Making the most of it: collaborations of emerging artists and independent brands

 

The collaborations between brands and artists have existed in the market for a long time, spanning not even decades, but almost a century, though they were predominantly seen in the realm of luxury. One recalls the famous Lobster dress, created by Salvador Dalí and Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s and Yves Saint Laurent’s modernist dress inspired by Piet Mondrian’s artworks in 1965. Since then international luxury conglomerates have made a habit of collaborating with artists on limited editions of different products ranging from perfume bottles, bags and suitcases to full-blown fashion collections.

 

It is interesting to see how nowadays, especially during the lockdown, this trend has become prominent in the milieu of emerging artists and small as well as medium-sized independent brands, who become more and more inventive in their marketing strategies. One sadly notes that it is often the smaller and less protected market players who have to jump many hoops to survive, let alone thrive. However, scarcity can lead to brilliant outcomes and shifts in the traditional modus operandi of art, fashion, beauty and lifestyle markets.

 

THE TREND SHIFT

 

Up until the COVID crisis the examples of artists collaborating with luxury brands, owned by international conglomerates, were plenty, and each fashion season was bound to bring several more. Only for autumn/winter 2019, the author was able to distil eleven outstanding collaborations not only of the traditional ‘LVMH meets A Famous Artist’ kind, but more niche ones such as Iris van Herpen and Anthony Howe or Pyer Moss and Derrick Adams. French sociologist Jean-Noël Kapferer remarks that such ‘artification’ of luxury products is as much a marketing move aimed to grow the brands’ awareness and expand their audience, but also a transformation of non-art into art. Bags, perfumes, dresses and watches transgress the realm of pure commerce and obtain symbolic value, as well as become relevant for the future generations by acquiring a semi-iconic status (Kapferer on luxury: how luxury brands can grow yet remain rare, 2015). However, as fashion weeks and production speeds came to an abrupt halt in spring 2020, it is yet to see whether the conventional fashion machinery will be brought back to its vertiginous speed in the post-COVID era.

 

The collaborations’ tool has at some point become prominent in more niche segments of the fashion market, just as the market itself, according to different researchers, began prioritising low-volume niche brands and paying less attention to high-volume mainstream ones. While conventional luxury brands owned by established international conglomerates can only partially be categorised as high-volume as their distribution demands high exclusivity, many ‘wannabe’-luxury brands started producing large volumes of ‘premium mediocre goods’ (a brilliant definition coined by fashion journalist Eugene Rabkin). Such abundance of widespread offers gives certain consumers a desire to move to greener pastures, shop at smaller brands and have access to truly exclusive offers, limited in quantity, created with unique designs and often providing an entry point to the art market.

 

THE MOTIVATION

 

In conversations with owners of small and medium independent brands as well as to emerging artists, several motivational patterns for collaboration began to emerge. The first and most obvious is a desire to expand awareness about a brand or artistic practice. The initiator can be a commercial brand offering a collaborative project, an intermediary agency acting in the interests of a client or an artist pitching a collaboration. Partnerships are likely to be successful when the brand and the artist share similar values or have a resemblance in their public image. However, potential partners tend to gravitate towards counterparts with substantial social capital, brand awareness and market visibility to enhance their brand and cross-pollinate target audiences. Such is the case of Piglet, the British brand of linen bedding and pyjamas, whose marketing budget is mostly allocated to digital and social media. Its founder Jessica Mason needed a strong PR push and approached the artist Alexa Coe with the suggestion to create a series of drawings, which were subsequently embroidered on the pockets of two types of pyjama sets. A similar strategy was chosen by Molly Goddard and Joel Jefferey from Desmond & Dempsey, another brand of cotton and linen loungewear, and the chosen artist was Venetia Berry, suggested by a PR agency working with the brand. All the parties confessed that the collaborations were rather well-received due to the similarity of the brands and artists’ core values and creative styles.

 

The second motivation underpinning the first, more practical and commercial aim, and registering as very prominent is an opportunity for both the artist and the brand to broaden their horizons and to create something new. The novelty may be in the introduction of a new product or the adoption of a new technique or medium by the artist. Such reasons motivate Ana Kerin, who is both sculptor and ceramicist as well as the owner of KANA London, a ceramics boutique and series of pottery workshops in Hackney. Kerin likes wearing two hats and collaborates both with brands as an artist and with artists as a commissioner. She says collaborations open her mind and give her ideas that might have never come if not for a brand counterpart arriving with a brief for a limited edition. This was the case of her project with Lisa Mehydene, owner of edit.58, a homewares boutique. Mehydene saw Kerin’s rustic plates and pinch pots at a private dinner and fell in love with the authenticity of the pieces. Same goes for the cases where Kerin approaches artists with ideas of creating limited editions of her products. One of the most successful collaborations to date was with Alexa Coe who is on the rise these days and collaborates extensively, respecting, however, her own style and her personal brand’s values.

 

HOW TO PROCEED?

 

Collaborative projects can seem like a no-brainer at first, but to be successful they have to be carefully planned. Brand values match is a must, but setting clear targets and deadlines as well as creating actionable marketing plans is necessary. This may work out naturally for some, more often for brand owners who are used to dealing with planning and setting KPIs. Rigorous planning and targets’ setting can be daunting for others, often artists, who may feel that their creative process is being over-controlled and micromanaged. This is where intermediary agencies and independent consultants can be useful as they will help respect the interests of both parties, control the process and protect the DNAs of the brands and artistic practices. However, in the current mutating market, the flexibility and initiative of emerging artists and independent brands matter more every day. Without the bureaucratic and production restrictions often faced by corporations, new alliances can thrive. They make a difference by setting examples of best practices, sustainably supporting the artists directly and becoming first encounters with the art market for consumers.

 


Anastasia Lander is a marketing and communications professional with 18 years of diverse experience in working with brands ranging from M.A.C. Cosmetics and Dior to Unilever portfolio. Lander holds a Master’s degree in Art Business with Distinction from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London where she is also Member of the Governing Body. She is the founder of Lander Comms, where she creates communication strategies for brands and artists. Lander is Executive Director of the not-for-profit Young Masters Art Prize, a member of the Association of Women in the Arts (AWITA) and Bloom UK, a professional network for women in communications.

New tendencies in the online art market: price transparency and the “behavioural surplus”

Imagine you are walking in Mayfair and you are attracted by a shiny window of one of the many world-class art galleries of the neighbourhood. You walk in, politely greet the front desk staff, ask for the press release, and then you finally start filling your eyes with some of the most representative artworks of our contemporary culture. Nevertheless, while you are wandering in the space, a burning question pops into your mind: how much will these artworks cost? If you are brave enough – or, maybe, I should say naïve – you might decide to ease the burden of your doubt and go and ask the gallery assistant, who is very likely to graciously smile at you and ask: are you already our client? This situation does not stand in the realm of the hypotheses, it is actually an incredibly common “protocol” adopted by most of the blue-chip galleries.

 

The lack of transparency of the art market is not a breaking news. However, a further distinction needs to be made between the primary and the secondary market. The opacity of the latter, indeed, has sharply decreased over the years due to the inception of price databases such as Artnet, the first company to gather and publish sales prices of auctioned artworks. Despite the success of its service amongst collectors, according to Artnet’s CEO Jacob Pabst, big auction houses and art galleries did not appreciate the mission of the company, which had to wait over a decade to finally become profitable, demonstrating that its aim was not to replace a system, but to enhance its operations. Conversely, the primary market is a proper Dantesque selva oscura, full of undercover art advisors, transactions between anonymous parties, and stoical gatekeepers who work hard behind the scenes to keep their interests safe.

 

The centuries-old art market has proven to be extensively resistant to innovations, however, even its most conservative players had to acknowledge the increasing relevance of the digital space. According to the Art Basel and UBS Art Market Report 2020, the online art market has been thriving for the past five years, accounting for $5.9 billion in 2019, but its growth rate is slowing down, with lack of trust and transparency as the main attributable factors.

 

New tendencies in the online art market: price transparency and the “behavioural surplus” ArtTactic

Source: The Art Market Report 2020, Art Basel & UBS

 

Most certainly, the snapshot of the online art market will look completely different in next year’s reports, as the coming of the global pandemic forced all the market players to move their entire businesses into the digital space. The digital realm has always been seen as complementary to the offline art market, made by private viewings, VIP programmes and collectors’ lounges. However, due to the absence of the physical art world induced by the pandemic, the online world is currently the only available one. Indeed, the COVID-19 outbreak provoked a forceful boost in the development of online platforms and having a strong e-commerce has become the key to keep the sales on an economically sustainable level.

