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.




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.




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.




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.

ArtForecaster Player Profile | Maya Mikelsone

Maya Mikelson

Paris, France

Joined: April 2017
Skill Level 9: Art Market Analyst
Number of forecasts: 1,185
ArtForecaster Achievements in 2019:
Seasonal Winner Expert League 2018/2019
1st Place – Mixed Auction ArtForecaster Competition May/June 2019
2nd Place – Grand Slam ArtForecaster Competition London – June 2019
3rd Place – Grand Slam ArtForecaster Competition New York – May 2019
1st Place – ArtForecaster Spring Competition 2019 – April 2019
2nd Place – Grand Slam ArtForecaster Competition London – March 2019


Some of you may not know that ArtTactic is the first art market research company to use crowd-sourcing as the main tool for collecting qualitative and quantitative data on the art market. From the outset, ArtTactic’s goal was to build a global art market intelligence network of thousands of knowledgeable, experienced, and talented individuals. The launch of ArtForecaster in 2015, has helped us surpass that goal by further expanding our crowd sourcing initiatives and growing the pool of innovative and new art market data. But, what exactly is ArtTactic Forecaster?


ArtTactic Forecaster (or colloquially, Forecaster) is a platform developed internally by ArtTactic which runs weekly predictive competitions based on lots coming up at auctions around the world. The competitions attract professionals from the auction industry, art advisors, art appraisers, dealers and collectors. The Top 100 most active players provided an aggregate of 25,000 forecasts on individual fine art objects in the last 12 months alone. One of those top players is Maya Mikelsone who is an art curator and an art advisor based in Paris. Maya holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy of Art from the University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne as well as a certificate of curatorial training from Ecole du Magasin, Centre National d’Art Contemporain de Grenoble. Prior to her current position, she worked in several contemporary art galleries including, Foundation Cartier pour l’art Contemporain and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Bordeaux. Maya also lectures at the American University of Paris.


We recently spoke with Maya to ask her a bit more about her involvement in the art market and why she is motivated to play Forecaster. She even shared some helpful tips for anyone who wants to try it out themselves.


ArtTactic (AT): Tell us about yourself, your journey into the art market and your business.

Maya Mikelsone (MM): I was preparing myself to become an art curator but during my last semester of my Master’s in Philosophy of Art at Sorbonne I chose to do an internship at the legendary Yvon Lambert gallery where I discovered my passion for the art market. Afterwards, I continued to work as a curator in art institutions but I was certain that it’s not for me. Since then it’s already been 6 years, and now I mainly focus on private collections and actively working in art market.


AT: What are your future plans for the business?

MM: To continue my ‘haute couture’ way of working with my clients. Meaning, I prefer a very individual approach based on trust and discreetness. I have very different clients which makes what I do day-to-day vary—from research, to traveling around the world to find a particular work of art.


AT: How do you think the art market needs to adapt to the new/ next generation of collectors and artists?

MM: It needs to be more open to new collectors as it is still exclusive for only a small circle of established clients and not yet accessible for young collectors. Instagram is an impressive tool of communication and a way to display artists’ work. It’s also useful for collectors in that they can communicate internationally with ease.


AT: What role does technology play in your day-to-day work in the art market?

MM: Coming back again to Instagram, I start my day by opening my Instagram. Then, emails come after…It is almost like an online gallery.


AT: What technology do you believe could have a major/ disruptive impact on the art market?

MM: In the long term, blockchain will have an impact on the art market. It will make it more transparent and easier to operate.


AT: What do you see as the biggest opportunities for the art market over the next 10 years?

MM: A new generation of collectors and new markets. It will become more global thanks to technologies and art fairs.


AT: What do you see as the biggest challenges for the art market over the next 10 years?

MM: The art market is a very emotional market and it is influenced greatly by uncertainty, particularly political. The world in 10 years will be different, but it’s hard to predict in what way.


AT: What motivates you to play Forecaster?

MM: It’s a combination of playful spirit, knowledge of the art market and curiosity to feel the pulse of the art market in different parts of the world. I am following all major Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary auction sales results.


AT: Any forecasting tips for people who wants to try it out?

MM: Trust your intuition based on knowledge.


Quick fire:

Favourite artist of all time: I can’t choose between two so, Frank Stella and Cy Twombly.

Favourite NextGen artist (artist under 35 years old): Many! Robin F. Williams, Oli Epp, Sarah Slappey, Fabian Treiber to name just few.

Geographical art market with the most potential over the next 5 years: Asia and Southeast Asia

Top gallery exhibition this year: Artur Lescher at Almine Rech, Paris

Top museum exhibition this year: Jean-Michel Basquiat at Fondation Louis Vuitton


Feeling competitive ahead of this Autumn’s auction sales? You can play too at https://artforecaster.com/.

