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Archive for the ‘Art Funds’ Category

Curator Valerie Doran on ‘Hope and Glory’ and challenges for Hong Kong art world – interview

Posted by artradar on May 28, 2010


HONG KONG CURATOR INTERVIEW

Valerie Doran, Hong Kong-based independent curator, writer, and translator

For a place that has been repeatedly touted as a cultural desert, Hong Kong has managed to attract arts practitioners from many walks of life who are dedicated to working with the challenging realities present within the Chinese city-state. These creative professionals are forging an atmosphere in Asia where the contemporary arts are accessible and alive. Valerie Doran, an independent curator originally from Rhode Island in the United States, embodies the spirit of these determined arts professionals who are striving to transform the parched art landscape of the former British colony.

Her most recent project, Simon Birch’s Hope & Glory: A Conceptual Circus, has been lauded by Art Forum Online as a ‘critic pick’ and praised by numerous media outlets, including the New York Times. However, Doran asserts, the exhibition represents more than a critically acclaimed artistic endeavor, and serves as an ‘intervention’ into the Hong Kong art world, “finding a way to do something in a place where it’s impossible to do it.”

A creative spirit seeking revolution

Valerie Doran is a dichotomy: a gentle creative spirit who harbors an intense attraction to revolutionary ideas. As a Wellesley educated translator and arts scholar who majored in both Chinese and English Literature, she effortlessly exists in both eastern and western cultural worlds. As a Chinese translator and expert in traditional Chinese literature, she can read and speak fluent Mandarin.

Valerie arrived in Hong Kong in the early 1980’s as a Wellesley-Yenching fellowship recipient at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where she studied Chinese intensively and taught classes in the English department and core curriculum programme. She later studied at the National University of Taiwan while the territory was still under martial law, and became involved in the burgeoning local avant-garde arts scene, which was riddled with political activists. Of the mid-80’s Taiwanese art scene, she says:

“Artists and the dissidents were very linked, and were all kind of loosely affiliated during this interesting time. There was a lot of patronage of artists by corporate people who themselves were quite liberal… Many of these people were early supporters for what became the Democratic Progressive Party.”

Her Path to Curating

Doran’s journey to becoming an independent curator included working for the distinguished Johnson Chang at Hanart TZ Gallery, which has been an instrumental gallery in pioneering contemporary Chinese art. During her 3-year stint at Hanart, Doran first began dabbling in curating contemporary art exhibitions. It was then her interest in curatorial practice was thoroughly peaked, and she enrolled in the Hong Kong Art School’s curatorial studies program, run jointly at the time with New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

In 2008, Doran was one of the first independent curators selected to curate a show for the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Her exhibition, Looking for Antonio Mak, earned wide attention, and was named as the best Hong Kong exhibition of 2008 by Time Out Magazine, as well as being cited as one of the 10 best exhibitions internationally of that year by the China edition of Artforum Online.

Most Recent Project: Hope & Glory with Simon Birch

Her most recent project is Hope & Glory: A Conceptual Circus, inspired by Hong Kong’s British expatriate artist Simon Birch. The show encompasses 20,000 square feet in ArtisTree, a non-profit art space that exists within a sprawling office complex, and is one of the largest multimedia art exhibitions ever created in Hong Kong. The show’s installations utilize video, sculpture, costume and sound design, live performers and 2-dimensional paintings to create a fantastic, interactive environment. Running themes include the journey through life and transformation, the ‘hero’ mythologies of various cultures, and science fiction. The show also maintains a definitive preoccupation with craftsmanship and the process of producing art.

Art Radar’s writer and researcher Erin Wooters met with Valerie Doran to discuss her experience and the challenges of curating Hope & Glory, a mammoth and unprecedented project, with no comparable exhibition ever attempted in Hong Kong. Valerie’s revelations are surprising, and include details of the conceptual performance that didn’t come to fruition in Hope & Glory due to the grave injury of the human ‘artwork’, how exactly the Birch Foundation managed to secure government funding for the show within Hong Kong’s hyper-competitive and chronically under-funded art scene, and what this exhibition means for the future of contemporary art in Hong Kong.

'Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Paul Kember. Curated by Valerie Doran.

How did you meet Simon and become involved with this project?

Simon was one of the artists in my ‘Looking for Antonio Mak’ show, so that’s how I met him. What I was looking for [in artists for Antonio Mak] was not a style—I was looking for a level of sensitivity and a voice. There were artists that I liked and I wanted to work with, and I wanted a figurative painter.  I had seen a painting of Simon’s, and I didn’t know who he was, but when I saw one of his paintings I was very struck by the texture of the brushwork. So I met him. He had never heard of Antonio, and I showed him Antonio’s catalogue and he was almost in shock because he responded so strongly to the work and the imagery. So he wanted to do it … After that show completed, he asked me if I’d work with him on ‘Hope and Glory’.

Can you describe the process of curating the Hope & Glory show?

We met for over a year, working on this concept, the floor plans, the narrative, and the sub-narrative. There was a lot of discussion. Then, 3 months before the show opened, Robert Peckham from Hong Kong University, who is a history professor who had seen both the ‘Antonio’ show and a smaller show that Simon did during his illness, which was a really powerful show called ‘Out of the Darkness’, got to know Simon and was very interested in this project, so we had discussions with him. There was a lot of in-depth conceptual thought and discussion, which lasted for about a year, that went into this show. The show was very formed in Simon’s mind and he already knew certain things that he wanted to do. However, the show as it is now also has elements that were changed, or gotten rid of.

