adapt – eschewing time consuming and oftentimes expensive three dimensional virtual spaces for live “viewings” on Facebook Live or Instagram Live.

 

Today’s Future

 

In 1977 Andy Warhol wrote in his memoir: “they always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”  In the past, creatives like Fitzgerald sat with Picasso in the salons of Paris, Warhol shared drinks with Merce Cunningham in Greenwich Village, Angus Fairhurst invited Damien Hirst to show with him in London. In 2020, drawing on new sources of network strength in the absence of coffeeshops, bars, galleries or studios, today’s artists have been forced back into the confines of their homes. But with this new-normal comes an opportunity for explosive creativity, in both art and digital connections. It seems artists will always find a way to create (even if that means a slightly more cluttered kitchen table, repurposed garage, or a video game). Artists are making the most of it, utilizing this time to check-in with their peers, discuss social unrest, helping other artists, and meeting new people. Coupled with the art world’s move to digital, this signals we might be getting closer to that 2020 we were supposed to be living in… flying cars, Self-Lacing Nikes, and all. Today’s young artist communities are creating a way forward.

 


Currently based in the United States, Skylar Breiner graduated from Wittenberg University with a degree in Political Science; Chinese Foreign Policy. Transitioning from his background in policy, Breiner took a job at Art Design Consultant’s, becoming interim Business Director. Wanting to continue his education in Fine Art, Breiner pursued an Art Business degree from Sotheby’s Institute of Art ’s Master’s Program in London where he graduated with distinction. For his dissertation he created a multivariable index ranking British and American Pop Artists based on their network, net worth, and institutional representation. Having recently interned at ArtVisor, he is excited to continue collaborating within the Fine Art space.