More on reviving Hungarian Art market

The Hungarian art market is being reshaped by the same two fundamental forces that are changing the art market everywhere: the appearance of tremendous amounts of wealth and concomitant purchasing power (and need for social validation), and the inexorable drying up of inventory in pre-contemporary markets. Thus, prices escalate and collectors’ interests shift from old to contemporary, where inventory is theoretically boundless. After some major auction milestones in 19th and 20th c. masters, there is now vibrancy in the contemporary market as well. Formerly scattershot gut-impulse buyers are starting to purchase on a scale that may be called “collecting.” A notion is beginning to take hold among successful men and women that, through a methodical pattern of purchases, you can build up a collection with a specific identity. The thirty-somethings and forty-somethings at the upper echelons of business and finance have been exposed to the west. They have traveled, studied, and lived abroad. They speak languages and know the cultural codes. They’re paying attention, and they want to emulate the symbolic patterns of behavior common among the wealthy in the west.

The Hungarian art market is being reshaped by the same two fundamental forces that are changing the art market everywhere: the appearance of tremendous amounts of wealth and concomitant purchasing power (and need for social validation), and the inexorable drying up of inventory in pre-contemporary markets. Thus, prices escalate and collectors’ interests shift from old to contemporary, where inventory is theoretically boundless. After some major auction milestones in 19th and 20th c. masters, there is now vibrancy in the contemporary market as well. Formerly scattershot gut-impulse buyers are starting to purchase on a scale that may be called “collecting.” A notion is beginning to take hold among successful men and women that, through a methodical pattern of purchases, you can build up a collection with a specific identity. The thirty-somethings and forty-somethings at the upper echelons of business and finance have been exposed to the west. They have traveled, studied, and lived abroad. They speak languages and know the cultural codes. They’re paying attention, and they want to emulate the symbolic patterns of behavior common among the wealthy in the west.

Last spring, I visited a celebrity fundraising auction at the Budapest Kunsthalle presided over by a Habsburg princess. There was no gap between what I saw there and what you would perceive at any similar event in New York or London. Erika Deak, a dealer of the younger generation, reports Continue reading “More on reviving Hungarian Art market”

Report from Budapest

Budapest: the city continues to wake up, artwise. There is no shortage of money, and this helps. A friend reports brisk sales of Porsche Cayennes and other luxury cars, which are everywhere. Thousand-dollar handbags can be purchased (and are being purchased even by Hungarians) at the new Louis Vuitton store next to the opera house, which also diligently displays the Olafur Eliasson Eye in its window. The art market is also coming to life. Last fall saw the million-dollar sale of a small painting by Tivadar Csontvary Kosztka, the wonderful and woefully under-appreciated mad pharmacist who was Hungary’s answer to Van Gogh.

40-kerettel-s.jpgPictures of Csontvary can be viewed at the Museum of Fine Arts which is currently showing its own Van Gogh exhibition, the first ever in the country with dozens of smaller and major works set in a unique viewing gallery where pictures are set in triptych-like viewing booths in which people can look at works undisturbed by the hordes of visitors. (A space-age entryway has been installed at the gallery, with pneumatic double doors which first let you into a tiny cubicle, close behind you, then open in front of you.) There is the requisite cinderblock-sized catalog. The show is the first major exhibition to receive full-on corporate funding (from ING) — it all looks and feels very western. Best of all, Van Gogh did the museum a favor in having a name consisting of seven letters: precisely the number of spaces between the vast pillars on the museum’s facade, which are now filled with giant banners, one for each letter. The whole paraphernalia of modern museum marketing is in evidence.

Across town, the Ludwig museum is humming along on the Duna embankment. It’s part of a mega office-apartment park development where the developers installed a controversial cultural block. One element of it is Europe’s ugliest cultural building, the spectacularly awful Continue reading “Report from Budapest”

Late night TV in Beijing

Found myself idly channel flipping at 1am last night here in Beijing (sad I know) and came across “The Art Auction” a regular TV series covering (last night at least) a chinese contemporary art sale held recently at Poly Art Auction. The entire auction seemed to be covered (I didn’t stay to watch the whole thing) with a post-buy discussion (for each piece sold!) by a two man expert panel back in the studio. As far as I could work out with my nascent Mandarin they were discussing bid prices, people in the room and reasons for interest or lack thereof. I think this was the recent record breaking sale by Poly Art Auction. The commentators certainly seemed excited.

