An auction of contemporary art at Sothebys this week provoked some thought about how an artist, or even a piece of art gets classed as ‘important’ and actually what this means to the art buying audience. The auction at Sothebys was described as ‘a considered selection of artworks from Post-War innovators through to a new generation of artists working today.’ Prices ranged from thousands to hundreds of thousands of pounds, and many of the pieces auctioned sold for well in excess of their estimate, some reaching fifty percent in excess of the upper limit. None of the artists included in the sale were the superstars of the modern art world – no Koontz, Haring or Rothko – and yet those included were described as ‘important’ – and this seems to be the factor that pushed so many of the prices achieved above the upper estimate price.
Taking a look at some of the works sold, mostly abstract, modern works in this instance, I got to thinking about how the art buying public might possibly be persuaded or influenced to buy ‘important’ works. Discussion in the gallery on this topic centred on the reasons why people buy art. Three main answers to that – because the audience like a piece; because the audience has a ‘space’ that a piece of art fits into; because the audience views art as part of their investment strategy. And we agreed that it is the latter that is the most likely reason a buyer would be influenced by a view from someone in authority – like an art auction house or a dealer – whose opinion they trust. Fair enough, but would the first two reasons for buying art not be arguably more compelling? Buying art as investment, especially as part of a strategy for use of one’s investment funds, is fraught with risk and potentially could lead to disastrous consequences. One can only wonder what the collectors of Rolf Harris’ work are feeling in the light of recent events for example, and if pieces are being purchased only for their perceived value designated thus by ‘experts’ do the investing audience actually LIKE what they’re buying? Or are they just going on trend or analysis and not caring about the aesthetic value of the art they are buying. I would argue that it’s more important to actually own pieces of art that evoke a response in the audience, that fill a space in the collector’s heart, and not in their investment strategy. One may or may not end up with a piece of work that increases in financial value but the buyer who purchases pieces that provoke a feeling, or a way of seeing something differently, is intrinsically more valuable to the owner and the asset has more value than can simply be measured in financial terms.
Clearly I’m biased, but our customer base is one that values the intelligent, affordable art that we offer. Frequent introductions of new artists of interest, and operating totally independently the Gallery offers a refreshing art buying experience, one based on helping you find the pieces that you will love and cherish, regardless…
Below is a little flavour of what to expect from George Thornton Art.