This is a very unique show. How was curating this exhibition different from your previous experiences?

It was a very different experience from curating a show that I generated the idea. This is a situation in which an artist came to me with a concept for a complex multimedia installation, and asks to have it curated, so what does that really mean? It is a very different role. The closest analogy that I can come up with to describe our relationship is an editor and a novelist. Editors come across novelists with all different levels of formed work. Some may be very sketchy, or have just a few chapters. It depends on what stage you get into the relationship with the writer. So, you must challenge the language, challenge the structure, and challenge the concept.

'Crawling From the Wreckage', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot, including an interactive viewer. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Douglas Young. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Were there any surprises or unexpected difficulties in the making of ‘Hope & Glory’?

One of the key installations, the living room installation, originally wasn’t like that. It was originally all stage, and a key concept that ended up not being able to happen, was that he hired a guy he knows to transform himself into a super being. To transform himself, an everyday guy, into an iron man athlete over the course of a year. So, the guy started training for about 6 or 7 months, and filmed himself everyday, and that was to be edited into a film about his transformation. And then over the course of the exhibition, over 2 months, the man was to always be sitting in the living room. What happened was that 6 or 7 months into his training, the guy almost broke his neck during training. It was just before Christmas, and he severely injured his neck, almost severed his spine. So obviously that didn’t happen. Simon has him on video on one of the TVs on the floor, but the overall concept had to go. It didn’t happen. We decided then it would be fun to change the living environment into the computer vector cage, and create a cage for humans in the living room space.

When it came time to build the show, it was also so complicated to build that he hired a production company that usually sets up rock concerts. Because, no one knows how to do an art show here, except people who work at the museum. No one knew how to build it. We had to start from scratch with everything. It was hideously difficult.

I also knew I was taking a big risk, as was Simon, who was taking the biggest risk of all, because he’s put everything he has into the show, and he busted his butt for over and year and had to find a way to do something in a place where it’s impossible to do it.

'Spinal Mount Starcracker', 2010. Hope and Glory installation shot, by Simon Birch. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Are you satisfied with the show? Does it achieve your intentions?

I think it fulfills Simon’s vision, and I believe it’s achieved something. I believe we’ve constructed a pretty interesting world for people to enter and take something away. I think it has communicated a lot of personal vision of the artist, and I think it is conceptually multilayered and very interesting in that way. I think in terms of the physical realization of the physical works, that partly due to time limitations and all the other limitations when trying to do this, such as money and space, that certain things weren’t pushed to the limit and there are things we weren’t able to realize.

I think my collaborative experience with Simon was more problematic than expected, but that’s ok. On many levels I feel very amazed by his achievement, and I’ve learned a lot… The fact that we were able to pull together so many interesting people in the forums, and to see the students coming in, it’s awesome.

The show has gotten a lot of attention and a lot of press, and there is a really great article in the International Herald Tribune, and that’s all great, but that’s not the key issue for me.

Were pieces transported into the space or built in ArtisTree?

The large-scale sculpture pieces like the star and the steel ball, and the letters were made in a factory in Guangzhou, according to the technical drawings. The production supervisor would go out there and send photographs back.

The steel frame for the trophy ball was created in Guangzhou, and the trophies were put on by hand, one by one. And engraved one by one. The cage living room (‘Crawling from the Wreckage’) was put up string by string.

What is inscribed on the trophies?

On the ‘Spinal Mount Starcracker’… The name of every artwork Simon’s ever made and every person he’s ever loved or has been a friend to him is on those trophies, so that’s why he calls it ‘my life in a thousand cheap trophies.’

Can you tell the story about how this was funded?

Simon is an outsider in the art scene. He’s a Westerner. This is a very personal show for him, and he’s taking risks and exposing himself to a very unsympathetic, hermetic contemporary art scene.  The show has done a lot of amazing things in a lot of ways, but people are suspicious, asking, why is there government funding? Why did the tourism board give money for the show? We find this criticism quite hilarious, because Simon was working on the show for two years, with me for one year, and was maxing out all his credit cards and scrounging for sponsorship.

We heard about a mega-event fund, through somebody over at the NGO art organizer. They said, there’s this crazy fund you should try for, because they’re supposed to fund entertainment, sports, and cultural events, and they’ve got a ton of money. The main criterion is that you have to guarantee that at least 10,000 people will come to your event. The second thing is that you have to show that it will attract tourism, and that it will help benefit the image of Hong Kong. So Simon was like, let’s go for this. I’m thinking, are you crazy, they’re never going to give this to a visual artist. But why not try it, what have we got to lose, right? So, I asked a friend of mine who worked with me on the ‘Antonio’ show, who used to be a government accountant and is now an emerging curator, to come look at these forms and help us understand them. Simon also did a lot of research online about how to fill out these forms.

We filled out the forms, submitted them, and Simon was really surprised when he got short listed and called back for an interview. Then, we made the second cut, which meant that we were one of nine proposals asked to submit a seven minute PowerPoint presentation to their selection committee. That amazed us. This was all in February—we didn’t even know we had any government funding until March. All these artists are accusing- oh, they could only do this because they got government funding—which is wrong.

