ART AS INVESTMENT
Whilst it may seem daunting to waive conventional methods of investment, there are significant benefits to investing in modern or contemporary art. When considering alternative investment plans to place your savings into, most often overlooked form of investment is that of fine art, antiques and collectibles. However, when compared with other forms of investment, investing in art has the opportunity of providing high returns including the ability to beat the inflation rate, tax benefit potentials, avoiding interest rate fluctuations and the ability to enjoy and grow with the investment. In dissecting the benefits further, we conversed with the speaker of Collector’s Desk, edition seven by ARTRA Magazine and Saskia Fernando Gallery in partnership with Standard Chartered Priority, Sonal Singh, Director of Christie’s India in understanding the scope of art as a financial investment and its role in improving the quality of life of art lovers and collectors.
Christie’s, world renowned British auction house offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles and more. Sonal Singh, the Director of Christie’s India, is an art specialist who studied at Central St. Martin’s College and went on to study Modern and Contemporary Art further at Christie’s Education. She is also qualified in Art Business with a Masters Degree from Sotheby’s Institute of Art. In conversation with ARTRA, Sonal explored the inner workings of an auction house and how visual art attains value.
Q | What is the role of an auction house in developing and strengthening ecosystems of art industries ?
A | An auction house plays a different role. In an ecosystem of an art industry we are the secondary market. The first or the source is the creator and the works then ideally travel to a gallery, where they are shown and collected by collectors or museums and so on. Once they’re ready to sell, they come to an auction house. We make available works which are not necessarily available otherwise. You come to an auction for a number of reasons. One of them is of course the opportunity to buy things that are rare. We tend to price things a bit more attractive than the market price, because the whole point of an auction is that there is bidding. There is a natural price that is discovered through the bidding process. So there is a good chance you would get an artwork at a good price.
Christie’s, for example handles 80 different categories of art including handbags, jewellery, textiles, watches, wine. Art is not just limited to conventional art done on a canvas because there are different types of collecting. You could be looking for impressionist art or Indian art, but the point is that Christie’s in a sense becomes a one-stop shop. Once you have registered with the auction house you have an account with us and after that you are able to bid in any auction. I think the main reason we are different is that the material that we offer is of the best quality that you can get. Each auction is carefully curated and we are the leading art auction house in the world. There’s a lot of homework and research that we do to keep up that standard.
Q | What is the process behind selecting works for purposes of auctioning ?
A | I’m a specialist for the South Asian Art Department. When we start looking for works for an auction we always start with lists. There are certain things that we want. We tend to know what those things are because we are always looking. But there are certain factors that come into play whenever you are looking for material for an auction. The first is of course, quality. We look for works by particular artists and we might also be looking for a particular period. For example, the ‘43 Group, that whole period was so exciting for Sri Lankan modern art. We love having material by artists from that time, the late 1940s and 1950s.
We look at quality, the period, condition, provenance etc. Sometimes artworks have a beautiful story behind them. They might have been a leftover work, something from the 1940s and then traveled with the owners. Perhaps they may have been in catalogues and books. There’s always a historical narrative which makes a painting exciting. Obviously we look at certain things like authenticity as well. It’s a number of factors that come together to define what we look for.
Q | Why do auction houses have such a consolidated interest in the ‘43 Group ?
A | Because we’re a secondary market. We don’t work with artists, we only take material that is from the secondary market. So collectors want to just sell an artwork or because of the four Ds: Death, Divorce, Debt and Disaster.
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