 

A noticeable change happened in the art fairs sector, which has been obviously highly impacted by the pandemic and its consequent travel bans. Art Basel Hong Kong online viewing rooms debuted at the end of March, paving the way for the shift from offline to the virtual world. I remember looking at the “booths” of my favourite galleries, and then only later noticing tiny numeric digits just below the artworks: prices. Price transparency in the context of an art fair is something that you don’t frequently see even in “live” editions, where sales people are often trained to politely decline to declare price ranges. Art Basel Global Director, Marc Spiegler, explained in an interview that the decision of including prices has been made after careful consideration of whether this could have been a winning strategy to encourage and speed up the acquisition process. A few weeks later, Frieze Viewing Rooms New York followed in persuading its participants to make prices publicly available and, according to its New York Director Loring Randolph, the missing face-to-face interaction with potential collectors can be overcome by tearing down as many barriers as possible. You can listen to ArtTactic’s podcast with Loring Randolph on this topic here.

 

In the midst of the enthusiasm for this sign of further democratisation of a well-known elitist industry, we all have lost sight of what could be a real game changer in the long term, that is the unprecedented availability of user data from the primary market. Indeed, when we consent to the use of cookies we are giving permission to the website owner to track our movements within the website, what items we click on, and the amount of time we spend on each of them. This information becomes incredibly valuable as they form what the Harvard professor and writer Shoshana Zuboff calls “behavioural surplus”, meaning that this data gives insight into consumers’ behaviour and, consequently, can be used to predict – and to influence – the market of the future. Apparently, the upcoming virtual edition of Art Basel will provide its exhibitors with this kind of analytics that will allow galleries to perform quantitative analysis and to understand which artworks received the highest number of views or which ones induced tangible actions. Moreover, platforms such as Art Basel and Frieze online viewing rooms require visitors to log into an account or to provide personal information like full name, phone number and email address. Consequently, art dealers now have all the ingredients to create identifiable individual profiles that outline the user preferences and that could be used to implement personalisation engines.

 

It is too soon to say whether the art market is ready to strategically benefit from the behavioural surplus, but it is for sure acknowledging that data availability can be turned from being considered as a threat to becoming the most valuable asset. A question that might arise and that would deserve further speculation is whether – in the context of a demand-offer logic – raw data from the primary market will ultimately influence the production of artworks, and therefore our contemporary culture itself. Only time will tell.

 


Olimpia Saccone is a London-based art business professional specialised in communications and business development within the sector. Olimpia earned a Master’s degree in Art Business with distinction from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London where she also was a guest lecturer for the semester course Art of the Luxury. Following her research interests in the art market ecosystem and in the artists’ career trajectory, Olimpia worked for a talent agency for emerging artists as a business development manager, and she was in charge of commercial partnerships. She is currently advising emerging artists shortlisted for the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize and she is a contributor to LVH Journal. Olimpia is a member of The International Art Market Studies Association. 

Wet Paint and Artist Market Trajectories

Adrian Ghenie’s ‘wet paint’ lot, The Bridge (2015), which sold for $3.3 million in 2016 at Christie’s in New York – just one year after its creation date.

 
 

I’m really excited about our new market analysis, Wet Paint Market Report 2015-2019. It’s a good one and one that was different for us to design, analyze, and write. In this report we’ve looked at art works that have been put up for auction within 3 years or less of their creation dates. These paintings (and also sculptures, photography, and works on paper) have changed hands faster than the paint can dry.

 

Generally, when talking about a ‘wet paint’ market the term ‘flipping’ is often mentioned. For some in the art world, flipping is a dirty word and denotes speculative buying practices that can harm artists’ careers, especially those just emerging. Flipping can often lead to rapid run-ups in auction prices, which results in a shift in an artist’s career trajectory causing a temporary disequilibrium between economic and cultural value associated with the artist’s market. We outline this in-depth in our Wet Paint Market Report. A strong case study often used when discussing the impacts of flipping is Zombie Formalism – a term coined by artist and critic, Walter Robinson in 2014 to describe a group of young artists who received unprecedented market speculation.

 

Beginning in 2011, artworks grounded in Abstract Expressionism that incorporated ‘theatrics’ (such as employing fire extinguishers or deploying chewing gum) created buzz in the art world. Critics, like Jerry Saltz, described the works as ‘easily digestible’, ‘decorator-friendly’, and ‘tailor-made for instant digital distribution and viewing’ – a.k.a. Zombie Formalism was made for the market and appealed to the masses, not those who were privy to the inner-workings of the art world. This new group of work arose at an opportune moment when young, new-comer collectors were looking to invest in alternative assets like art. And as a result of speculative practices, ‘bidding wars sent individual works to totals more than 3,000% beyond their prices just two years earlier’.

 

But by 2015, the tides had changed. And many of the young artists caught in the flipping cross-fire were met with a non-existent, toppling market. Proving that extreme and quick success is not sustainable without the foundations of institutional and discursive support. The Zombie Formalists (as identified by critics and press coverage, and outlined by Artnet) include: Tauba Auerbach (b. 1981), Oscar Murillo (b. 1986), Alex Israel (b. 1982), David Ostrowski (b. 1981), Lucien Smith (b. 1989), Dan Rees (b. 1982), Chen Fei (b. 1983), Jacob Kassay (b. 1984), Wyatt Kahn (b. 1983), Nick Darmstaedter (b. 1988), Israel Lund (b. 1980), Hugh Scott-Douglas (b.1988), Ethan Cook (b.1983), Parker Ito (b. 1986) and Angel Otero (b.1981). This isn’t to say that all of these artists’ markets have suffered the consequences of market speculation – in fact, Tauba Auerbach featured very positively in our May 2020 Contemporary Art Market Confidence Report, both in short- and long-term confidence rankings.

 

Post-Zombie Formalism apocalypse, we report that the Wet Paint market continues to play a significant role in the market for younger artists. 40.6% of the lots in our data sample were from artists aged 45 and under. Among them was Romanian artist, Adrian Ghenie (b. 1977) whose recently created artworks (created within 3 years or less) accounted for 19.4% of total lots sold and 21.6% of overall auction sales value for the artist in the period 2015 to 2019. 2016 was a peak year for Ghenie, both in terms of lots offered and sales value, making up 62.2% of his Wet Paint market total. The artist’s Wet Paint market has waned since then, with no sales reported in 2018 and $1.1 million in sales in 2019 – suggesting that the level of speculation in his market has faded in recent years.

 

Wet Paint and Artist Market Trajectories ArtTactic

 

The intricacy of calibrating an artist’s career trajectory is exemplified by Ghenie’s market. In 2015, Ghenie told The New York Times at the Venice Biennale that he was aware of art market pressures and that he felt the speculation growing around him as an emerging artist. He was, of course, spot on. Ghenie’s market began to build several years prior in 2009 when François Pinault acquired Nickelodeon (2008) and really began to pick up steam when he exhibited at the Palazzo Grassi museum in Venice in 2011. Then, in 2015, Ghenie produced a three-part exhibition for the Romanian pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. These key activities (amongst many others) provided the foundation for new price levels (both on the primary and secondary markets) to be achieved for the artist.

 

2011 was the artist’s first appearance at auction where Swimming Pool (2006) sold for £13,925 ($22,500) at Phillips in New York. In two years since this sale, Dr. Mengele (2011) sells for £121,250 at Sotheby’s in London and in 2014, Fake Rothko (2010) achieves £1.4 million. 2016 brought another auction record breaking year for the artist when Nickelodeon (2008) sold for £7.1 million at Christie’s in London – over 500-times the auction record achieved 5 years prior. All prices include buyer’s premium.

 

This delicate dance between economic and cultural value was (and is) no better understood than by Ghenie’s galleries then and now (he’s currently with Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Nicodim Gallery and Pace Gallery). Gallerist, Thaddaeus Ropac was quoted in 2016 saying, ‘We’re working on major museum shows because this is what he needs now, not another auction record’. I think this was hugely important to recognize and perhaps the life vest Ghenie needed to be saved from market over-speculation.

 

Today, the speculation around Ghenie’s market seems to have faded. Though, I look forward to seeing if he conquered the art market on ‘fast-forward’ once and for all. And for this, only time will tell. In the short term, things are looking promising for him, as he ranks 8 (out of top 10) on our short-term confidence index for on-the-rise artists.

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Through our analysis we found that a large component of the wet paint market is driven by sales for charity – 42% in 2019. Therefore, our report also provides insight into charitable donations from artists and their galleries, and looks into what impact and role these sales have on the market today. Read the full report here.