We had KC Wong with us for the presentation, who is a friend of Simon’s and a really great artist. He was originally going to do a piece in the show but it didn’t work out. The 3 of us went to meet 20 people in business suits at the Tourism Bureau and Leisure and Cultural Services Department, and there was a question and answer session and it wasn’t hostile. I was so surprised they were actually interested in knowing more. I never expected they’d give us money.

We were really shocked when around February we were told they were going to give us a matching grant for up to 2 million [HK] dollars for production costs. That means that we have to spend 4 million [HKD] on production and they’ll give us 2 million. However, the overall value of the show is over 15 million Hong Kong dollars [approximately 2 million USD] . That includes the sponsorship, venue (which we didn’t have to pay for), the graphic design, and the banners. This is all sponsored. For our education program, we got $50,000 HKD from Louis Vuitton to do our forums, which we are also using to pay for buses to bus in students from less advantaged areas.We were able to invite the Symbiotic Dance Troupe, a community-based group incorporating physically handicapped dancers, to perform at our first forum, and they did an interactive work inside the installation, which was absolutely beautiful. So we’re using the money very wisely and producing an educational pamphlet for students.

All the actors in the films, the designers, the film directors, and the musicians—they’ve all done this for nothing or for very little. So the main cost is the production but the value of the show is on the scale of the Tate Modern.

So does this mark a first for artists trying for this government fund?

Well, it is a relatively new fund and most artists would never even consider it. They all go running to the arts development council, where artists usually get money… Yet, here is something interesting, because it’s supposed to raise Hong Kong’s international image. Hong Kong is trying to strengthen its creative industries and make itself the creative capital of Asia, but still does not include the fine arts or visual arts within their definition of a creative industry. So, the fact that we are able to get this money actually for a visual arts project from this unlikely source, and they are willing to take a risk and fund us, is a very good thing.

'Twilight Shadows of the Bright Face', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Prodip and LucyAndBart. Curated by Valerie Doran.

How do you feel about the critics who call Hong Kong a cultural desert?

The way I look at it is this: Hong Kong is not a cultural desert, and there are a lot of talented people that are doing excellent work whether in the performing arts, music, visual arts, or theatre. The ‘desert’ is the lack of platform for them. The desert is in the cultural policy of the Hong Kong government. It’s a conceptual desert, not a real desert.

So, what is the definition of a desert? It is a place where things don’t get watered. There are plants, water them! If not, they have to move elsewhere to survive. Except for the performing arts, which has more of a platform and is better known, everything else has to move to the periphery to find ‘water’. They have to water themselves. That’s the desert.

Of course art can never be government generated, but, in the West you have a mixture. You have the Guggenheim, a private museum created by a collector, you have PS1, and there are artist-generated spaces. But here, space is at a premium—it’s valuable, it’s money. The government also doesn’t know what to do, because they don’t trust the artists. Even the ADC [Hong Kong Arts Development Council] —if you apply for $120,000 [HKD], they give you $50,000 [HKD] because they assume you are exaggerating funding needs. Everybody is always under funded.

What do you think the show means for Hong Kong?

I don’t know. I just think it’s this weird entity that happened. One thing it means for sure is that more people have been exposed to a serious multimedia installation by an artist, and been exposed to an artist’s vision. That’s amazing. That’s what you want.

What is the biggest challenge for advancing the arts in Hong Kong?

Space is a huge issue in Hong Kong—space for the visual art, where  is it? The museum? No.

1A Space is great but it’s way out there. Artists have to invent their own spaces here in Hong Kong. They are amazing in that way.  But the problem is that they’re not accessible to most people so there tends to be this kind of interiority or privacy, a self-contained, almost clubbish atmosphere here in the contemporary art scene. If you’re not a member of the club, it’s a problem. When it’s like that in art, it’s not a good thing.

There are a lot of new laws, like the ‘80% law’, which I find to be criminal. For instance, if developers are able to convince 80% of tenants to sell their properties to them, then you would be forced to sell your flat. People talk about post-colonialism, but I don’t believe there’s any such thing. There is just always a new colonizer, and right now the colonizer is the developers, and the government allows it. Together, they are colonizing Hong Kong space. That has to stop, and needs to be more rational.

Which Hong Kong arts organisations do you appreciate?

In terms of an organisation that has made a new contribution in the past five to ten years, definitely Asia Art Archive. I think Asia Art Archive is a very important organisation.

1A Space is good, and has been struggling to stay open. They are artists in a government owned space; that’s really tough.

There are some important grass roots initiative projects run by artists. The Kai Tak River Project is run by artists and architects who are trying to preserve the Kai Tak River Area as a cultural space, and this involves a whole lot of other issues.

The musicians and theatre performers in the San Po Kong district who moved into factory areas to have rehearsal and performance space have also formed an organization. The government has a new initiative to develop the San Po Kong area, so they are trying to throw everyone out. But, where are they supposed to go? They have formed their own group to try to change things. [The San Po Kong Creative and Cultural Industry Concern Group]

'Tannhauser', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Gary Gunn. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Are there any particular galleries you value in Hong Kong?

When it comes to commercial galleries I prefer not to answer that question, but in terms of non-commercial galleries, I can say that it’s really great there are some new locally run galleries showing more conceptual works with a less commercial and more experimental style. Like the YY9 Gallery, and the Exit Gallery. These put on small and interestingly conceived shows that are less commercial, which I think is really great.

Do you attend biennales?

