Art and Business, opposites or identical?

Art has always been seen as a fickle industry and not taken seriously, much like a professional career in juggling balls. However, if one were to mention art and business, many would think of them on different sides of a spectrum. However, over at Forbes, they beg to disagree. They have dubbed those in the two fields ‘idea-revealers‘ and going on to elaborate that an artist and a businessperson is identical in the sense that both artistic and entrepreneurial ideas are only made to manifest through “experimentation, creativity, and collaboration” and “to address some aspect of human need”.

It is ironic as too many students who would rather pursue art, end up in business instead. However, art is one of the best investments a businessperson could ever make – provided they have the eye for it. Take for example, da Vinci’s ‘Salvatore Mundi’, sold just last month for $450 million dollars. Originally owned at just $200, it disappeared into history around 1950 and only emerging recently, in 2005, when a pair of business owners purchased it for $10,000 dollars believing it to be Renaissance-era work. Upon restoration, it was revealed to be painted by Leonardo himself.

Artwork has become such a fixture in society that there are banks allowing art to be collateral for loans. Art-backed credit is not a recent trend but is not well known due to certain problems. Firstly, there is the question of its authenticity. Secondly, artwork is not as easy to value as a diamond or some piece of jewellery. Furthermore, art collectors are oftentimes reluctant to part with their collection due to the fragile nature of paintings or other forms of artwork, especially if aged in which case it requires special care.

A specialized division by Dr. Tim Hunter called Falcon Fine Art, is enacting a movement allowing collectors to retain possession of their artwork in order for owners to properly preserve them and also to encourage art-backed loans.

Art collection has become a business of sorts in recent years. While it used to be a luxury item for those who appreciate art, it is being increasingly monetized. Over at Art Works, an art gallery which originated from Sydney, Australia, collectors are presented with the option to lease their purchases for display. The company takes 1% of the income whereas the buyer will see a return of 6% per annum. This means that a $100,000 painting will fetch the owner $6,000 every year.

They hope to groom the market to start seeing artwork as an asset that can generate income, rather than something that sits at home gathering dust. Art Works has put its roots down in Singapore, opting to target the Asian market which has been steadily growing for the past ten years. They carry pieces from all around the world, but is focused on Asia, mainly China, but also from the UK and Australia.

China has seen its fair share of growth, rising by 20 percent in 2017 with domestic auctions dominating the field. While Chinese investors have been looking to the West to expand their galleries, the government is very strict on its relics leaving the country as they seek the return of their heritage. Anything created prior to the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, is banned from being traded internationally. Deborah M. Lehr, a business consultant opened up regarding this matter on The Diplomat, announcing that if China were to “be a global player in the art world, it should not fear competition” and goes on to suggest that by “opening doors to foreign auction houses (it) will raise standards among Chinese firms”.

On the other side of the continent, a Danish start up by brothers Mattish and Jeppe Curth, wants to broaden the virtual trading world of art by creating what they call a mix of Instagram and Linked In: Artland. CEO Mattish Curth says that “five years ago, no one thought you could seriously buy art online. Now, the online market is growing by double digits, and in 2016 the overall share of the market was 8.4% out of a total market value of €32 billion euro.”

Employing the use of an app, they have created a platform for galleries and art collectors to conduct business. It also acts as social media for art enthusiasts, whereby they may get to know those that share their tastes. They have recently gone global in September, 2017.

However, fine art trade remains to be exclusive and geared to the wealthy, who pay extortionist amounts for the privilege to insider information such as auctions. Art critic Robert Hughes once stated that “the biggest unregulated market outside illicit drugs” is the art world. Financial Times report that “the market lacks transparency and auctions are susceptible to manipulation” and that “dealers’ inventories can be artfully managed to massage prices”.

Fanciful jargon and the use of tactics to generate income by offering services and products, perhaps art is merely business disguised with a mask – a very expensive and elitist one at that.

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