welcome to collectors mind

This is a forum for sharing knowledge, gaining insights and shaping opinions. We will not sit on the fence here or play favorites. The language of art has changed in a blink of a year– today there are market makers, power brokers, savvy investors, flippers, fakes and fund managers. Collectors are nearly extinct. Why? Because collectors can see and COLLECTORS MIND. So together, let’s take a small step to make today’s buyers into tomorrow’s collectors. The future of art depends on it!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Going to Art Basel

This space will be quiet for a bit as I head off to Art Basel this evening but promise to give you a full account ‘from the floor’ once I get back so check in again after a week. Until then have a good one!

p.s. If you are also planning on attending the fair at Basel - give me a call at 9819986485 - I will be there 14th-18th of June

Saturday, June 10, 2006

are you an art collector or an investor?

You probably confront this question every time you buy at a gallery or sell thru an auction. What motivates your art buying decisions? How important is financial gain? Are you an art investor, a collector or perhaps a bit of both! Take this self designed quiz and find out. Select only one answer for each of the 12 multiple choice questions. Be honest, it might just surprise you

How often do you value your art collection?

  1. Whenever you read a newspaper article that suggests that art prices have jumped to new heights
  2. Every six months on average
  3. Every year primarily for insurance and tax purposes
  4. Never bothered

The economic climate is strained and you believe that the art market is going to crash in the next six to twelve months. What do you do?

  1. Start selling all your artwork while the going is still good
  2. Selectively cash out of your Tyeb’s and other valuable works
  3. Talk to your friends in the art world and seek their opinion and advise
  4. Do absolutely nothing

An acquaintance offers you a painting by Raza for half its potential market price. What do you do?

  1. Grab it instantly without hesitation
  2. Make frantic calls to your art dealer friends to confirm the price arbitrage before writing a check
  3. Ask for the provenance and some more time to think about how it fits into your overall collection
  4. Politely decline the offer and share your thoughts on what it might be worth

How do you typically make art buying decisions?

  1. Ask the dealer if the artist is a ‘good buy’
  2. See who else is buying then decide
  3. Study the catalogue, take a look at the works along with the price list
  4. Carefully look at each painting and decide if you like it enough to live with it forever

Your trusted art dealer calls you and offers a painting by Jitish Kallat before the exhibition opens to the public. How do you respond?

  1. Feel this is a great opportunity and immediately buy
  2. Ask if you can bring a date to the opening and reserve the painting
  3. Insist on a photo of the picture along with other details before you can decide
  4. Refuse to buy unless you can see the work ‘in flesh’

Have you ever bought art jointly with others?

  1. Yes often
  2. Have wanted to at times but not found anyone to buy with
  3. Only with my significant other
  4. Why would I do that?

The relationship manager at your local bank calls you with an ‘exclusive opportunity’ to invest in an art fund that promises double digit growth. What do you do?

  1. Show firm interest and reach for your checkbook
  2. Talk to your chartered accountant about it
  3. Understand all aspects of the fund in order to make an educated decision
  4. Thank the relationship manager for calling and politely decline the offer

You have been approached by an auction house to consign a painting you recently bought from a gallery exhibition.

  1. Consign the work without hesitation
  2. Ask about the reserve price etc and evaluate the option seriously
  3. Ask your significant other for his/her opinion before committing
  4. Flatly refuse

What is S.I.R in art parlance?

  1. Square inch rate – that was easy!
  2. I only know square foot rate
  3. An imperfect way to calculate the price of a painting
  4. Who cares

Before you buy a painting do you often ask yourself how much it would be worth in the future?

  1. Of course why but an ‘asset’ unless it appreciates
  2. The thought often crosses my mind
  3. I hope it is both aesthetically and economically rewarding over the long term
  4. Never a criteria

You notice a thin layer of dust has settled on a part of your canvas. What do you do?