Not really. Frankly I don’t have a lot of time to travel because I’m very busy. I have a child and I teach. I get to some things here and there, but biennales are not a compelling interest of mine.

How do you stay informed about the art world? What do you read?

I think I read very much at random. I’ll read some of the Western art news, like Art Forum, Art News, and The Art Newspaper. I actually find a lot of interesting stuff in the Financial Times; they have a great Arts and Culture section. Occasionally the Wall Street Journal. I’ll also look at Yishu, which is a contemporary Chinese arts journal published out of Canada. And Orientations Magazine, because I am also interested in traditional art, and I have a background in traditional Chinese painting.

However, I do research a lot of particular topics that I’m teaching. For instance, I may read about Indian art or the contemporary scene in miniatures from Pakistan. I’m not the kind of person who regularly reads a whole range of things; I’m very much driven by my personal interests.

What literature and writers have influenced your thinking?

There is a very intriguing text by the 17th century ‘eccentric’ painter Shi Tao, called in English ‘Enlightening Remarks on Painting. It is quite a radical and conceptual text in its way, and I have re-read it and drawn from it many times since I first read it more than twenty years ago.

Another book is ‘Ways of Seeing’ by the British humanist and critic John Berger. In fact, the text of Hope & Glory’s educational pamphlet, which we designed for students, (conceived by myself and Robert Peckham of HKU, with text by Robert) was inspired by Berger’s approach.

What projects are you looking forward to next?

[Laughs] Sleeping! Actually, I am involved in another project but we have not gotten to realize it yet, partly because of Hong Kong’s weird ‘creative industries’ definition. The project is ‘In Dragon Garden, which is a beautiful private garden in Tsuen Wan, and the granddaughter of the founder has managed to preserve it from developers. With her aunt and uncle, who now own it, they want to create a public cultural and artistic environment and garden. However, getting the support to do that is very difficult. So I’ve been working on a prototype art project with that, and so far we have not been able to realize it because of funding issues.

I would like to do another show that breaks the mold of how things are usually done here. I would like to work with a single Hong Kong artist and just do a major show in a major space, because no one does that. Like in New York. I just want to do that to change the paradigm. It’s great to have art in these private intimate spaces, and that’s why Hong Kong art has developed the way it has, in a very interesting way. But we need to break out of that and think about projection.

The other thing I’d like to do is create a different kind of space. And I’d love to be a curator and get paid for it. That would be exciting. [laughs]

EW/KN

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Posted in Art Funds, Art spaces, Artist-run, Curators, Democratisation of art, From Art Radar, Funding, Gallery shows, Groups and Movements, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Installation, Interviews, Museum shows, Museums, Mythical figures, Nonprofit, Performance, Profiles, Research, Sculpture, Simon Birch, Sound, Space, Valerie Doran, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dinesh Vazirani CEO Saffronart speaks about 2010 market outlook for Indian art – Arttactic podcast

Posted by artradar on March 28, 2010


INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART MARKET OUTLOOK

CEO of on-line Indian auction house Saffronart explains that the collector base for Indian art is changing

Dinesh Vazirani is the CEO and Co-Founder of Saffronart, the world’s largest online auction house for fine art and jewelry. In the Podcast interview with ArtTactic, he reviewed the performance of the Indian art market in 2009. He also shared his observations on the changes in the Indian art market in the recent year. Moreover, he shared part of his formula of success in running an online auction platform of such scale.

How was the performance of the Indian Art Market in 2009? To what extent has the Indian Art Market recovered from the financial crisis in 2009?

A lot of changes happened in the post financial crisis period. The initial six months was a difficult time for the art market. The base of the investors and collectors changed quite dramatically. Investors and speculators that are active in the post financial crisis disappeared from the market. There are real collectors looking for good value and premium quality. In the later part of the year with the Indian economy getting better, confidence and perception changed. We saw some of the collector base come by and want to buy the best of the best.

 In the early part of the year, prices of modern art retreated by around 30-50% and contemporary art by 50-80%. Modern art prices recovered by 15-30% later in the year and contemporary art came back by 10-15%. In 2009, the Indian market underwent a transitional change. The players changed. Some galleries and auction houses shut down and some opened.

How is the heavy presence of speculators a threat to the sustainability of the Indian Art Market?

Speculators come into the market and drive up the prices. In 2005 to 2008, prices rose dramatically which brought in a whole slew of speculators, investors, private dealers, collectors and funds. In 2009, after the financial crisis, these players disappeared but they will come back if the value is right. However, it is not expected that they would be jumping into the market as fast as in 2005. This downturn in Indian Art is the first ever downturn in the history of Indian art. Most people have not gone through a downturn to understand the implications of it.

What pattern has been developed in the collector base?

The previous collectors of Indian Art are large corporate houses and business houses in the India subcontinent. However, in the last five years, the collector based has moved from a business house concentrated end towards a broader collector base, which constitutes a lot of professionals, younger collectors from the finance field and young business people. Interestingly, some are from outside of India. In 2006, more non-Indians collected Indian contemporary art and wanted it as a cultural bridge.

What is your outlook for the Indian  art market in 2010?

Players will be coming back to purchase work  and a new base of buyers are expected too. There were people wanting to come in to buy during 2005 to 2008, but the price rose too sharply then, so they want to come in now and see if they can get premium values. 2010 will be dependent on two things. One is the perception and confidence of the Indian base customers and the other is the participation of non-Indian buyers in the post finance crisis period in the art market.