Announcing KAWS: New Artist Market Report

KAWS, GONE, at NGV, Melbourne

 

KAWS. The moniker hardly needs an introduction now that Brian Donnelly’s international fame and loyal fan base, of both collectibles and blue-chip collectors alike, has been developing since the 1990s and a topic of conversation in the public eye of mass media for a decade. The Jersey City native is the latest to be featured by ArtTactic in KAWS: Artist Market Report in continuation from our series of artist focused reports on market movers, which include extensive in-depth summative reviews of curatorial histories, analysis of public and private avenues including brand collaborations, market performance analytics and additional proprietary evaluations. Mentioned in the UBS Art Market Report 2020 with a total yearly market of $108 million in 2019 (including buyer’s premium), Donnelly’s momentous market growth was a significant contribution to the youngest segment of the Post-War and Contemporary Market; 23% of the total volume consisting of works made within the last 20 years. Whether chosen solely for its illustrative allure or as a reverse of “S.W.A.K.”, an early twentieth century phrase meaning “Sealed with a Kiss” and recycled by SoCal’s Raymond Pettibon, the four letters of KAWS may very well be engraved into the annals of art history for perpetuity. 

 

KAWS today

 

One of the early dominoes that set this phenomena in motion was Donnelly’s omnipresent COMPANION, produced in a limited first edition of 1,500 toys with the Japanese streetwear brand Bounty Hunter in 1999. Plainly explained as an altered Mickey Mouse with KAWS’ signature skull and crossbone head and X-ed out eyes (developed from his graffiti days vandalizing Calvin Klein ads in NYC, and metaphorically described as the main protagonist of lonely and weary innocent dreams in his cast of recurring character motifs) COMPANION has grown with the acceleration of the artist’s career, figuratively and literally. From 7.75 inches in 1999 to a 121-foot long inflatable that has traveled the world and made headlines at CNN and TIME Magazine when it was installed in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor in 2019, the 21-year-old COMPANION has now graduated to AR (Augmented Reality).

 

The recent global launch of KAWS’ collaboration with Acute Art saw COMPANION (EXPANDED HOLIDAY), a two week long exhibition taking place simultaneously in twelve major cities across the world featuring a large-scale AR COMPANION floating in the clouds. Originally from March 12th to March 26th, the exhibition has been extended, except in Doha and Melbourne, with the New York location switched from Times Square to the Brooklyn Museum. In London, it can be viewed through the Acute Art app hovering over the Thames by Millenium Bridge. 

 

Acute Art is widely referenced as a VR and AR Production House, however it’s actual leverage is well beyond a technical assist. With a fresh history of working with artists such as Marina Abramović, Olafur Eliasson, Cao Fei, Jeff Koons and Antony Gormley, Acute Art is not just a gateway to other realities, it is a platform where collectors can purchase limited editions at timely drops, trade, sell, share and swap. This massive global display of KAWS across continents is an acquisition call to collectors at all tiers. From $6.99 a day for a time-based acquisition of one sculpture to $10,000 to own COMPANION (EXPANDED), a 1.8 meter AR Sculpture part of an edition of 25 plus five artist proofs. The latest AR drops have been in concert with his album art collaboration with American rapper and musician Travis Scott, whose new single with Kid Cudi ‘THE SCOTTS’ has been deemed the top stream in 2020 on Spotify. With this pairing of Acute Art and KAWS, not to mention ‘THE SCOTTS’ vinyl on its third and final release, democratization of art has squarely hit a new level. 

 

Aside from this major campaign, KAWS has also been active during the current pandemic, selling limited edition shaped prints through his Instagram @kaws aimed at his 2.9 million fan following. In order to acquire the prints, priced at $1,200 and editioned at 25 plus five artist proofs, interested parties must request by email. The effort to directly help the following charities went underway from April 10th to the 17th: FreeArtsNYC, Henry Street Settlement, Food Bank NYC, Jersey City COVID-19 Relief Fund, and the Maimonides Medical Hospital in Brooklyn.

 

KAWSation and Correlation

 

Our data dive into the world of KAWS shows a healthy international following, with 40% of auction value achieved in Hong Kong over the complete span of Donnelly’s secondary market appearances, from 2008 to present date. With an increase in total market value from 2018 to 2019 of 238%, last year’s sales outperformed pre-sale mid-estimate values by 40%. This surge in demand has resulted in a 200% average price increase for repeat sales, with the highest return set at 396% for Untitled (Kimpsons 6 Package Painting Series), a paradox of a sixteen inch square painting that has been packaged in plastic with a cardboard backing. More insights from the Repeat Sale Analysis can be found within the report, along with details regarding price segmentation, sell-through rate, career to market contexts, full market breakdowns of paintings, prints and sculpture, and more. 

 

To elaborate on the remarkable year that KAWS’ work experienced at auction, nine of the top ten records were achieved in 2019. These paintings range across motifs and themes, as many of his characters hit blue chip status. At number four is In the Woods (2002), a triptych featuring the artist’s rendition of Disney’s Snow White among her forest friends, which sold for $3.2 million at Christie’s last May. The Walk Home (2012) shows KAWS’ Spongebob riff with arms raised in alarm and sold the same week at Phillips, generating just under $6 million on an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000, achieving 8.5 times the mid-estimate. The largest canvas from the artist’s KIMPSONS series, Untitled (Kimpsons #1) (2004) sold this past October for $6.2 million, and at the top is another KIMPSONS work, The KAWS Album (2005), which sold in April of 2019 for $12.7 million at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong.    

 

The KAWStroversy

 

The overwhelming stratifications of KAWS’ audience and price segments in relation to his mass popularity is not the normal triple threat that the art world is used to handling, and in many instances exerting a modicum of control over. While KAWS has now been exclusively represented by Skarstedt for almost a year, after working with Perrotin since 2008 and joint representation for a year and a half, his work has not yet been greeted with gusto at every level of curatorial acclaim, but that may soon be changing with a major museum survey ongoing at the National Gallery of Victoria, and a substantial exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum planned for 2021.  

 

Controversy surrounding the high prices at auction that collectors were willing to pay spiked in the media around the time of the record $12.7 million sale, and certainly in the wake of it. In late March of last year, Artnet’s feature on KAWS breaking the rules cited advisor Josh Baer of The Baer Faxt as skeptical of KAWS’ lasting power, questioning the true cultural depth and significance that the artist’s work will retain in a twenty-year hindsight. Then spurred by the April 1st sale, The Art Newspaper’s Anny Shaw remarked on the superficial nature of the work in her opinion piece “Why KAWS is not a great artist”, calling it “sheer conceptual bankruptcy”. 

 

The following month, a special editorial in The New York Times featured the artist and his rocket trajectory. In the article, Donnelly is aware of the art world’s scrutiny of his meteoric rise from “bottom to top”, and Anne Pasternak, Director of the Brooklyn Museum shed some light on the decision to give the artist a major survey in 2021. Picked up by Artnet, ArtCritique and making a later appearance in the South China Morning Post, Pasternak’s insight is as follows: 

 

“It makes the art world uncomfortable,” said Anne Pasternak, the director of the Brooklyn Museum. “But Brian doesn’t respect those traditional hierarchies.” Ms. Pasternak took time to come around, too. “I didn’t see the appeal initially,” she said of his work. “But artists love him. They all said, ‘Go visit him. ’And I’ve learned to listen to artists.” (From The New York Times, XX Marks the Spot: KAWS Goes Global)

 

And so, it’s possible that the tables have now turned with William S. Smith, Editor of Art in America, taking a stand last September with his in-depth critique that perhaps puts the one-off cursory comments to shame in “What the Rise of KAWS Says About the Art World’s Ailments”. Addressing the heart of Donnelly’s quest for universal relatability and familiarity as a way to connect as well as the varied cultural ties in the artist’s aesthetic and business getting, Smith writes that the preoccupation with death and loneliness doesn’t discriminate across demographics and sympathizes with the human condition. His words, “If the art world gatekeepers dismiss these objects out of hand, they risk missing in the image of weakness a moment of self-recognition,” seem to cut through the noise and grant fresh eyes to a club that never stopped looking for the next hoop that KAWS will need to jump through. 

 

KAWS tomorrow

 

The controversy itself may signal KAWS’ success just as well as the climbing auction prices. It is the nature of our credo that movements overtake their predecessors by offering innovative answers to the dictating question ‘What is Art?’ in light of the new and changing forces that will define the zeitgeist of tomorrow. It is more likely that Donnelly has slipped under this radar for so long because rather than part of a neat group that can be classified by historians as a “School”, the ubiquitous movement of KAWS has been made on the ground and at the individual level, a phenomena that may become increasingly more apparent in our time. 

 

With a title that is more pertinent than ever, KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness is the September 20, 2019 – April 13, 2020 survey which is now virtually accessible on The National Gallery of Victoria’s website. The exhibition of over 100 works features the vast range of Donnelly’s productivity over the years and also prominently announces the largest bronze sculpture that KAWS has ever created, a massive commission titled GONE that is situated in the inner courtyard and was assembled from twelve pieces over five days, reaching a height of nearly twenty-three feet tall and weighing fourteen tons. The monument is, of course, none other than COMPANION, holding a lifeless muppet in its arms that the artist calls “BFF”. 

