Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Art comes of age as an investment for the wealthy

NEW YORK17 (Reuters) - International businessman Nicolas Berggruen, the son of a famous art dealer, saw a rare opportunity to expand his father's renowned Picasso collection during an auction this month, but he was left empty-handed.
Fierce bidding at the New York sale may have sparked a degree of regret, but not surprise. Art lovers and investors from around the globe pumped prices of master works to record heights.

Berggruen said soaring prices at auctions and other signs suggest a growing market for art as investment with the very rich seeking tangible assets as the global economy remains "shaky." "People have less and less confidence -- you can see in what's happening with the euro right now -- in paper money and more confidence in real things that are lasting, art being one of them," said Berggruen, who ranked No. 158 on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans in 2009. Berggruen, who is accumulating works for an expansion of Berlin's Museum Berggruen, discounted the notion of a bubble forming in the art market. Two days after the auction, he wondered if maybe he should have gone further in bidding.

Asher Edelman, the founder of ArtAssure, Ltd., which guarantees prices on portfolios at auction, said art has never been in greater demand as an investment and is sought after by traditional buyers and those in emerging markets.
"You're at the beginning of the up-cycle in art," he said, adding that international buyers are suddenly playing a much larger role. "It's become an asset class, either subconsciously or consciously, for everybody."

Art buyers who have not had the opportunity to purchase much since the financial crisis erupted in 2008, approached the spring auctions in New York with pent-up demand, Edelman said.
Pablo Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" sold for $106,482,500 on May 4, a record for art sold at auction. The total $224 million take from the collection of the late Los Angeles patrons Frances and Sidney Brody, was the third best for Christie's.

Christie's Chairman Marc Porter said the auction house does not encourage buying art purely for investment.
"We recognize that clients are more keenly aware of alternative investment opportunities while the global financial markets remain somewhat volatile, and fine art is a stable store of value that tends to appreciate over time," Porter explained in an e-mail. "Our most recent sales in New York were a perfect demonstration of that."

The record-breaking Picasso had been bought for $17,000 in 1950.

Turmoil in world stock markets over the past month and its impact on other securities and commodities markets should underscore the role that art can play in a portfolio, Edelman said. Other real assets, such as real estate and precious metals, have carrying costs and trading restrictions, while art has fluency as a currency, he added.
Edelman thinks most money will be worthless over time as nations devalue currencies and inflation soars. The euro is falling hard, and since December has dropped to its lowest in 18 months as debts of Greece and other euro zone nations are seen crippling regional economies. Drawing from experience in financial options while working with Nobel Prize winning economist Harry Markowitz in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Edelman and his staff are developing models that quantify everything around art sales aside from the subjective, such as historical price volatility and auction prices relative to estimates.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Photographers whose work I like - No 4 / Wolfgang Zurbon

I have known Wolfgang Zurbon for a number of years now. We met first at the Arles Festival in the South of France and whenever I'm in Cologne, where I write this now, Wolfgang kindly provides a bed and hospitality. Apart from his photography practise, Wolfgang and business partner Tina Schelhorn have run their active photography gallery, galerie Lichtblick for over twenty years.
Wolfgang's photographic sensibility is most certainly not of the Becher school. His work looks at strange realtionships, found in life wherever he looks. Bizare, highly colored and full of humour.
Here is some of his most recent work made for a commisioned project looking at the region of Rhein-Sieg-area near Cologne.

Wolfgang writes, "The unique possibilities presented by the medium of photography are comprised precisely of the dialogue with the outside world and the ability to continually question the perception of it according to one’s criteria, in order to expose it, transform it into a visual experiment. The key to the quest for order in photography, involving the interplay of bodies, objects, signs and spaces transforming them to a legible structure, to a comprehensible composition, is not to lose sight of chaos. It is exactly this “Drift” in the every surroundings that gives these photographs its unlimited liveliness."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

On The Move....

.... I will be in Cologne from Monday this week, then the weekend of May 8 & 9 in Poland for the Lodz fotofestival. The weekend after that back in Germany for the photobook festival in Kassel. Then to Heidelberg for the prepress production on my new book.
Paris from May 19 until June 6. Back to Heidelberg for the press-pass on my book and will fly out of Munich for home on June 10.

So with regret my blog postings will be few and far between for the next 6 weeks. Hopefully lots to report when I'm back.

Meantime, here's a picture of my studio space, empty of me but crowded with stuff......