Why has Saffronart been so successful as an online auction house when no auction houses have found equal success in this format?

For the past 10 years, we have been building up the collector base, giving them the confidence and transparency and improving the technological platform. On the other side, we have been doing physical exhibitions and previews all around the world, including San Francisco, L.A., Mumbai, New Dehli, Hong Kong and London. To make people confident, we added the brick and mortar side. It is the “the click and the brick” that has made Saffronart so successful. Nearly every business is heading to the direction of going online.

Is the art market fundamentally changing because of the web?

Over time, there will be a strong shift towards online transactions. People will transact more online or even leaning more to mobile bidding platforms. These mobile bidding platforms have been enormously successful. 

 To listen to the original Podcast, please click here. Arttactic has a range of fascinating interviews with art market influencers and is worth a browse.

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Posted in Art and internet, Art Funds, Asia expands, Auctions, Business of art, Collector nationality, Corporate collectors, Ecommerce, Globalisation, Hong Kong, India, Indian, Individual, Interviews, London, Market transparency, Market watch, Mumbai, New Delhi, Recession, Website | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Two contemporary art museums planned for Moscow

Posted by artradar on September 12, 2009


RUSSIAN ART MUSEUMS

Two new contemporary art museums are planned for Moscow reports Artinfo.

National Centre for Contemporary Art

Facade of National Centre for Contemporary Art

Facade of National Centre for Contemporary Art

Mikhail Mindlin and Leonid Bazhanov, directors of the National Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow, initiated the plan to establish a new contemporary art museum in the region. The $100 million proposal, although not government-funded, is approved by the Minister of Culture Alexander Avdeev.

Mindlin and Bazhanov face two options: “either wait until the crisis is over or form a partnership with gallerists and local businessmen who show an interest in contemporary art.”

On July 24, the Ministry of Culture invited a number of gallerists and businessmen to its private session.

According to ARTINFO, attendees included:

Gary Tatintsian, owner of Tatintsian Gallery (which recently sold a small Jake and Dinos Chapman sculpture to the center at a discounted price after no one stepped up to buy it following its debut at a group show there four years ago), and Alexey Tsarevsky, head of Horizont Finance Company. Horizont is owned by Valery Nosov, who also owns ArtMedia Group, a publishing house that puts out two art magazines — Art+Auction Russia (a publishing partner of ARTINFO sister publication Art+Auction) and Blacksquare — and an arts and culture Web site, openspace.ru. Tsarevsky promised help from Horizont, including “consulting with the center on the predevelopment level and financial administration of the project.

The goal is to complete the project by 2015.

While in the process of developing a new museum, Mindlin and Bazhanov hope to expand their current museum too:

The two, who would lead the new institution, plan to expand the center’s current home to include 25,000 additional square meters (269,100 square feet) of new exhibition space, as well as a café, storage facilities, and a cinema, among other amenities. Essentially, the center would transition from a small, state-funded institution to a large and complex one, with the new museum inheriting its management and resources.

Their plan is not exactly new. The center already expanded once, in 2004, adding a three-story building as part of a larger redevelopment plan that would have included a large hotel and financed the center’s activities with money from developers. The current proposal adapts the earlier plan to the realities of the current economic situation. For example, with most of Moscow’s building projects on hold, no commercial spaces are planned to accompany the future museum, and it’s unclear if the new project will be subject to an architectural competition.

Stella Art Foundation

That Obscure Object of Art. Collections of Stella Art Foundation. Displayed at the Venice Biennale.

That Obscure Object of Art. Collections of Stella Art Foundation. Displayed at the Venice Biennale.

In tandem, Stella and Igor Kesaev, respectively the director and the funder of the Stella Art Foundation, have recently purchased a Constructivist garage in the centre of Moscow for a planned museum to house their foundation’s collections.

The couple showed their private collection of postwar art in Vienna a year ago, and the foundation financed an Ilya and Emilia Kabakov exhibition at St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum(www.hermitagemuseum.org) in 2005, as well as Culture Minister Alexander Avdeev’s trip to the Venice Biennale for the opening of the Russian Pavilion this year.

Despite the state’s inability and reluctance to provide financial aid, the Ministry of Culture may still provide funds by drawing on Russian businesses.

Russian oligarchs invest in art to rehabilitate their image with the Kremlin, buying works abroad and bringing them (or “returning” them, in patriotic terms) to Russia.

Read full article at ARTINFO

Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Posted in Art districts, Art Funds, Funding, Moscow, Museums, Russia, Russian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Emerging Chinese conceptual artist Li Hui defies recession at Christies Hong Kong Asian art sale December 2008

Posted by artradar on December 6, 2008


Amber

Amber

EMERGING CHINESE ARTIST HONG KONG AUCTION

Christie’s Asian Contemporary Art sale on 1 December was surprisingly encouraging for the art market, at least the Asian contemporary art market, although perhaps not too much should be read into that just yet. Nevertheless it was successful.

Some commentators have moaned that only half the lots did anything and in any event that estimates were restrained. This is just silly. In the present financial environment it should have been a disastrous sale. Going by previous economic downturns, it would have been.