 

Despite the rounded cartoonish nature of the KAWS aesthetic, like many of the artist’s works it is a dark scene. COMPANION stands resolutely solid and in control, with the same sense of assuredness and carrying-on seen in one of the preeminent early COMPANION sculptures, COMPANION (Clean Slate), which sold in November of 2018 at Phillips for a hammer price of $1.65 million. With one foot almost always in mid-step, it is a message grounded in reality that moving forward is moving on, and that we may need to carry each other to make it through.

A Note on Institutional Relationships in the Age of Corona

#GettyMuseumChallenge of James McNeil Whistler’s Milly Finch, 1883-84 by @rotten.puddn

 

Last Wednesday, the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) of North America released a statement reporting that it will not penalize its members, 227 art museums across the United States, Canada and Mexico, if they choose to reallocate funds from their endowments, trusts and income from deaccessioned objects towards operating costs, if necessary. This is the unfortunate reality for many museums around the world, if they are lucky enough to have ample stores to tap and can navigate through often-tight legal restrictions. While The Metropolitan Museum of Art may take a loss of $100 million, nearly a third of its yearly operating budget, its endowment figure is a staggering $3.6 billion, whereas smaller institutions are in critical need and struggling to survive. For example, Charleston, a farmhouse in East Sussex that celebrates the lives and works of the early 20th century Bloomsbury Group, is appealing to emergency crowdfunding in order to seek the £400,000 they will need to make it through the coming months. Despite this backdrop of financial duress, layoffs and furloughs in the US and uncertainty in the UK, institutions are making a global concerted effort to reach out to their audiences through online channels and social media to offer an outlet, a chance to engage with inspiration and remind all of us of the history, beauty, wonder and resilience of humankind. 

 

Resources for Online Institutional Engagement

Impressive social media efforts are actively underway as museums also come together on Instagram and Twitter to support each other. On March 25, Artnet told the story of #MuseumBouquet, a hashtag used by institutions as they compassionately sent each other floral arrangements from their collections via Instagram. Apart from well wishes, museums are also providing resources and social media tips for their sector. The Virginia Association of Museums has detailed a comprehensive list that includes tips for social media engagement as well as the Smithsonian Institution’s Facebook 101

 

Entrenched in the space of museum consultancy and driving viewer engagement is Cuseum, a technical partner for institutions that has cultivated a profound list of clients, such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Pérez Art Museum in Miami and around 100 others while currently holding five patents with another three pending. Founded in 2014 by Brendan Ciecko, a serial tech entrepreneur whose early career awarded him the cover of Inc. Magazine in 2008, they specialize in mobile engagement, digital membership and augmented reality. Cuseum is busy providing free webinars and social media engagement tips for the sector during this time. Register here for tonight’s webinar “Membership Mondays: Fulfillment, Renewals and Budgets in Membership During Coronavirus” at 8 PM BST / 3PM EST and register here for Wednesday’s “Collaborating on Virtual Educational Programs During Coronavirus.” One of the many tips Ciecko and Cuseum are encouraging is to think creatively in terms of live content engagement, for example, The Broad Museum in Los Angeles has continuously released four parts of a light and sound series inspired by their Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room, titled Infinite Drone on Instagram Live; it also lives on their Youtube channel

 

Cuseum’s success in this space hints at a wealth of museum experiences just waiting to be tapped into online. Here are some exceptional visual opportunities, many created pre-Covid, to explore through the websites of some of the world’s most historic, illuminary, and in one case— holy, institutions. The Vatican Museum has seven galleries available on a 360-degree virtual tour, including the divine Sistine Chapel. The Louvre has four galleries displayed in interactive virtual tours, and the Sharjah Art Museum of the United Arab Emirates hosts a viewer-led online replica of their Modern and Contemporary Wing. Apart from these spatial walkthroughs, The British Museum hosts a digital timeline, created with the partnership of Google, that allows viewers to roam through centuries of objects and see webs of connections data-woven together from linear influence and like attributes. While these experiences require the viewer to visit them, there are also engagement opportunities found in viewer’s own social media feeds that are now checked 21% more often in the United Kingdom and Germany, 27% higher in France, 32% in the United States, 49% in Spain and 52% in Italy, as of March 2020, according to Statista, who survey sampled media usage from March 16th to the 20th. 

 

The RA on Twitter and Instagram 

The Royal Academy’s Adam Koszary was featured in The New York Times at the end of last month for stirring up the Twitterspace, asking followers for drawings of hams on behalf of the 252 year old institution (receiving 6,900 likes, 1,900 retweets and 391 comments on one post). Koszary’s journey to the RA was in part due to how well his natural cheeky and humorous persona shone through the platform when he was creating content for a small agricultural museum, The Museum of English Rural Life. After a short stint at Tesla, having been poached by Elon Musk through the 140-character-limit platform, Koszary found his home back in the museum sphere at The Royal Academy this past February. Identified throughout the museum sector as a force and example, Koszary notes that social media is meant to be “collaborative and democratic”. The latest posts have seen the hashtag #RAdailydoodle, while requests range from drawing bluebells to fat birds. From April 11th to 18th, ten @royalacademy posts bearing this hashtag generated 220 comments using the #RAdailydoodle, out of a total 552 comments, 1,660 likes and 370 retweets, from their pool of 437,900 followers. 

 

In tandem to Koszary’s tweets, the Instagram team @royalacademyarts are engaging their similarly sized audience of 467,000 followers, with content that ranges from educational ideas for at-home sculptures with the family, breathing exercises, an animated Easter post and calls for their Young Artists Summer Show (submissions close this week on April 24). Perhaps most poignant to the art world is the pinned Instagram Story of Secretary and Executive Chief Alex Rüger’s personal message speaking from the courtyard of the RA, as he closed the doors of the institution at the onset of the crisis. In it, he promises that we will be hearing from their artists as they keep the community strong and Rüger, the former Director of the Van Gogh Museum for over a decade who transitioned to the RA in February of 2019, has made good on that promise. This past Thursday, as part of their #ArtistsinIsolation series, Contemporary giant Ai Weiwei was featured on their Instagram Story, speaking directly to the RA’s audience and the art world at home. The full video lives on their website, where his message begins, “Hello, this is a message for the Royal Academy. This is a very difficult time, especially for England and for Europe. I think we have to stay strong. We have to believe art always wins. At a time like this, humanity is most important…” The series has so far also included Stephen Farthing RA and Rebecca Salter PRA, who believes “These are difficult times for everyone – but art thrives in a crisis.”

 

While Contemporary artists speak to us today, the previously mentioned Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam speaks from the past. On the same Thursday, the museum posted Field with Irises near Arles (1888) by Vincent, alongside an excerpt from one of his famous letters to his brother Theo, dated 1878, “Woe-spiritedness is quite a good thing to have, if only one writes it as two words, woe is in all people, everyone has reason enough for it, but one must also have spirit, the more the better, and it is good to be someone who never despairs.” Liked by thousands with 128 comments as of yesterday, the engagement from this post is a small sample of the 3.2 million followers that @vangoghmuseum shares between Instagram and Twitter, at an even split.

 

Museum Engagement Across Twitter and Instagram

Five years ago, an in-depth study of the presence on Facebook and Twitter of 57 European museums was conducted by Kostas Zafiropoulos, Vasiliki Vrana and Konstantinos Antoniadis and published in the Journal of Tourism, Heritage and Services Marketing. Activity and engagement was determined from a sample recorded from March 2-5, 2015 and a wealth of information is provided from that time that paints a near-holistic view of the institutional engagement through these platforms including measurements of popularity, activity, visits and reached demographics. Focusing in on the top nine institutions with the highest engagement levels, the Van Gogh Museum was the only single artist museum of the group and stood with the Museo del Prado, British Museum, Tate Britain, Centre Pompidou, Museo Reina Sofia, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, The National Gallery and the Musée du Louvre. On Twitter in 2015, these nine museums had an average audience of 383,500 followers. As of yesterday, these nine institutions have an average of 1,534,789, suggesting an increase of 224,117 followers and average growth of 32% year-on-year.

 

A Note on Institutional Relationships in the Age of Corona ArtTactic

 

ArtTactic has been actively tracking museum metrics with the rise of Instagram in our work with Hiscox to produce the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report. Since 2016, we’ve looked at the growth of followers on Instagram across four heavyweights in the museum sphere, The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, and The Tate. Starting in 2016 with a range from 573,000 followers of the Tate to the 1.3 million followers of The Museum of Modern Art, the range increased by 2020 to 2.5 million viewers engaged by The Guggenheim to The Museum of Modern Art’s 5 million. Average year on year growth for this time period across all four was 24%, with the Tate leading at 31%. 