  1. Ask your servant to dust it off
  2. Take a soft cloth and carefully try and do it yourself
  3. Send a close up picture of the troubled spot to the art gallery for their advise
  4. Immediately send the work to a restorer

You reach late for an exhibition opening of Subodh Gupta only to find that all the works you really like are already sold. The few remaining will probably sell before the end of the evening too. What do you do?

  1. Buy while you can from whatever is left – you’ve hear Subodh is an important young artist
  2. Generally feel upset that you lost out on a good opportunity and curse the traffic all evening
  3. Express your disappointment to the gallerist and ask for your name to be put down for upcoming shows by the artist
  4. Buy the catalogue instead and get it signed by the artist as a happy consolation

Now for your scores:

  • Read ‘A guide to 101 Modern & Contemporary Indian Artists’ every time you selected the first option: You look at art solely as an investment but are unsure of what you are doing and lack the knowledge or experience to make sound decisions. However, at least you are honest about your motive to make money. You might consider investing through an established art fund to maximize your gains
  • Check your wallet every time you selected the second option: Your primary motive is also return on investment and you seem to know your way around the art world. However, tread with caution as you might be a bit confused about what comes first - Art or Finance
  • Dine at ‘Wasabi’ every time you selected the third option: As a pragmatic collector, you understand all aspects of building a collection. The economics is important but it does not take precedence over the aesthetics. You relish the process to buying but are also open to selectively selling at various points
  • Seek enlightenment under the Bodhi tree every time you selected the fourth option: You are too idealistic in your approach to collecting and might be better served if you take a slightly more balanced view on art.

    Hope you learned a thing or two about your art motives, if not hope it’s been an interesting exercise. Happy collecting…or investing!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The New Art Economy

With record prices being fetched for Indian contemporary art, investors are making a beeline to acquire paintings with a hope to make a tidy profit. But can art really be treated as just another asset class? While the pundits of the art market debate the risks and rewards of buying art purely as an investment, let’s take a closer look and find out if art can really be a viable financial asset like stocks, bonds, gold and other traded commodities?

Make no mistake, even the mere whisper of art as investment elicits an ambivalent response from many in the art world, although secretly even some of the purists will agree that art can be a good investment especially over the long term. Yet, buyers need to tread with extreme caution. After all it’s not like you can wake up every morning and see how your Husain is faring as you can do if you owned stock in say Hindustan Lever. There are complex socio-economic and cultural factors including an artist’s historical relevance that influence the staying power and prices but art is above all a mater of taste and looking at it purely from an economic angle can be quite perilous – there are enough examples of artists such as American born David Salle who was ‘hot’ thru the 80’s only to be blown away by the winds of fashion only a decade or so later

Moreover, there are some obvious risks in trying to fit art into some kind of asset allocation model – for starters, the art market is not efficient or as transparent as some of the other markets and it is plagued with information asymmetry. Valuation of art remains an inexact science clouded in an air of creative mystery and there is no clear model for what drives returns.

Furthermore, art is not very liquid often taking several weeks if not months before you can offload a work at prevailing market prices, and even when you do manage to cash out, it comes at high transaction costs (which can be as much as 40-60% when you add up all the costs involved in buying and selling such as commissions, premiums, taxes, transportation, insurance etc).

Another big drawback is that art does not have the ability to provide regular returns in the form of dividends or rental income and may not be suitable for those looking to generate predictable cash flows from their investment. Add on to this pile the problems of storage, insurance, risks of damage and deterioration and you quickly see why investment in art is not as straightforward as it seems.

Despite all of the above, the way prices have soared over the last few years, art & finance have become familiar bedfellows and you can hardly blame accidental buyers who have seen the value of their collection soar even as their portfolio of stocks and bonds have provided only lackluster returns in comparison (especially rings true for investors abroad). Even if you are not an investor, it is surely comforting to know that the art you own has increased in value – if nothing else, it validates your good taste and judgment!

In Part II next time we will look at the emergence of India centric art investment funds and discuss what they are and what they mean - to you and to the art market.