Starstruck: The Impact of the A-Lister

Image courtesy of Christie’s. The pre-sale exhibition of the George Michael Collection at King Street saw thousands of George Michael fans © Christie’s 2019


‘Sting and Trudie Styler to auction art collection; single works could fetch up to £500,000’

‘Wham! George Michael’s Art Collection Fetches $12.3 Million at Christie’s London’

‘David Bowie’s personal art collection sells for £33 million at London auction’


These headlines boast the extraordinary amounts of money that celebrities can rein in for auction houses. To be exact, from 2016 to the first half of 2019, single owner collection sales totaled $3,56 billion across Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips. This being 9.34% of total sales for all three houses. Auction-buzz usually forms around one or two significant pieces up for sale. But when celebrity collections go under the hammer at auction, there’s a different phenomenon that occurs. Every piece seems bound by their noteworthy ownership. Of course, provenance is a vital part of the matrix of factors that combine to decide an artwork’s value. But how is this impacted when a celebrity has owned the piece? Is there a celebrity premium?


The George Michael Collection Evening Auction on the 14th of March 2019 was a major sale for Christie’s London. As the headline reads, this single owner collection sale brought in just over $12.3 million for charity, beating its pre-sale high estimate of $11.9 million. Several works on offer broke artist records which suggested there might in fact be a ‘George Michael premium’. Harland Miller’s fictional book cover Incurable Romantic Seeks Dirty Filthy Whore (2007) sold for $314,527, two times more than Miller’s previous auction record of $93,485 (£75,000) for I am the one I’ve been waiting for (2013) achieved in 2015. Jim Lambie’s CarelessWhisper (2009), a portrait of Michael, sold for $231,757, exceeding its high estimate of $22,436 (£18,000) by almost ten times. Lambie’s previous record at auction was achieved in 2013 at $113,783 (£91,250). Finally, Angus Fairhurst’s A Couple of Differences Between Thinking and Feeling II sold for $125,811, almost three times more than the artist’s previous auction record of $34,349 (£27,500) in 2018 for a similar work. Considering just these three lots, there was a significant price premium paid for works in the George Michael Collection. It also seems that the sale could have reignited interest in artist markets that may have gone stale in the past four to six years.


The pull of celebrity auctions is undeniable. Whether it be an art world celebrity like the Rockefellers or a superstar like David Bowie, celebrity branded auctions have proven to pay off majorly for auction houses. In an increasingly competitive secondary market, auction houses will likely continue to use single owner collection sales as a branding and marketing strategy. It is also a way to attract new buyer pools outside the traditional art world client base. For the George Michael Collection, thousands of fans flocked to the London exhibition to see the art and enjoy artifacts from the musician’s career. This generated a further £250,000 in charity proceeds through the purchase of limited edition catalogues and tote bags. Being able to share a collection with a global audience inherently attracts more attention to the sale and ultimately, creates more bids. As Christie’s Paola Saracino Fendi said in a podcast with the Art Newspaper, “a big name always creates excitement”. Fendi continued to say that people involve themselves in this type of sale because they were fans of the celebrity. This differentiates the buyers because they’re not concerned about who the artist is, what their market is like, or whether it will be a smart investment – which, in turn, makes for an exciting auction environment (paraphrased).


So, what celebrity auction will be next? And who will break the single owner collection sales record? My bet is on Sir Elton John or Madonna.

Guarantees Swoop into the Old Masters Market

Image courtesy of Sotheby’s. Handler presenting Lot 8, Johann Liss (1595-1631) The Temptation of Saint Mary Magdalene ©Sotheby’s 2019


Financial guarantees—the art market’s hybrid of hedging risk and rolling the dice—are now finding their way into Old Master auction sales. As we wrote in our inaugural Auction Guarantee Analysis, guarantees are playing an increasingly important role at the top end of the Post-War & Contemporary art market, with guarantees frequently accounting for 50-60% of the total estimated value. While this phenomenon has become commonplace for Post-War & Contemporary sales, and even Impressionist and Modern sales, the Old Master sector is considerably new territory for financial guarantees.


Simply put, guarantees offer a high level of certainty (and security) for both the auction house and the seller. This agreement allows the auction house to secure a consignment and the seller receives a minimum price, regardless of the final hammer. Guarantees are a neon-sign of the increasing financialization of the market. But what does this mean for the Old Master market in particular?


In London last week, Sotheby’s and Christie’s held their Old Masters Evening sales on Wednesday the 3rd and Thursday the 4th of July, respectively. Together, the two houses brought in a sales total of £59,880,000 (excluding buyer’s premium) with 87 lots on offer, with sales total down 2% from last July. However, looking at Sotheby’s and Christie’s independently, one can see the major discrepancy in sales totals: £47,675,000 for Sotheby’s and £12,205,000 for Christie’s, despite Sotheby’s having fewer lots on offer (37 compared to Christie’s 50).