 

A Note on Institutional Relationships in the Age of Corona ArtTactic

 

With the intersection of data from Instagram and Twitter showing that the Tate has a larger audience on Twitter by a staggering 1.4 million user accounts, we explored how the other three institutions’ Twitter accounts compared as well. All four museums boast larger followings on Twitter, at an average of 800,000 more each, with the Tate retaining the most drastic difference and The Museum of Modern Art having the most similar audience, with a Twitter following of 5.3 million, only 200,000 more followers than their Instagram account. Looking to macro-factors to explain this phenomena, as we understand the importance of Instagram in the art world especially for collectors and art market players, we posited that perhaps more people live on Twitter as a whole. However, according to the latest data as of January 2020 from Statista, Twitter’s 340 million active users appear rather meager compared to the 1 billion active Instagram accounts. Platforms that take the cake above Twitter as well include Snapchat, Sina Weibo, Reddit, TikTok and others. From our perspective, the overall growing popularity of museums on these platforms, at the very positive growth rates of 24% for Instagram and 32% for Twitter, show that there is healthy demand for engagement from these historic institutions and the public arts sector, with room to grow.  

 

In the Age of Corona 

Returning to the moment, we’ve also looked at the conversations with museums across Instagram and Twitter that have bloomed in compensation of the stay at home orders around the world. Lists of hashtags have been published as more join in, and we’ve created our own as well. In order of descending popularity, the following were identified through Instagram as some of the most prevalent tags during this time: 

 

#instamuseum #museumfromhome #betweenartandquarantine #gettymuseumchallenge #artinquarantine #musesocial #virtualmuseum #onlinemuseum #closedbutopen #digitalmuseum #museummomentofzen #museumsathome #museoencasa #museumsandchill #artistsinisolation #artcanhelp #archiveshashtagparty

 

#Instamuseum leads with 242,000 posts, probably due to its pre-Covid origins, whereas #museumfromhome, born as a direct result of the current pandemic, has 47,100 posts. Other top tags #betweenartandquarantine, #gettymuseumchallenge, #artinquarantine, and #musesocial boast between 10,000 and 16,500 posts. Notably, the #gettymuseumchallenge has garnered 12,600 hits and become a true social media sensation that’s made mainstream headlines, as art lovers at home dress up and imitate their favorite works of art, complete with props and pets. We looked at the activity of these hashtags on Twitter over the course of the last week, from April 11th to the 18th, and found that on this platform, #gettymuseumchallenge was the most popular, tagged 27,047 times, with #museumfromhome second, at 19,810. On Facebook, #museumfromhome stands out above all with 16,000 posts compared to numbers at 1,000 or less for the rest. While our data for Instagram and Facebook reflect an entire conversation, the numbers from Twitter are solely a sample of the last week, suggesting that these numbers could potentially be more viral than they appear here. 

 

Final Thoughts

What do these numbers really represent? This portrayal of connectivity is difficult to describe in encapsulating words that assuredly will not do the thousands of comments, likes, and photos and the associated laughs, tears, wonder and inspiration justice. It is an immense outpouring of emotion centered around our mutual love of art, creativity and history, as we look to sources of spiritual elevation during this trying time. However, this is all solely a reflection of the depth of meaning these institutions have in our lives. Perhaps it is better to instead share a single engagement rather than speak to the whole: 

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, and in commemoration, they are asking their members, visitors and global audience to share a personal story about their experience with the institution. On Instagram using the #mymetstory, we found this post by @muldermuseum (reposted by the Met), “I first visited The Met on vacation with my parents when I was nine years old, and that visit changed my life. I remember turning the corner in the Egyptian galleries and my breath catching at the sight of the Temple of Dendur. It felt impossible—like discovering magic or time travel was real, that I could live with one foot in the 21st century and the other in ancient Egypt. Until that moment I hadn’t realized museums were such powerful places….” At the end of the post, it’s revealed that David Mulder is about to embark on postgraduate education in the history of Ancient Mesopotamian and Near Eastern Art, and the posts on his account chronicle a passion that has brought Mulder to  collections and sites spanning across continents, in cities such as Paris, Berlin, London, Haifa, Philadelphia, and many more. 

 

Leaving the steps of the Met, a 17 minute walk through Central Park to the Upper West Side will bring you to the doors of New York’s first and oldest museum, The New York Historical Society, located adjacent to the eminent American Museum of Natural History. Established in 1804, the institution has been charged with the preservation of the city’s history through a vast collection of documents, objects, art and artifacts, and as part of their ongoing acquisition program, they are currently soliciting objects from New Yorkers to record this historic moment, as they find themselves at the center of this ravaging pandemic. Along with these objects, data being created in this moment will also have a life after this, and we will be able to look back a hundred years from now to see what art exhibitions and museums looked like, and how the world came together in this moment, celebrating our culture and what it means to be human, while we wait to go outside. 

 

This is a reminder that while our days and sense of time are being displaced, history is still being made, and that this too, shall pass.

What about the artists?

When I sat down to write my Master’s dissertation and later, my contribution for the TEFAF Art Market Report, I had one thing in mind: artists. I’ve always believed (and still do) that without artists we would not have an art market and that, consequently, artists should have more of a stake in the art world. But the unfortunate reality is that over time, and as history progresses, the majority of artists and their work have been silently pushed further down the food chain. To combat this, I argue that there needs to be university-based mechanisms in place to give artists that “leg-up” in terms of career preparation and professional survival. Now, with a growing global pandemic at hand, this sentiment is increasingly becoming more important to consider. In this editorial, I re-examine key points of my research on career preparation and incubation models for fine artists through the lens of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

In society there is general confusion as to what studying an artistic subject really means. Nigel Carrington, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Arts London, in RA Magazine acknowledged that “the narrative about the instrumental value of a degree in terms of earnings defines outcomes in a very simplistic way”. While the value of education is partly economic, it is mainly valuable in terms of developing an “innovative, informed, democratic, robust, and varied society”. Nevertheless, even with a fine arts degree, artists are subjected to a difficult career trajectory after graduating from art universities. Artistic labor remains largely undervalued and forces artists to take on subsidiary work in areas unrelated to their art in order to maintain an adequate standard of living. This concept of the “hyphenated artist” describes the majority of artists post-graduation. These sentiments were recently echoed by the art logistics company, Dietl, in the wake of Covid-19. In the beginning of April, Dietl launched an online platform to sell works of art by laid-off art technicians. According to the founder of the company, Fritz Dietl, art handlers are often artists subsidizing their practice with income from temporary gigs at fairs, galleries, and museums. In an interview with The Art Newspaper, Dietl stated, “We realized that [artists] are extremely vulnerable in the current economic crisis with absolutely no safety net and no chance for any income in the foreseeable future, but they are the silent, incredibly talented and necessary force behind-the-scenes—the art world, in normal times, simply cannot function without them.”

 

There are mechanisms in place for students studying subjects such as business, technology, and design to increase their chances of commercial success and professional survival after graduating with a university degree. Over the last decade, universities around the world have become increasingly entrepreneurial along many dimensions especially with the implementation of programs to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. Incubation programs, or simply incubators, are one of such programs that have grown in popularity within the higher education landscape. Incubators support young businesses or entrepreneurs through the early and fragile stages of growth. According to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Report, this support can help early stage businesses and entrepreneurs “avoid the mistakes of others, save time and money, and increase survival rates”. The report asserts that this, in turn, “has consequences for job creation, regional development, innovation, and economic growth”. Interestingly, incubators have not become a key fixture at universities for fine art students. For example, according to Nesta, in Britain, there are 105 registered university-based incubators, primarily at business, technology, and design schools; there are currently no university-based incubator programs offered at art schools for fine art students. Could fine art graduates benefit from utilizing a university-based incubator? Could a university-based incubation program help artists succeed?

 

As schools across the globe close their campuses and transition to online courses due to Covid-19, many graduate art students are left wondering how they will continue their studies without the studio space, one-on-one critiques, exhibition opportunities, and other hands-on features that are a natural part of a contemporary art education. According to Artforum, more than 100 MFA students at the Yale School of Art are requesting that the university refund part of their semester tuition after the institution closed its studios and facilities. Boston University MFA candidates are also demanding tuition reimbursement arguing that the education being offered online “is not transposable to the programming [students] originally enrolled in—especially in such a short period of time—and students in [their] last semester have lost critical opportunities, such as final reviews of cumulative work and thesis exhibitions”. Boston University is refusing to grant their request. As I read this news, I can’t help but wonder—how is this pandemic going to impact our young artists, their work, network, and career trajectories – and at the most critical part of their development? And how will the “wartime” decision-making of universities reflect back on the institutions in the future?

