Art market 101

In Photo: Is entering the art market as simple as providing another new art gallery.

A CONTINUING education on the art market is much needed for people who want to venture into this most exciting facet of late capitalism.

Many establishments abroad offer such coaching for art world professionals and newcomers, who desire in-depth information on all aspects of the market.

If we were to design and offer a course on this exciting topic, we’ll provide students with the tools required to enter the market, together with up-to-date case studies and new analytical concepts for those already within the business. The course will include a comprehensive survey of the art market in its several forms, and, from a broad educational perspective, will embrace other opinions from guest lecturers not limited to journalists, lawyers, economists, archivists, marketing managers and art advisers representing several well-known firms in the art business world.

Of course, this education ought to begin with the proper introduction.

An early module will define the history and historiography of the art market, and introduce key areas of study together with the role of artists and consumers within the main rising art markets.

From history, we know that the art market was first mentioned in ancient Sumerian texts 5,000 years ago and in additional detail throughout the Roman empire. Its history developed following the trail of economic growth from 15th-century Italy to the rest of Europe, including 17th- and 18th-century France and Britain, to 19th-century USA, 20th-century Japan and the present century’s rising markets. The market on Chinese art from the 16th century to the present is the oldest. Today the international art market formally operates in 40 or more countries. Can we include the Philippines in the list? The answer is affirmative. Of course, including its limitations, we can.

Despite records going back more than a hundred years, the market on Philippine art needs a refresher. Understanding how this sector of the economy works requires information on a wide range of activities not discussed in earlier models. Today any great toolkit should include key drivers and topics, like law, taxation, technology and sociology to inform on value trends, key market players and commercial valuations. Such parameters have existed for a long time, but have not seen serious consideration in the country. Today, Philippine art is not only an evolution from proto-markets of indigenous art and the Spanish Colonial period, but includes the scene of the present day, which seeks to bridge collaborations with the global.

Indeed, contemporary art from emerging countries has edged its way into the mainstream. In recent, years a growing proportion of the top post-war and contemporary art auctioned in regional and international centers has included emerging artists. Future trends are likely to be transformed by emerging art and the development of emerging art markets, including the Philippines.

But still basic to any broad understanding of the whole is the relationship between the seller and the buyer. Sellers act as market makers and, in the secondary market, they smooth supply inefficiencies and recreate markets for neglected works. Every seller has a motivation and image, just as every buyer has the same. Any forthcoming discussion should include buying and pricing methods, as well as the importance of scholarship and museum exhibitions that influence such parameters. But image is still a major key.

Marketing is a central plank of the art market. Thus, finding sellers through market segmentation and how to present art to buyers to realize its maximum price and potential should be considered.

For example, there is a view that requires qualification: Is it true that the more times people see artwork, the more inclined they are to believe that the artist is well-known and that the art is respected, or at least, acknowledged by the art community?

Does it mean that, just because we have art auctions in Makati, we are already part of the booming international scene? Art auctions are another animal to grapple with as they are often perceived as the apex of both art marketing and value creation. Often called one of the most transparent and efficient of sales methods, the auction is intertwined with political, economic and social history. But the art auction should be primarily considered as one of the many spaces and contexts of display of art objects and collections.

Today’s global art market is more complex than ever, and, in the midst of current economic realities, there is a substantial need for professionals to acquire such advanced education with its own practical skills set and industry-specific knowledge that can allow them to effectively navigate any challenge that the future hurls.

Perhaps, the global art market will benefit with the addition of more players, even from this local scene. But will there be a market for more art industry types when this republic cannot even solve the most basic of problems?

Do we really need more people with an expertise in appraising the quality of artwork and analyzing and assessing its value if we cannot even appraise correctly the value of human life? Will our society be more egalitarian with more people grown familiar with the legal, technical and ethical aspects of the art market when there are more fundamental social needs that have not been addressed?

A knowledge of the specific dynamics of art collecting, and the social and financial contexts in which dealers and collectors operate, and an understanding of the specific concerns and needs of the high-net-worth client who is an art collector may, indeed, enable the student to build a stronger relationship with the client and project an ability to analyze the art market, understand its essential dynamics and players, assess current art markets, and predict future trends. But is this what you really need?

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