But for some reason it did ok, in fact more than just ok, and right now that “ok” is very impressive, even ‘encouraging’. Interpreting this is difficult but it probably has a lot to do with the massive expansion of the art market since the last major downturn in the late 80s (by comparison the Tech Crash was just a wobble) and the fact that the market has also matured enormously since then, becoming vastly more professional, transparent (yes, compared to where it used to be, it is now positively crystal) and its consumers more numerous and as a whole better educated. To see whether Christie’s sale was a one off or whether there is real significance to be gleaned from it, we’ll just have to wait for further similar sales around the world in the next 6 to 12 months.

One of the artists who made the sale successful was Li Hui, a conceptual artist who works in diverse mediums including transparent neon-lit perspex sculptures and laser beams. Born in 1977, he graduated from Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2003. Since then he’s been very busy and has gained a lot of attention, particularly from Taiwan and Korea, but not so much in the West. Until now.

On sale at Christies was Lot 912 Amber (2006), a transparent LED lamp, acrylic and stainless steel sculpture in the shape of a generic sports car and encasing the (also transparent) skeleton of a huge reptile. This work was previously shown at the 2006 Shanghai Biennial. It looks just stunning. As for its intellectual games, well for now I leave them to you. Christie’s estimate was HK$500,000 – $800,000 (USD $64,808 – $103,692). It’s sale price was HK$1,580,000 (USD$204,879), a sliver shy of double the highest estimate. And just to prove it wasn’t a mistake, a similar work Lot 913 went for HK$1,160,000 (USD $150,418 ) or almost 50% higher than the high estimate.

And this is not the first time he has done this. Li Hui’s work has been outdoing estimates for a while. See for instance Christie’s May November 2007 and May 2008 sales. The figures are impressive enough but that is only half the story. Remember that Li Hui is still quite young, only 31. Also remember that these works are not paintings, there is no Pop Realism or Political Pop to be seen. This is very refined conceptual art. It might look cool but it still demands that you think hard about it. In this context, the sale prices are event more impressive. By no means is Li Hui’s work easily affordable art but I have no doubt that its market price is headed in one direction only.

chrismoore24030549    Contributed by Chris Moore, a writer and a partner in the contemporary art investment firm mooreandmooreart.co.uk. He lives in Shanghai and specialises in contemporary Chinese art.

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Crisis to impact art prices, number of Asian collectors increases – Business Times

Posted by artradar on November 4, 2008


ART PRICES FINANCIAL CRISIS

With fear at near panic levels recently in the stock market, it would seem almost anomalous that life goes on in some segments of alternative investments. No, we’re not talking about hedge funds or commodities, both of which suffer the whiplash dealt by severe market plunges. Instead, welcome to the rarefied world of art collection and investment. Proponents of the segment argue that art, being a real asset and devoid of the mind-numbing complexity of derivatives, should retain its sheen as a ‘passion’ investment.

Art is tangible with inherent value says Christie’s

Says auction house Christie’s president (Asia) Andrew Foster: ‘We stand in a curious position. Art is a very real and tangible thing. Clients agree that art has inherent value. So you start with the proposition that it’s not a highly leveraged investment. That’s almost refreshing now.

‘That doesn’t mean prices don’t fluctuate, but value is agreed upon and inherent, and it springs from cultural and global trends more than trading multiples.’

Christie’s confident about November Hong Kong sales

Christie’s recently exhibited highlights of its upcoming Fall 2008 auction in Hong Kong, to take place at end-November. ‘Our sales are nearly two months down the road; we’re confident markets will calm down,’ says Mr Foster.

Art, however, isn’t that impervious to the fallout from the evaporation of trillions of dollars in stock market value. Nor is it immune to the belt tightening that has ensued as individuals brace for more difficult economic conditions.

But recent Borobodur and Sotheby’s Asian auctions disappointing

Two auctions of Asian art last weekend, for instance, fell short of pre-sale estimates. Borobudur Auction’s two-day sale of Chinese and South-east Asian art fetched nearly $10 million, compared with pre-sale expectations of $18 million.

The recent Sotheby’s sale of contemporary Asian art in Hong Kong was also disappointing, with a number of works unsold or drawing bids below reserve prices.

Citi Art Advisory – stock market drop causes short term bounce and longer term fall

Citi Private Bank’s art advisory service senior vice-president Suzanne Gyorgy says that a prolonged economic downturn will take its toll. ‘A downturn in the equities markets often initially causes investors to turn to tangible assets. The art market can benefit from this turn to alternative investments with a bounce in the value, counter-cyclical to the equities markets.

‘However, a prolonged economic downturn in the equities markets will first result in a softening of the real estate market which is then followed by a downward adjustment in the art market.’

Asia undergoing structural change: more collectors

Still, the last few years’ robust pace of wealth creation is likely to have expanded the catchment of wealthy individuals globally for whom art is a passion, particularly in Asia. Christie’s own Asian sales are a testament to this. Last year, the firm’s Asian art division reported sales of US$654 million, a 49 per cent rise from 2006. Growth has been at a strong double digit clip since 2004.

Asian art showed broad uptrend even in Asian financial crisis

‘What is interesting about Asian art, from the period which includes the Asian financial crisis and a downturn in the West . . . global Asian art grew every year through that period. The broad trendline is up. This isn’t a surprise, because all the long-term economic indicators and information about this century is that it will be an Asian century,’ says Mr Foster.

He concedes that wealthy individuals may have sustained substantial losses in equities in recent months. ‘People need to recognise the losses in the context of the gains in the last three to four years. We’re talking about a tremendous, unprecedented increase in global wealth. It’s natural to have a correction.’