 

Considering the plight of universities and the difficult career trajectory artists face, it could be advantageous for such institutions to begin to think strategically and incorporate platforms or mechanisms that will assist their students in mitigating risk post-graduation and increase the likelihood of professional survival. At the same time, implementation of such a program could enhance the image and value of universities moving forward. Further, in order to make a living in the creative arts, fine artists need to operate like entrepreneurs. Consequently, incubators could help artists develop their business skills to attract attention on the market. But what would this incubator configuration look like and how would it work? What are the features and components that would make this successful? And if there are challenges, how would they be overcome? I answer all of these questions, and pose more, in my research (which you can read here).

 

What about the artists? ArtTactic
Matthew Burrows launched the Artist Support Pledge on Instagram.

But for now, I push aside the discussion of trends and innovation in incubator models in reverence to the situation at hand. I feel it is more appropriate to reflect on the importance of artists, their resiliency, and their work at this time. Like artist, Matthew Burrows, who launched a simple pledge to encourage fellow artists to help each other as the art world shuts down. Burrows used Instagram to request artists to post pictures of their work for sale under £200 with the hashtag #ArtistSupportPledge, and each time their sales reach £1,000 they promise to buy another artist’s work for £200. He tells Artnet News that the project “was really in response to the current situation, a creative solution to how I might help myself but also friends and colleagues through this period, by utilizing the generosity of the arts community”. There are over 1,000 posts, which Burrows hopes to translate into 1,000 pledges. “That’s £1 million flowing into the hands of artists,” Burrows stated, “many of whom are in severe financial stress. It’s an ambitious target but easily achievable if people act generously and people get really great art out of this”.

 

Burrows is just one example of many that suggest we really do have more to learn from artists, especially at times like these.

 


Julia Valletta is a research-based marketing and communications professional specializing within the art and business sector. Julia has cross-industry experience designing, managing, conducting, and analyzing qualitative and quantitative research as well as developing marketing communications plans and messaging frameworks. She earned a Master’s degree in Art Business with distinction from Sotheby’s Institute of Art and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Boston University. Julia is currently a Research Assistant at ArtTactic and lives in London.

Market Shift: The Photography Auction Market 2019

El Lissitsky (1890-1941), Self Portrait (‘The Constructor’), 1924, Gelatin silver print, 24.4 x 27.9 cm. Auctioned on 6th March 2019 achieving a sale price of £947,250 including buyer’s premium. Courtesy of Christie’s. 

 

 

Released this past week, the Photography Auction Market 2019 report details the market performance of photographs sold across both sales dedicated to the collecting category and also Post-War & Contemporary evening and day auctions. Through comparing annual performance, dating back to 2015, the report outlines growing trends in the sector in terms of market activity and aesthetic bearing. Along with the breakdown of artists that came out ahead in 2019, descriptive summaries of the 25 topmost lots by value, corresponding performance evaluations, and sale format performance are also included. Notably, ArtTactic has identified a swell of the low market, up 31% from 2018, and has included a special focus on photography lots offered under the $5,000 mark.

 

On the Whole

Combined sales from the top three auction houses, Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips saw an overall 15.5% decline from 2018, from $62.3 million to $52.7 million, with a decrease in the number of lots offered at 4.8%. While total sales in the market were down, Christie’s outperformed their 2018 achievements in this sector by 19%, largely due to an increase in sales dedicated to photography. Although the photography market has experienced this slight downturn, a trend continued from the 26.4% drop from 2017 to 2018, sales are still marginally higher than they were in 2015, by 1.6%. However, when comparing the number of lots sold in 2015 and 2019, the amount of lots sold in 2019 showed a 48% increase from 2015, further confirming our insight about the growing contribution of lower value lots to the photography market.  

 

Looking at the Past

While Contemporary photography retains a strong foothold with a total market share of 51%, this figure is down 7% from 2018. In its place, Modern photography has climbed 5% to account for 36% of the whole, with Vintage photography at an increase of 2%. Although only seeing a small increase in market share, Vintage photography was the sole segment to see an increase in total sales in 2019, experiencing a 4% rise to nearly $7 million, up from $6.69 million in 2018. The mere increase in the number of lots sold, at 1%, suggests that this bloom is evidence of more high profile lots offered throughout the year. 

 

Coming in tenth in the overall best-selling photography artist ranking, with sales at over $1.3 million, Lazar (El) Lissitzky (1890 – 1941) is the top Vintage segment artist for 2019 and is celebrated as a key figure of Russian Constructivism of the early 20th century. His “Self-Portrait (‘The Constructor’)” (1924) achieved a hammer price of £780,110 ($1,025,689) at Christie’s in London as part of a dedicated photography and design sale in early March of 2019. An extremely rare and well preserved gelatin silver print, the work symbolizes the full embrace that the artist, and many in the Soviet sponsored movement, gave to the new medium, through experimentations with photomontage, collage and incorporating text. Also a vision of the industrial attitudes of the Constructors, as ‘Art’ was synonymous with ‘work’ or ‘labor’, the composition features the artist’s hand and compass fixed with the artist’s line of sight, linking together concepts across the Russian avant-garde to the Bauhaus and Dadaism. 

 

Aside from the remarkable acquisition opportunity with the offer of the aforementioned Lissitzky, it seems that Vintage photography is experiencing a resurgence as Michael Hoppen, of Hoppen Gallery was quoted during Photo London art fair last May in The Art Newspaper as having a very positive outlook, “In the last six months, we’ve sold more vintage black-and-white photography than we have for many years. Collectors are definitely going back to traditional 20th-century photography.” Additionally, the sector praises the announcement of a brick and mortar exhibition space in the former residence of Roger-Viollet in the Saint-German-des-Prés of Paris, that will deal in reproductions from the eponymous archives and also that of the France-Soir newspaper set to open later this year. Echoing this greater trend, the shift towards historic Vintage photography appears to be unveiling itself in the auction market as well, as some evolving collectors alter course away from the Contemporary sector.

 

Action Under $5,000

As mentioned previously, we take a concentrated look at the apparent budding lower market of works with pre-sale mid-estimates less than $5,000, in the Photography Auction Market 2019 report. From 149 lots resulting in a total sales volume of over $524,000, the average price across this segment rose to $3,518, up by 6.3% from 2018. Christie’s was dominant in this price tier, accounting for 51% of market share, as opposed to Phillips and Sotheby’s at 30% and 19%, respectively. Market drive can be partially attributed to high performance and market activity for the top two artists that both had very sparse auction sales in this price segment across the last five years. 

 

Taking second place by a slim margin in sales for this price tier is the work of British photographer and photojournalist Bill Brandt (1904 – 1983), from a total of 14 lots. The artist’s socially conscious black-and-white images compiled in The English at Home (1936) and A Night in London (1938) created a name for the artist, who was inspired by the work of the Parisian documentary photography pioneer Eugene Atget, his early friendship with the poet Ezra Pound and a brief employment in the workshop of the Surrealism and Dada artist Man Ray. Brandt’s images were published by Lilliput, Harper’s Bazaar and Picture Post as he documented London during the war, and later as he captured the portraits of international art stars, like Salvador Dali and Henry Moore. The nature of his mature work looked back to his early Surrealist experiments and classic romantic elements such as the female nude. 

 

Early in 2018, The Museum of Modern Art partnered with Christie’s to offer 43 photographs by the artist from their permanent collection as part of an online-only series to strategically augment their photography acquisition fund. While given estimates for the works ranged from $2,000 – $10,000, the average sale price came in just over the high range of $10,000, with the highest achieving lot, the eye of Jean Arp, 1960 (lot 23), bringing in $35,000. While it’s possible that the 2019 ranking reflects a renewed interest in the year following this institutional sale, his recent popularity could also be attributed to the major undertaking “Bill Brandt / Henry Moore” that was planned to be on view currently, from 7th February to 31st May 2020, at The Hepworth Wakefield in West Yorkshire. This exhibition, also made possible by the Yale Center for British Art, details the relationship of the two artists through the war and afterwards, in over 200 artworks across collage, drawing, sculpture and photography.  

 

This breakout data presents a promising outlook of market growth in this tier for Bill Brandt and the top ranked artist, for details and information download the report here.

A Window Into the Hopeful: A Deeper Look at The South Asia: Art & Philanthropy Report 2020

Image: Swathi and Vijay (2018) in the Pink Lane of Maqta Art District. Photo by Pranav Gohil. Courtesy of St+Art India Foundation.

