Yesterday I was having a chat with a few artist friends and an art book editor here in Bogota, and as is not uncommon, the conversation turned to why one artist`s work is worth more than another. As is usual all the artists agreed that it has nothing necessarily to do with the quality of the work but more to do with the marketing behind the work and the support given by the galleries and the general players with the art world and markets.
Applying these comments to Colombia, the formal markets here, the artist support networks and infrastructure etc are all pretty non-existent. There is a good art market in the sense that people are happy to buy art they like. I can`t say they are always very studious in their decision making but that can often be said for general art markets around the world. Also, original art is pretty expensive when compared to average incomes in Colombia.
It is probably due to this lack of formal interest in stimulating the art market and related businesses within Colombia itself that has pretty much created a Berlin wall type scenario whereby the majority of art created in Colombia just can`t reach the right audience outside of Colombia and as such prices for many artists are limited by the economic reality of Colombia.
Those artists that have done well in Colombia and overseas have often through their own initiative and sweat gone overseas and done their own promotion. Even though it can pay off, major Colombain artists like Omar Rayo for instance will only command a price of around USD $15 – 30,000 for a good piece of work right now – and having said that his prices have tripled in the last five years probably due to the fact that he is now eighty years old! But he won`t be seeing much benefit of those prices for works that are being re-sold in auctions on the international markets.
How Much Is My Painting Worth?
Now thats almost like asking “How long is a piece of string?”.
Right now in London – at the London Business School – they are readying a conference on Art Investment. This is the second such conference. So, almost 500 years after the Medici family started the ball rolling by investing heavily in art, the world is just getting to the point where it is starting tor formalize the art markets – or al least, it thinks it is. The conference is titled “The Science and Passion of Art Investing”.
i am sure the conference will be very interesting – but I think when we try to bring science to analyze art markets we must be extremely careful or we will probably end up with no art and a lot of betting being disguised as investment in art. This will lead art markets down the road of the timeshare industry and the cowboy image it still has today.
International Art Values and Colombia
Having said all that, art as an investment can and should be something to be considered – but trying to formalize and or standardize international art markets will take an immense amount of time – if it ever happens. And here I return to my meeting of yesterday. One person commented that through the application of “science” to try and rank the artists of the world that one of Colombia`s top ranked artists would be positioned at number 36,000 in the world!!! Someone whose work regularly sells here for USD $25,000 and more would be valued at around $5000 according to the ranking process!!! So much for science! It might lead to a lot of people getting mad in Colombia were such a system to be brought in. And probably not only Colombia – science or pseudo-science when applied to the art markets could upset a lot of people and could actually scare off investors rather than provide them with security.
Having said this, the world is tending now towards a global integration – or globalization – which I suppose will lead to the creation of some kind of yardstick to measure art values by. If this is so, then the only way that an artist will rank will be to follow the rules of the algorithm that is doing the ranking – somehow, that seems to stink to me!
Art Markets Are Local (a.k.a Art and Football)
Art markets are always local. Always. Ok, The international art market does exist – but it probably moves less than 0.00001% of the art in the world. So, what to do about the art in our local markets. Should that $25,000 piece of art maintain its price or will it be devalued by globalization. I sincerely do not have an answer. But I do believe that it would be wrong to try and create a global playing field that destroys local market pricing. If a ranking system were to be introduced it should follow a FIFA soccer-type system whereby local clubs can be major players but also be major international players. Artists have to come up through the leagues, just like a soccer team. They have to build a following and maintain that. It helps when there is the right infrastructure and that is still what is lacking in Colombia which also allows for market distortions. So I really hope it comes soon.
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