I mention this because it is an interesting example of the government here indirectly supporting the promotion of contemporary Chinese Art and Culture as a means of boosting pride in the country, and supporting social cohesion (through pride and nationalistic fervour) in general. Poly Art Auctions is owned by the same Chinese State Owned Enterprise that owns the Poly Art Museum (reputedly better than some of the directly state owned museums) here in Beijing. The programme, and other Chinese state owned media, cover each new record price set for a Chinese artist as an indication of the rise in stature of Chinese Art in general, paralleling the rise of China in other domains in the world. Buyers at these local auctions come from all over the Asian world (a recent record Chinese work was bought by an Indonesian Chinese businessman) but many are young succesful businessmen with new money. The heat of the contemporary market, and the source of the new money, parallels current (Art) affairs in the West. The government (indirect) support of rising prices does not. Another interesting factor in todays market bubble.

Big day on the Rialto

Can’t accuse the Italians of not having a flair for theatrical timing. Two headlines from the Times:

Italy Lends Antiquities to 2 Museums

Courtesy of the Italian government, visitors to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will find an unfamiliar antiquity on view today in each institution’s classical galleries. (full article archived at Museum Security Network)

and

Top Collector Is Asked to Relinquish Artifacts

Seeking to build on its success in bargaining with a few American museums, Italy has asked the New York collector Shelby White to consider returning more than 20 ancient artifacts that it argues were illegally mined from its soil, officials involved in the negotiations say…..The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where Ms. White is a trustee, has begun advance publicity for the April opening of its new Greek and Roman galleries, which are named for and were financed by Mr. Levy and Ms. White. Some antiquities owned by Ms. White and sought by the Italians are currently on loan to the Met, displayed within yards of the monumental court and atrium designed for the new galleries.

(full article archived at Museum Security Network)

Thoughts?

Statisticians to the barricades

For further reading and comment (has anyone read this book?)

Excerpted from Today’s NYTIMES:

“The Art of Pricing Great Art” By DAVID LEONHARDT

The mysterious part of the current [art-market] mania lies in figuring out what exactly makes a piece of art worth $30 million instead of, say, $1 million. Not even people who make their living selling art claim to have much of a definition of great art. In fact, they’re proud not to have one. “That’s where the market becomes magical,” Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s chief auctioneer, told me.For the last five years, though, a man named David W. Galenson, an art lover, modest collector and tenured professor of economics at the University of Chicago, has been trying to change this. He has developed something approaching a unified theory of art, which hasn’t won him many fans in the art world but does a surprisingly good job of explaining the relative value of the world’s great paintings. Even if you know nothing about art, Mr. Galenson can help you understand why Andy Warhol’s 1962 “Orange Marilyn” is expected to sell for more than his 1972 “Mao” at Christie’s postwar auction tonight.
Continue reading “Statisticians to the barricades”

The $4 million habit (from the NYT):

The Spending Habits of Hedgies November 9, 2006, 6:09 am

As the art market boils over this year — Wednesday night, Christie’s oversaw a record-setting $491 million sale that included works by Gauguin and Klimt — it is fair to say that hedge fund managers are adding some of the heat. Consider SAC Capital’s Steven A. Cohen, who recently agreed to drop $63.5 million for a Willem de Kooning painting owned by the entertainment mogul David Geffen. Kenneth Griffin, who leads hedge fund Citadel Investment Group, snapped up another painting from Mr. Geffen for $80 million inflatable pool slides.

A new survey of hedge fund professionals, who are a generally secretive group, suggests they are juicing not just the art market, but those for other goods as well. For his book Fortune’s Fortress: A Primer on Wealth Preservation for Hedge Fund Professionals, Russ Alan Prince of the consulting firm Prince & Associates, working in conjunction with trade publisher MARHedge, polled the buying habits of 294 managers with a median net worth of $61.7 million.

The book is not out yet, but MARHedge shared some of the survey’s findings with DealBook. The average respondent reported spending nearly $4 million on fine art last year, which means that among the survey participants alone, more than $1.1 billion of hedge-fund money poured into the art market. Continue reading “The $4 million habit (from the NYT):”