 

In a continuation of our recent exploration of global arts-centered philanthropy in the TEFAF 2020 Art Patronage Report and to expand upon last year’s special focus India: Art and Philanthropy Report 2019, our latest release on Art and Philanthropy in South Asia dives further into the region and extracts the far-reaching network that drives the burgeoning cultural non-profit, grassroots and artist movements.

 

Earlier this week, Managing Director Kristalina Georgeiva of the IMF released a statement confirming the negative GDP outlook for 2020 that had already actualized in our minds and financial portfolios. However, while the recession to come was characterized to be as “bad as during the global financial crisis or worse”, a recovery is expected in 2021 if mitigation and containment protocols are followed. The statement continued to cite the distressing reality that almost 80 countries are requesting aid and $83 billion has already been transferred out of emerging markets – aptly described as “the largest capital outflow ever recorded”. Although the IMF and the World Bank are working in tandem to find solutions to the seemingly unsolvable, growing concern has been expressed for how low-income countries will fare in the tides to come. At this landmark moment in human history, it is evermore important to also keenly focus philanthropic support on the arts communities of these emerging markets that promote social capital, education and well-being, as they are in paramount danger of becoming another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The South Asia: Art & Philanthropy Report 2020 was engineered with our partner Art Dubai, who like many entities in the art world has made a full pivot, adapting to the social distancing status quo. Their fully reconfigured digital performance program and Global Art Summit 14 directly address our shared experience from the coronavirus fallout, and their online catalogue features over 500 artworks by exhibiting galleries with channels for purchase inquiries. Last year saw nearly 30,000 visitors walk the Madinat Jumeirah to view the collaborative program that was formed by agents from over 130 international institutions. Strong sales were reported as collectors had anticipated this uniquely positioned fair as a gateway to the Middle Eastern and Asian emerging artistic region. While it is unfortunate that these grand connective events have been forced into closure temporarily, we, along with Art Dubai, are thrilled to bring you this detailed cultural insight from one of the most highly anticipated emerging markets in the world.  

 

With two comprehensive surveys that dovetail Investment and Patronage in the region, expert contributors and numerous case studies demonstrate an inspiring picture of development, collaboration and artistic enthusiasm – all vying for philanthropic support. Chloe Vaitsou, International Director of Art Dubai, is quoted in the report saying, “We hope that activities and initiatives presented in this report will be part of a broader philanthropic springboard movement, one that mobilizes the use of fire and hope constructively for the benefit of the human condition in the long term”.

 

 

Key Report Takeaways

 

 

As a Whole.

Our report is enriched by a poignant call for the reconsideration of art’s value within emerging markets by Tarana Sawhney, our Strategic Advisor in the region. Sawhney’s cultivated experience and bifold perspective as the Chairperson of the CII Task Force on Art & Culture (Confederation of Indian Industry), as well as an Advisory Board Member of the Foundation of Indian Contemporary Art (FICA), put her on the frontlines to advocate for the value of arts and culture amid a climate of foreign investment competition and Smart City focus, where art is, at many times, synonymous with non-importance.

 

After the 2018 release of a major report to promote the position of culture in India through situation of international soft power contexts, the suggestion of mutually beneficial models and the defense of viable stakeholding in the global $67b art industry, Sawhney, along with the CII Task Force, the Ministry of Culture, and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), known as the first private modern and contemporary art museum in India, worked together to bring India to the Venice Biennale in 2019 after an eight year absence.

 

As a founding member of the NGO Khushii and a patron of the arts in her own right, Sawhney is a premier example of the strategic duality of supporting humanitarian efforts and the arts in the same breadth, utilizing holistic handling to promote the well-being of health, mind and our connective human nature through engagement and visual inspiration. “I would argue that art and culture is the glue that binds us all together, it embraces diversity, it brings communities together, it gives us identity, it takes risk, it breaks barriers and it is ultimately what makes us human. A cause worth fighting for.” Her words are echoed in overwhelming support of this concept by the respondents in our survey of South Asia Art Patrons, as 95% express a strong personal interest, passion, and the belief that art and culture impacts the way we perceive the world around us, whilst 90% believe that giving to the arts makes a positive difference.

 

Sawhney’s strong advocacy, featured in our report, shines like a beacon and potential strategic opening as she unites details of India’s position with a call for action from the government and CSR endeavors.

 

As a Part.

One of twelve intimately portrayed arts entities, institutions and initiatives outlined in our report,  KHOJ International Artists’ Association, located in the historic city of New Delhi, is a multifaceted arts organization founded by artists, and in two years, will reach the milestone of a quarter century. Over two decades is a long history in the context of a still-emerging market, but simple beginnings in the late 1990s were not undone by a lack of institutional infrastructure or local support. We spoke at length with their Director, Pooja Sood, who is also one of the founding members of this pioneering artist initiative. 

 

Beginning as an annual workshop inspired by the Triangle Network launched by Robert Loder in the early 1980s, KHOJ brought together artists from across India to collaborate. Developing over the decades through manual network building and conceiving their own creative pedagogies, KHOJ has succeeded in enhancing their ecosystem to become the institutional infrastructure necessary for propagating art making on a community, national and international level. 

 

How have they gotten to this point against nearly all odds? Director Sood cites external funding from the Ford Foundation to have given them an essential helping hand in early days of enterprise. KHOJ is certainly an incredible example of what sustained philanthropy in the arts and cultural sector can accomplish, however, Sood notes that it has become increasingly more difficult to find private giving that is available for them to access. We concluded our conversation with her in a discussion regarding sustainability and the new funding models that KHOJ may be able to take advantage of in the near future. 

 

Concluding Thought.

KHOJ presents an inspiring example of the power of trust, commitment and collaborative effort in achieving something near-impossible, building something innovative and nourishing from nothing. The group of founding artists placed a great emphasis on the power of networks and bringing people together, in spite of distance, lack of pre-laid groundwork, and third world status. KHOJ’s name is defined on their website: “KHOJ. (to) search, hunt, explore, discover, discern, seek, inquire, trace, track, quest, research, investigate.” 

 

This cohesive unity and ambition to achieve the common goal of creative fulfillment can be something that we reflect on at the present moment. When, despite amplifying humanitarian concern, our arts community is reaching out through social media, online viewing rooms and digital museum collections in an attempt to provide a much-needed place for the public to feel the relief of positive mental and emotional engagement once again. However temporary that may be, in these unpredictable times. 

Creativity in Art and Technology

Artificial intelligence (AI) is easily one of the most defining and disruptive advancements of our generation with no signs of slowing down. While the modern concept of AI dates back to the 1950s, its technological advancement and growth in the past five to ten years has been unprecedented. Machines are now able to generate highly realistic images, video and text to such an extent as to challenge human creativity on a whole new level. The art world in particular is experiencing these effects through the proliferation and popularization of digital artworks created with the use of machine learning.

 

One of the first inroads into the field of art and technology stems from an area of machine experimentation referred to as computational creativity. In the 1960s, Bell Telephone Laboratories Inc. engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer alongside artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman formed a collective called The Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), which applied creative uses of computers. Today with the exponential growth of technology, a number of leading  artists of generative art including Anna Ridler, Jake Elwes and Mario Klingemann, are utilizing machine learning to create what is referred to as AI or generative art. These artists often use a type of algorithm called a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) which trains on a dataset of tens and thousands of images that can generate increasingly lifelike images and alter existing ones. Popular exhibitions including the “AI: More than Human” at the Barbican Centre last summer and the highly publicized $432,500 sale of the Portrait of Edmond Belamy at Christie’s in 2018 have spawn a newfound interest and hype around machine-made art. Many of these exhibitions and artworks, however, often take advantage of AI as a tech buzzword rather than a creative medium.

 

A general misconception as with much of generative art is that it is all done at a push of a button. This ultimately stems from a general misunderstanding of how machine learning works and its current capabilities. Generative artworks such as Mosaic Virus, 2019 by artist Anna Ridler is created with the use of an algorithm, however Ridler still needs to be programmed by the artist, given chosen data and complete direction. If a work were to be fully created by an AI, the AI would need to have the intention to do so. Instead, the process is led by the artist and their vision. As with any other art that experiments with randomness and elements outside of the artists’ full control, the outcome is a result of the artist’s experimentation with the uncontrollable elements. While the recently exhausted argument philosophising on “who’s the artist” sparks lively curiosity about generative art, the more interesting angle lies in “what does this generative art reveal about our relationship to AI technology?”.

 

Aside from the debate of who’s the artist, the art itself raises key questions on how these algorithms work; what can the machine see? A well-known artist in the generative art community named Robbie Barrat does not just use machine learning for the sake of it. Instead, Barrat imbues and approaches his works from a certain creative take on the technology such as exploring what a machine will output when he intentionally gets the algorithm to fail. By their nature GANs are meant to generate realistic images. However, Barrat tweaks his algorithms to generate more interesting, creative results seen with his distorted Nude Portraits.