Citi Art Advisory predicts softening for mid value works

Citi’s Ms Gyorgy agrees. ‘Today, with the vast amount of newly created wealth across the globe, even after this recent economic turmoil, we are likely to continue to see record prices for the remaining top tier master works . . . by sought after artists, but expect to experience a softening in value for mid-level works.’

Art captured second largest share of ‘passion’ dollar of rich

Passion investments merited a highlight in Merrill Lynch and Capgemini’s 2008 World Wealth Report, which found that art captured the second-largest share of the global wealthy’s passion dollar at 15.9 per cent, after luxury collectibles (16.2 per cent). Among the well-heeled in Asia-Pacific, art’s share of their passion dollar was 13 per cent.

The most frequently quoted indicator of art’s investment returns is the Mei Moses Fine Art Index. Its index for all art for 2007 rose 20 per cent, a performance only surpassed by some of the annual returns achieved in the art bubble years of 1984 to 1990, it says on its website. This dramatically outpaced the 5.5 per cent achieved by the S&P 500 total return index. It was, however, outpaced by gold which rose over 30 per cent.

In the most recent five and 10 year periods, art trumped stocks, according to the index. Art returned 16.2 and 10.3 per cent per annum in the respective time periods, compared with stocks’ returns of 12.7 and 5.9 per cent, respectively.

1985 to 1990 art index up 30% per year then shed 65% 1990 to 1995

Yet art, too, has its boom and bust cycles, as Michael Moses, the creator of the index, told Reuters earlier this year. From 1985 to 1990, Western contemporary art values rose at an annual compound rate of 30 per cent, before shedding 65 per cent in the next five years, he said.

Now, one of the most frequently raised questions is whether there is a bubble in contemporary art, particularly by Chinese artists. Ms Gyorgy says: ‘In this economic climate, the portion of the emerging art market that has recently experienced huge jumps in value on the high end are poised to experience the greatest price correction.’

Only some artists survive a pricked bubble

She says that a similar spike in value and dramatic correction occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s for many ‘newly minted art stars’. ‘With the passing of time, a number of the 1980s artists have regained their value and place in the art market, and some have not survived the test of time. I expect we will see art market history repeating itself.’

Citi advises clients to do their homework, talk to experts and collectors, and to research great collections. Buyers should also learn how to evaluate the condition of art works, visit auctions and learn how to negotiate with private dealers.

New art fund launched to focus on emerging art markets

Art funds are also an option. Meridien Art Partners is working with Calamander Capital to launch the Emerging Art Market to invest in contemporary art, scouring the markets of South-east Asia, Vietnam, Russia and the Middle East. The fund has so far raised about US$10 million and the partners will be gearing up to market the fund to European, Russian and Middle Eastern clients as well.

Ultimately, you must love the piece that you buy. As Citi says in its art advisory material: ‘We do not recommend that clients buy art purely for investment. . . There are many other investment vehicles that give higher or more predictable returns than art.

‘The art market is a fickle place, but art can be a good investment if you take a long-term strategy, do your homework and are well advised.’

This article was first published in The Business Times on October 18, 2008

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New art fund gives money to galleries in ground-breaking business model – Saatchi

Posted by artradar on October 26, 2008


MARKET WATCH ART FUNDS

It was two years ago that Kristina McLean, a Canadian-born financial analyst in her early 20s, left Morgan Stanley in order to enter the art world. Her research has indicated that there are some fifty funds worldwide, all of which buy and sell artworks and a few of which short Sotheby’s – Christie’s not being publicly held – or what they perceive as art-related stocks as a kind of hedge.McLean’s thinking is quite different. The Art Bridge Finance Group won’t be cutting out dealers by buying art and squirreling it away. The fund will be investing in cutting-edge mostly young galleries. “What I am doing is I’m giving them a bridge loan,” she told me some months ago. “The loan is to enable the gallery to buy art from their artists and to fund their projects. It used to be that you would find an underknown artist, usually young, buy in and wait for them to rocket to the skies. You can’t wait. You have to actively do something. That’s what I think. A good way of doing that is aligning yourself with the right gallery.”

What McLean is trying here is more radical than it may at first sound. It’s a counter-attack against the blue chip, often multi-national mega-gallerists that have been vastly increasing their power in the art world and which tend to use the smaller galleries as so many fish farms, pools from which they can snatch attractive prospects at their leisure.

“The smaller galleries are pushing the artist into that first group show … maybe a first solo show … maybe a tiny museum show somewhere. And then suddenly they get poached by these bigger galleries,” McLean says. “So instead of helping galleries where I could just give them cash, if I help the younger galleries I can add a lot more value than just money. In the early stage it’s developing goodwill with the gallery. And working on smaller projects in order to establish relationships. Which might only become fruitful for me, investment-wise, in a couple of years. I’m going to leave the expertise in the hands of people who really know what they are doing. And the people who are adding value. And that, ultimately, is the gallery. And I think that, coming from a finance perspective, where everything is about adding value, and activist investing, and things like that, I think that I can add most value to younger emerging galleries.”

This value will include access to the collectors and institutions that McLean has cultivated. And she plans to target them precisely. “I’ll do extensive research to develop a sense of who the client base is. Are they willing to pay what the work will end up costing? ”

This is not, of course, a cultural equivalent of pro bono. If the Art Bridge Finance Group puts up the capital for an entire project, they will expect half the profits, if any. Otherwise, she will work things out on a case by case basis.

