E. d’Ursel: “Art goes beyond investment, it is a daily passion”

Decision makers. How is it that the contemporary art market has matured so quickly?

Hubert d’Ursel. Contemporary art froze until 2000. In fact, we have noticed since the 1990s the fall of the art market due to the financial crisis in Japan. The Japanese, who at that time were big speculators of impressionist art, bought paintings with the aim of reselling them at a profit. This phenomenon took on considerable proportions and lasted for several years before the country disappeared from the radar, which then led to a collapse in the art market and prices. It wasn’t until the 2000s that contemporary art took off, especially for some artists like Anselm Kiefer, who at the time was over the highest selling price for a living artist. Since then we have seen an influx of artists who have become very famous. Thanks to the phenomenon of globalization, many fortunes have been created in several previously developing countries such as China, Russia, Brazil, or even in the Middle East region.

Wealth creation goes hand in hand with the art market and prestige…

Absolutely! Wealthy people buy art, and this phenomenon repeats itself in history. We experienced it in an accelerated way because today the world is changing faster. Modern art has taken over modern impressionist art, and thanks to the abundance of offers, the works of these two movements are sold at sky-high prices.

“Wealthy people buy art, and this phenomenon is repeated in history”

We also note in all developing countries – in the Middle East, but especially in China – the establishment of public or private museums and art centers. Very sensibly, the big Chinese auction houses and galleries were already doing numerous sales in the big cities thirty years ago, and when China – the second largest art market in the world after the United States – saw that the situation had changed in the last fifteen years, the country began to promote very fashionable Western artists such as Jeff Koons, Christopher Wool and Louise Bourgeois. Then they presented their work to wealthy Chinese at fairs in Shanghai or Hong Kong, which allowed the Celestial Empire to integrate into the art market. Finally, this very short period, marked by a phenomenal acceleration in which demand and supply created a boom in contemporary art, allowed the market to globalize.

How can art be a suitable investment vehicle?

Art has value and is determined by supply and demand. Thus, the more investors bet on an artist, the more his value rises, and in general, quality goes hand in hand with demand. As an integral part of heritage, art goes beyond an investment and is a passion, as opposed to an unreal asset. Admittedly, art is a niche that is a small part of the heritage and does not generate permanent income, but remains important in the lives of investors. It also offers tangible investment, an aspect that has proved important in particular during the health crisis. Finally, art can be overused with works at exorbitant prices, while there are creations available to everyone that represent good investment opportunities.

What are the current trends in the art market?

This sector is undergoing significant changes. We remember the pop art movement, represented by Andy Warhol, the symbolic artist, followed by abstract art. In recent years, color and figurativeness have been in trend. Some painters, in particular Magritte, returned to surrealism, creating colorful paintings filled with poetry. Among the materials frequently used in contemporary art are faience and porcelain. Despite its attractiveness, the art market comes with many risks that require the involvement of specialists and the dedication of time in order not to make a mistake in your investment.

Has the pandemic changed investment in art?

The health crisis was an incredible electric shock in the sense that access to art was limited. Almost all major fairs have been canceled for two years and galleries closed for several months. The moment was decisive for those who survived and plunged into the digital age en masse: auction houses and major galleries rapidly multiplied their digital offerings to the point where their visibility remained unchanged and they were able to hold on. Within a few months, major auction houses like Christie’s adapted perfectly, allowing art to become sustainable and continue to sell despite the closure. Coming out of the pandemic, fairs have returned en masse.

“The world has changed, but traditional show sales will continue”

In addition, digital remains an important tool: last March in London, I attended Christie’s major digital sale and spent several hours in amazement watching live auctions from New York to Hong Kong, passing through all the capitals of the world. World. Of course, the world has changed, but traditional fairs and sales will continue, because nothing can replace a real work of art, especially if it has value.

How profitable is it to invest in art in 2022?

The best way is to observe new artists and current trends while getting advice from an independent expert to guide you through your purchase. In addition, it is necessary to check that the works are in good condition, with a good pedigree. Finally, buying with heart is essential! It is better to invest a little, but well, and devote yourself to the best works of the artist. Everyone has periods that are better than others, so it’s important to have a good expert accompany you.

Juliet Woods Interview