There is no doubt that guarantees provided Sotheby’s with an added boost this season with a 35.2% increase in year-on-year sales. The July 2019 Evening sale was practically pre-sold for Sotheby’s, with 11 of 37 lots guaranteed. These 11 lots were estimated to bring in £28.5 million and ultimately realized a total hammer price of £29.53 million, or 62% of the sales value. Sotheby’s nearly doubled its offering of guaranteed lots in 2019 compared to last year’s July Evening sale, where 6 guaranteed lots were on offer with a total average estimate of £3.6 million. These lots realized a collective £5.79 million hammer price (excluding buyer’s premium), making up only 16% of the total sales value.


Christie’s, on the other hand, decreased their guaranteed lot offering by half compared to last year. In 2018, 4 guaranteed lots were offered at an estimated average total sales value of £1.9 million and realized a total hammer price of £4.38 million (excluding buyer’s premium). This year, the 2 lots with guarantees were estimated to sell at an average total of £550,000 and realized a disappointing £360,000 total hammer price (excluding buyer’s premium).


The guarantee “status” of the Old Masters market is promising as it shows confidence in the sector like never before. Perhaps, the pendulum is swinging back towards the Old Masters market after hovering around the Post-War & Contemporary market for some time. This being substantiated by the decrease in guarantees and sales totals in Post-War & Contemporary sales this past June. It also shows signs of new opportunities for buyers and sellers, and as we explained in our Summer 2019 Old Master Paintings Report, recent art discoveries have pumped new life into the Old Masters market and auction houses are consciously re-branding Old Master weeks with a 21st century spin. All things considered, it seems the art market really is out with the new.


Photo Market 2018: Three key takeaways

Compared to other auction markets, the photography market seems to persist as an enigmatic entity that is stunted by its reproducibility of medium and resulting inability to reach the significant hammer prices that other auction markets enjoy. ArtTactic’s Photography Auction Market Analysis 2018 looks at this complex market highlighting last year’s trends and developments. Here are 3 key takeaways from the report that begin to peel back the curtain on this less understood market.


1. New report methodology reveals almost half of photography sales value came through contemporary day and evening sales between 2015 and 2018: This year, and moving forward, ArtTactic has decided to include not only photography dedicated sales in its market analysis report, but also photography sales in Post-War & Contemporary day and evening sales channels. Why? Peter Gerdman, Head of Market Analysis and Products at ArtTactic, explains that, “Historically, we looked only at photography dedicated sales, but the issue with that approach is that you only get one small snapshot of the market. By introducing additional components and sales channels you get a wider view of the photography market as a whole.” He continues, “For example, there are artists, like Richard Prince and Wolfgang Tillmans, whose works primarily sell in Post-War & Contemporary sales. These artists cater to a specific type of collector who are predominantly involved in that sector of the market as opposed to the traditional photography market. In the 2017 report we didn’t see that.”


2. Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gursky, and Wolfgang Tillmans generated 93% of their sales value through the Post-War & Contemporary Evening and Day sales. The top 5 artists by sales value in 2018 were sold primarily through Post-War & Contemporary evening sale and day sales, rather than dedicated photography sales – Richard Prince was sold exclusively through Post-War & Contemporary channels. Irving Penn, however, sold exclusively through dedicated photography sales. Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gursky, and Wolfgang Tillmans straddled both auction sales channels with the majority of sales being made through Post-War & Contemporary art channels. Outside of the top 5 selling artists by value, but still within the top 10, artists sold primarily through dedicated photography sales. This included Robert Mapplethorpe, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, and Helmut Newton.

It is interesting to consider the sales channels through which artists are selling as they play a role in understanding the layered structure of the photography market and how they also change the perceptions of value for a photographic work. For example, when a photograph is placed in a Post-War & Contemporary sale does this change its perceived economic and cultural value? If we look at two artists that frequently straddle both Post-War & Contemporary day sales and dedicated photography sales, Hiroshi Sugimoto sold for an average price of $32,343 in photography dedicated sales versus $59,245 for Post-War & Contemporary day sales from 2015 to 2018. Thomas Struth sold for an average price of $58,797 in dedicated photography sales compared to an average price of $82,634 in Post-War & Contemporary day sales during the same period. These average price differences are likely to be influenced by edition numbers and size of the artwork, however this still reveals something about the auction hierarchy and the value associated with selling through different auction sales channels.


3. The photography market is not in decline, rather it is taking a breather after an exceptional year in 2017. The photography market fell 26.5% in 2018. Total photography sales at the three major houses (Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips) amounted to $62.3 million in 2018 which is down considerably from $84.8 million in 2017. The number of lots offered was also 11.9% lower than 2017.

Fingers point to Christie’s as the main contributor to the overall decline in photography sales in 2018. The significant drop in photography sales from the auction house (after a record season in 2017) can be attributed to three factors: firstly, a 79% drop in sales of photography in their Post-War & Contemporary Evening and Day auctions from 2017 to 2018. Secondly, a 34% drop in sales in the dedicated photography sales for the same period and finally, a rescheduling of the Masterpieces of Design & Photography Auction from October 2018 to March 2019.

Although photography sales weakened in the last 12 months, it was still 9% higher than in 2016 and 20% higher than in 2015, so rather than being a sign of a market in turmoil, it looks like it’s just catching its breath.


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