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Global downturn will not affect art market says Hoffman, The Fine Art Fund – Business Standard

Posted by artradar on September 15, 2008


MARKET WATCH The art market will not be affected by the vicissitudes of the global economy Philip Hoffmann chief executive of The Fine Art Fund said to the Business Standard at the August 2008 Indian Art Summit. “The trading in art only looks to the economy of the super-rich,” he cites the example of Russian billionaire Abramovich spending close to $100 million just this year to pick up a few Freuds and Bacons (at record-breaking prices) to furnish his new house. “The total art market is worth around $30-50 billion, of which only about $15-20 billion is investible. And of this, only 20 individuals account for $2-4 billion worth of art.”

Nevertheless, Hoffman feels, that art investment is best left to the super rich. “Our minimum investor typically puts in around a quarter of a million dollars; and our typical investor is usually one who’s put in a million to five million dollars. I don’t advise anyone with modest wealth to invest in art. Unless he’s putting in less than 5 per cent of his money into art, he shouldn’t do it.”

Hoffman does annual trade of $120-130 million every year through the five funds he manages.  Fine Art Fund I – the first of these that he announced in 2003 to invest in museum quality art – is the longest-running and most successful art fund globally, having announced last year an average annualised returns on assets sold of 44 per cent. 

Hoffman claims that he never buys any art for himself though. “I trained as a chartered accountant. I was working with KPMG [in their audit practice] when I was recommended as finance director of Christie’s. I had no interest in the arts whatsoever.” He went on to become deputy managing director of the auction house’s European business and later, managing the old masters’ division. At 33, he was member of Christie’s International Managing Board, the youngest ever.

So what makes the art world go round? What is it that determines whether a painting will sell for $1,000 or for $1 million? “It’s simple economics – rarity and some amount of marketing, even if it happened hundreds of years ago. Take Canaletto. He was commissioned by the Queen to paint important British monuments. The queen herself had 20 or so of them and the rich men decided that if the queen had something they wanted it as well, and so on. It’s the same today, you hang a Gupta on the wall and it’s like hanging bank-notes on the wall or putting your bank statement on the table. I’m worth millions, it says.”

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India has the most speculative art market in the world says Philip Hoffman, The Fine Art Fund – Business Standard

Posted by artradar on September 11, 2008


INDIAN ART FOR FUND

“Hoffman is something of a poster boy for art funds, and for the entire “art as an alternative asset class” discourse, doing annual trade of $120-130 million every year through the five funds he manages” says Business Standard. Fine Art Fund I – the first of these that he announced in 2003 to invest in museum quality art – is the longest-running and most successful art fund globally, having announced last year an average annualised returns on assets sold of 44 per cent. 

Indian Fine Art Fund established 2008

Earlier this year he established a $25 million Indian Fine Art Fund which explains Hoffman’s presence at the India’s first art fair, The Indian Art Summit held August 2008 and “the buzz of excitement that follows his tall, brown-suited figure as he goes around the stalls, jotting down notes in his little notepad”. He made some investments, not very huge, but which artists and how much he does not reveal. “I was reviewing some of the works we bought six months ago,” he says, sipping his coffee in a very businesslike fashion. “They’re up 50 per cent and these are only mid-auction estimates. But then it is not unusual in these markets to make 100 per cent, 200 per cent, or even 300 per cent returns. But we are not buying emerging artists at $2,000 or $1,000. It’s a very risky game at that stage.”

The India fund has managed to attract around a hundred investors, mostly “cash-rich European individuals and a few London hedge funders managers”, Hoffman reveals, even though SEBI’s regulatory guidelines on investment in art funds did discourage some Indian banks from investing in the fund. “I think some of the Indian art is great. But you know my reputation is that quite often I’ll spend less than 30 seconds looking at a work of art on which we will spend $ 3 million.” The decision to buy or not to buy, Hoffman says, is made by 30 professionals – “who between them have 400 years of expertise”.

Indian market speculative

Hoffman marvels at the what he calls the “entrepreneurial” spirit of Indian consumers of art. “Of all the art markets in the world, this one is the most speculative. India has the most art funds in the world. If there is a market and money to be made, you guys are very fast at it, faster than the rest of the world.”  It might be wonderful but it also leads to instability, Hoffman seems to imply, because there are few serious collectors and more of those who “buy now only to sell on the way home”.

Lack of institutions a problem

The problem is also one of the lack of institutions to widen interest and cultivate tastes in art. “Unlike in New York, where curators have decided that Picasso is important or London where taste-makers have decided Rembrandt and Titian are going to be there until posterity, in India the names are constantly changing. Yes, five to seven names are constantly mentioned but there’s no unanimity,” he says draining the last of the coffee. “Look at the Middle East,” Hoffman says, “where Abu Dhabi is coming up with a cultural centre that’ll cost $30 billion. Imagine how much their curatorial direction will influence the market when that centre is up?” Indeed, more than China or India, Hoffman seems upbeat about the prospects of Middle East art, not the least because unlike the other art markets, “it is still mostly people from the Middle East who are investing in Middle Eastern art”.

But don’t lose heart says the Business Standard- “In the long term, India is a one-way horse,” Hoffman predicts. “It has a long way to go.”

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