 

 

“I realized that since it was much more interesting when the network did not correctly learn rules; I tried to generate nude portraits – and maximize the “misinterpretation” by the network.” – Robbie Barrat

 

 

His notoriety and innovativeness has drawn Barrat’s collaborations within the high fashion world with Balenciaga and Acne Studios to create clothing shapes with the use of GANs. Education and greater exposure of creative coding has created a huge growth of the “art and tech” community. Major technology conferences including NeurIPS (The Conference and Workshop on Neural Information Processing Systems) and Ars Electronica are offering more panels on creative computing. Digital art prizes, such as The Lumen Prize in particular, are creating a community fueled by a shared passion for art and technology.

 

The Lumen Prize for Art and Technology founded in 2012 by Carla Rapoport provides a platform for artists pioneering art and technology through an ongoing series of exhibitions, events and an annual arts competition. The 2019 winners included Refik Anadol for his “Melting Memories” digital artworks and Maja Petric with the 3D / Interactive Award for her light installation entitled, We Are All Made of Light. The jury panel was comprised of notable art world figures including Ben Vickers, the Chief Technology Officer of the Serpentine Galleries and Christiane Paul, Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum, signaling the seriousness with which digital arts are increasingly being taken in the fine art world.

 

During a recent symposium at the London Art Fair entitled, “Symbiosis: The Art in Science,” panelists including Sarah Cook, curator of the current 24/7 exhibition at Somerset House and Dr. Kay Barrett, curator at The Science Museum, commented on the inseparable connection between art and science. As Dr. Barrett put it, “science is culture.” Oftentimes science and technology are associated with logical, factual matters in direct opposition to the creative, open-ended and possibly irrational nature of the arts. However from a conceptual standpoint, the two could not be more similar. In essence the arts and the sciences are bound together by their explorations of creativity. A growing number of art exhibitions and leading generative artists are carrying over this mentality and education to the fine art world. Perhaps this is the generation that will finally bridge the conceptual gap between art and technology.

 


Devon Nocera is a curator at Art Acumen, a London-based art consultancy, where she manages artist commissions and advises on a variety of art and technology projects. She has a background in communications and brand partnerships with companies including Moët Hennessy, La Prairie and Vogue. Following her passion for art, Devon earned a Master’s degree in Art Business from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London where she wrote her dissertation examining the impact of artificial intelligence and the art world. Her Bachelor’s degree is in Art, Branding and Literature from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study within New York University. Devon is a member of the Association of Women in the Arts (AWITA).

Cross-Promotion in the Market

 

Cross-promotion, or cross-marketing, is a strategy often seen in banking and media conglomerates. Typical cross-promotion marketing schemes seek to benefit two diverse businesses to drive profit and increase audience shares. What does this look like in the art market and broader art community?

 

In the arts, cross-promotion seeks to gain the attention of another sector’s audience. In doing so, markets are able to indirectly increase their profits through new client acquisition. Closely related to the development of cross-promotion is the rise of cross-collection and co-branding. While 19th and 20th century collectors placed a strong emphasis on period categorisation and separation between art genres, current trends show institutions and collectors are seeking to break down these divisions.

 

Looking to diversify portfolios following the 2008 market crash, cross-collecting began to grow not only in buying habits, but also in the development of cross-sector art fairs and blended exhibitions. In 2012, Contemporary art fair Frieze London opened a sister fair, Frieze Masters, selling everything from “the ancient era and Old Masters to the late 20th century”. Masterpiece, launched in 2010, was created to specifically appeal to cross-collectors. Through the variety of galleries they accept, to the absence of zoning in the layout of the fair, Masterpiece seeks to appeal to collectors seeking to “juxtapose the old with the new”. Co-branding, on the other hand, pairs popular brands with high price tags, such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci, with artists to create limited editions. Co-branding showcases the potential success that two sectors with similar aims and consumer groups can find together.

 

WHICH MARKETS ARE SEEING THE BIGGEST IMPACT?

 

While there are a number of cross-promotional and co-exhibition examples in the market today, the greatest growth is between the Old Masters and Contemporary sectors.

 

To many, the Old Masters market is the pinnacle of art collection; the ability to add even one famous name from the art historical canon to your portfolio is a spectacular feat. For others, the market is difficult to get into, overly traditional, and requires a level of academic understanding that some collectors find daunting. Spanning a history of over 500 years and including the additional nuance of differences between regional styles, there is the question of where a collector should start. New collectors are also faced with unique restraints on the market, such as a limited market supply, museums as major competitors, and questions surrounding authenticity and authorship. Although the market is not the most profitable outside of the upper echelons of the canon, the Old Masters market has remained relatively calm over the years. 2019 is the first documented global loss for the Old Masters following several years of stable growth.

 

For collectors of Contemporary art, there are almost infinite opportunities to enter the market. Artists explore unique materials, investigate and comment on social, cultural or political issues, and generally seek to break the mould. In order to navigate the market, many contemporary collectors turn to art advisors to assist them with identifying works of value or by promising new talent. Prices also fluctuate much more in the Contemporary sector, adding a certain level of risk to those seeking to enter the market for investment opportunities. When Damien Hirst took to the auction houses in 2008, immediately following the Lehmann Brother’s crash, he hit an auction average over $800,000. By 2010 his average auction prices had dropped below $150,000, and they never fully recovered despite Hirst remaining one of the most recognised names in Contemporary art today. These challenges in the Contemporary market can be a turn off for collectors looking for more stability and works which have proven the test of time and tastes.

 

SEEING CROSS-PROMOTION IN ACTION

 

From the Victoria Beckham fashion collaboration with the Sotheby’s Old Master’s department, to the annual Blenheim Art Foundation exhibiting Contemporary art within a classical setting, to the Contemporary exhibitions inside an old royal residence at the Castello di Rivoli in Turin, cross-sector promotion has grown considerably within the last decade. Cross-marketing reaches further than just exhibition design. Following Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s filming of their music video Apeshit in the Louvre, the museum reported an increase of 25% in their 2018 visitor numbers. This again highlights an area of art marketing touched on previously: co-branding and influencer marketing. A similar example of this can be seen at the annual MET Gala, where influential celebrities bring a world-renowned museum into popular focus. Particularly relevant was the 2018 theme, Heavenly Bodies, which saw beautiful co-exhibitions of Contemporary fashion alongside Medieval art and record visitor numbers.

 

In 2019, two exhibitions intertwining Old Masters and Contemporary art launched in London, bringing gallery-focused co-exhibitions into the media spotlight. Visions of the Self, a collaboration between Kenwood House and mega-gallery Gagosian, saw the hanging of the UK’s most famous Rembrandt, Self Portrait with Two Circles, within a gallery surrounded by portraiture by big names of Contemporary art, such as Picasso, Freud, Koons, and Basquiat. Nearby at the Royal Academy, people lined up to see Life, Death, Rebirth, an exhibition designed to investigate the relationships between the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and Contemporary video artist Bill Viola. While both exhibitions received mixed reviews, Visions of the Self appeared the overall winner with both Gagosian and English Heritage looking for new opportunities of a similar nature. Research into the success of this collaboration is still on-going.

 

HOW CAN CROSS-PROMOTION HELP MARKET STABILISATION AND GROWTH?

 

Drawing on new audiences is vital for the continued growth of the art market. The 2008 economic crash is still fresh in the minds of art market professionals, especially following the global drop in auction sales of 19.8% from 2018. By building new client in-roads now, while the markets are relatively stable, dealers and other art institutions can better weather economic instability. Cross-promotional strategies allow for the targeting of brand-conscious consumers through emotional marketing engagement. Well-designed cross-promotion as a curatorial experience allows not only for the greater understanding of art as a whole, but also the introduction of new audiences who may otherwise have avoided an exhibition outside their tastes. Considering the historical trends of the market, and its preference for the segregation of sectors, the question becomes: will this inclination towards cross-promotional exhibitions and cross-collection continue?

 


Emily Smith is a gallery manager at Maximillian William, a London-based contemporary art gallery, where she manages international logistics, client relations, and exhibition design, among other projects. Her previous experience includes providing marketing strategy and project management to the Royal College of Surgeon’s Museum and Plowden and Smith, as well as assisting private artists with developing their brands. Dedicated to the arts, Emily received her BA in Art History from George Mason University with a focus in Classical and Renaissance period art. She later received an MSc in Early Modern History from the University of Edinburgh and has recently graduated with distinction from Sotheby’s Institute of Art with an MA in Art Business. Her dissertation analysed cross-promotional exhibitions between the Old Masters and Contemporary art sectors as part of a wider investigation into arts marketing. Emily is a member of the Arts Marketing Association.