In the vast world of contemporary art, which upcoming talent will be a sure- fire investment? Amy Raphael asks some leading experts for their views and tips, finding that the best bet is just to go with the pieces you fall in love with.
They say you have to buy art with your heart. Hang it on the wall, look at it every day, let it be part of who you are and how you see the world. But what if you want to enjoy a painting, a sculpture or a photograph and know that it also might make money one day? How does anyone know who might prove to be the next Damien Hirst, the next Banksy, the next Tracey Emin?
The quick answer is they do not. No one knows for sure which artists are going to break through to become big successes in the next year, or the next five, or in a decade. It is part of the fun of buying art. You might get lucky and make a considerable profit; you might not, but you still have something interesting to look at. If do you spot an up-and-coming artist on the way, you can feel particularly pleased with yourself.
The longer answer is that there is not another Hirst, Banksy or Emin. Like or loathe their work, they are true originals. As Antony McNerney, head of contemporary art at Bonhams, points out: ‘The art market is savvy enough to spot followers. Take Banksy. His art is entertaining and quite political. He became famous for being the world’s greatest art terrorist. He took graffiti into the art world; he broke boundaries in a way that was truly amazing. I believe his work will stand the test of time. Obviously people are trying to emulate his work, but the simple fact is that they never will.’
I ask McNerney to name emerging artists whose work is original, exciting and collectible. He says it is not that simple. The buying and selling of art needs a context. ‘The situation at auction is different to being a dealer. Artists you take to auction have an established secondary market already. Even the first time at auction they will have been exhibited at internationally renowned galleries and have a recognised collecting base.’
Sale at auction is a very public way of selling. Dealers can keep price tags to themselves, but anyone can find out how much a piece of art has gone for at auction. This, McNerney says, can work either way; it can hype up an artist or it can decrease their value, if only for a short period of time.
And then, finally, he names some artists he really rates. ‘Gabriel Kuri is one for the future. He’s a Mexican artist who was born in 1970, studied in Mexico City and at Goldsmiths College, and who uses found objects to comment on contemporary consumer culture. He sells out regularly at Sadie Coles HQ and also at a gallery in Mexico. There’s another guy called Hurvin Anderson, a Birmingham-born 46-year-old whose paintings are both abstract and figurative, who has a big following.’
McNerney says that the art market is now a truly global business. He names China, Latin America, Russia, the Middle East and eastern Europe as emerging territories. Francis Outred, head of post- war and contemporary art, Europe, at Christie’s, agrees that boundaries have become blurred. ‘The best art normally reflects the world that we live in and it is clear to me now that the dominant theory and trend of the new century is the globalisation of art. The great artists of today are displacing themselves and merging cultures from their global travels and their unique life experiences.’ Outred says he is less in touch with new artists now than he has been in the past – though he adds that the projected animations of Japanese video artist Tabaimo and Christian Marclay’s ‘The Clock’ took his breath away at this year’s Venice Biennale – but is instead excited about certain countries. ‘I’m eagerly awaiting the rise of a new generation of Chinese artists using photography and film. It seems fairly clear that China will play a leading role in cultural developments in the 21st century.’
He is equally keen on Brazil. ‘The international profiles of Beatriz Milhazes and Adriana Varejão have led the way for a whole new wave of artists such as Tonico Lemos Auad and Daniel Senise, who have taken global concepts of art and adapted them to their own tradition. Although these artists are of the same generation, Auad and Senise developed a global audience in a second wave after Milhazes and Varejão. In turn, I believe the Latin American art of the Fifties and Sixties will be reanalysed, and the likes of Hélio Oiticica, Sérgio de Camargo and Lygia Clark will rise both academically and in the marketplace.’
The idea of artists being reassessed as trends come and go is a curious one. Outred mentions the Italian conceptual artist Alighiero Boetti (who died in 1994) and the German painter and photographer Sigmar Polke (who died last year) as potentially great investments simply because they tapped into the idea of displacing themselves and merging cultures from their global travels – and were thus ahead of their time.
Alistair Hicks, art adviser to Deutsche Bank in London, sees a similar shift with the artists who preceded the Young British Artists, or YBAs. ‘There’s a whole generation who were flicked aside by Hirst et al. Like Cornelia Parker, who I think is one of the greatest British sculptors. Actually, they are all women: Hannah Collins makes wonderful films. Susan Derges takes amazing, beautiful photographs. They are just beginning to claim their international places again. From a collector’s point of view that makes them more interesting long term; their reputations can’t be damaged because they are all serious, established artists.’
Hicks has an interesting job. A former art critic and the author of books such as New British Art in the Saatchi Collection, Hicks now spends his time searching out art for Deutsche Bank. The bank started collecting art in the Seventies and decided immediately that, as Hicks explained, ‘they would categorically not buy art for investment. Instead it’s all about engaging with the artists and also with the people who work in the bank.’
The bank has one of the world’s largest collections of art in any commercial corporation. At any given time in the London headquarters, there might be an Anish Kapoor sculpture in the lobby and works by the likes of Sigmar Polke and Henry Moore adorning the white walls. There will also be works scattered around the building by Nedko Solakov, Yane Calovski, Samuel Fosso and Maha Maamoun. Artists, in other words, who may not yet be household names in this country but who Hicks believes may break through. ‘Deutsche Bank sponsors the Frieze Art Fair and this year Solakov, who is from Bulgaria, put up a 12m work in the reception. A big, big, yellow piece of paint that looked rather like one of those abstract works of the Sixties. Then, beside it, in beautiful handwriting, but rather quirky and totally the opposite of abstract, are the words: “I ordered this yellow blob from the exhibition assistants, but later on I completely forgot the reason for this”. He’s certainly got a sense of humour.’
Hicks is equally enthusiastic about Samuel Fosso’s photographs of himself, particularly the one of him dressed up as a chief who sold Africa to the colonies. He says Maha Maamoun, though less well known than Fosso, also challenges images of Africa: ‘She does work reflecting our expectation of seeing Africa as a postcard. She did a series called Domestic Tourism; there is always something in her work that has been subverted.’ Yane Calovski, meanwhile, is a conceptual artist from Skopje, Macedonia, who attempts incredibly ambitious ideas that reflect on his country’s fractured history.
Hicks is so enthusiastic about each artist he mentions that it makes you want to go straight out and buy a piece of their work, whatever the price. It is easy to see how Deutsche Bank has made such a name for itself as an art connoisseur. Michael Darriba, head of lending and credit solutions at Deutsche Bank Private Wealth Management, works
with ultra-high- and high-net-worth individuals. ‘Ultimately, as a client moves up the wealth spectrum, they look to diversify their asset base and so they start to invest in art.’
Deutsche Bank can then release equity from a client’s art collection in order to facilitate investments elsewhere. And, very often, the client develops a real passion for art. ‘We get at least one or two meaningful enquiries a month,’ says Darriba, ‘and so we’re maintaining a strong appetite for this kind of finance.’ And having one of the world’s largest contemporary art collections, along with expertise and infrastructure, is, of course, a good way of engaging clients.
Everyone, it seems, struggles to a certain extent between buying art for pleasure and for potential investment. Mat Carlisle, creative director of Candy & Candy, says that some of the clients he advises on art can afford to do both. ‘I have a client at the moment, for example, who owns a piece of art that is worth four times more than his apartment. He bought this piece by a Russian artist 20 years ago because he fell in love with it. But the rest of the apartment is filled with investment pieces. The client admires them and they suit the interior design of his apartment, but he has no particular love for them.’
Carlisle firmly believes, like most art lovers, that you should buy what you like. Equally, he keeps an eye out for work he thinks his clients will love, but that is also likely to increase in value. ‘An artist hugely popular with our clients is Mitch Griffiths. His bold, beautiful and distinctive style of figurative painting in oils is inspired by the Old Masters. He experiments with their techniques, composition and lighting to produce powerful imagery that many call “photo real”. I first fell in love with his work when I saw it in an exhibition at the Halcyon Gallery. He’s going to be pretty huge.’
Candy & Candy’s clients have widely varying tastes. ‘Sculpture, for example, is important. Barnaby Barford makes one-off pieces from mass-manufactured or antique porcelain kitsch figurines. He deconstructs and then reassembles them as sculpture in a new context, often with a dark sense of humour. The way the figures are put together forces you to look at the scene in a disrupted way. I always get a feeling of fun when I see them. He’s slightly pornographic without being too offensive.’ Carlisle also rates Hush, describing him as ‘a new-school artist with a graphic design background… who merges street art with traditional styles to present contemporary depictions of traditional portraits and figurative imagery’, and also a Spanish artist called Pedro Paricio.
‘Pedro only works in acrylics. His colours are bright but his subjects are often dark, evoking an unsettling feeling in his work. He makes strong references to graphic design, primitive art and the work of 20th-century artists such as Bacon and Rothko. His style is basically abstract street/pop art – neither of which is very fashionable – and his subjects range from local folklore and folk music to philosophy.’
No one I spoke to, from the London auction houses to Deutsche Bank to Candy & Candy, mentioned the same artists. They may agree that art is now becoming truly globalised, but they each talk about different countries emerging.
However, one thing all these experts have in common is a conviction that art is worth investing in for the pleasure it brings you, if nothing else. The boundless enthusiasm of Deutsche Bank’s art adviser Alistair Hicks is wrapped up in a simple but persuasive ethos: ‘If you want to reap the rewards of being involved in culture… always, always follow your heart.’