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Art

Sometimes I just have to pinch myself to fully appreciate what a wonderful experience it is to have an amazing, new artwork arrive.
Over all the years, I have never lost the feeling of anticipation and excitement on opening a box sent from one of our artists or now, more usually, receiving an email with their latest creation attached. Magic.......

But before I continue, I have been quite surprised to see the number of headline articles in major international newspapers here in the UK, in the US and in China, discussing the rising interest in Asian art,whether the art market has moved its focus from New York to China,what difference such a shift has made or will make on the world's art stage, or the fact that art has remained one of the very few assets not to have depreciated over the last 5 years and in many cases appreciated strongly. It seems that Art is everywhere.
Many years ago we may have had an article on page 8 or 9 (or 23 !) of a newspaper either mentioning a "discovery" or a record price paid for a painting, but it was never on the main page, always only for those who were interested to actually find it and then read the article: there wasn't a headline. Basically the belief was: "who's really interested?

TECHNICAL BRILLIANCE

The world has changed and now Art is on the front page .But its not just art discoveries now that are really gaining the headlines, (although these still tend to be further into the papers, such as the discovery/re-attribution of a Rembrandt recently) but rather the prices or financial value placed on an artwork. Gerhard Richter's painting selling for over £20 million last year, with the added cache of belonging to Eric Clapton, or Munch's "Scream" for over £73 million, or to a lesser extent Jeff Koon's £21 million sculpture.

All these make the front page.Are these artworks actually that important to get such prominence or is it our fascination with financial cost rather than with artistic value? Interestingly, the papers never really discuss the artistic value of "x" or"y": its open to debate and would probably bore the majority of readers anyway. They only discuss the concrete: the cost in cold, hard currency. But art has always been valuable. The materials in a painting are valuable and were much more so many years ago.
But it is the human genius, the creativity, that gives it its true value. This is THE intangible.

SO WHY MENTION ALL OF THIS?

Well, it brings what is happening in Asia very much into focus. Asian art, as I have written many times, is the new kid on the block, yet it is creating major waves around the world. As I wrote in a recent article, it’s the technical brilliance of so many Asian artists coupled with their originality that will ensure their futures. But is this the only factor?

Possibly the most significant factor is that, as the world's fastest growing economic region, it is producing a group of collectors who will, over time, become the largest on the planet and whose appetite for their "own" art will dwarf what we have seen in Europe or the US. If we look at Asian art records, it’s interesting to note that in the last 5 years, two Chinese contemporary artists have moved into the top ten living artists by value.

That it has occurred in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis, is simply astounding. South East Asian artists too have taken off over the same period. Just in the last year, a Lee Man Fong sold at Sothebys in Singapore for $4.4 million, Hendra Gunawan $880,000, and a S. Sudjojono $1.3 million, showing that the excitement isn't just based on Chinese artists, its spreading throughout Asia.
So now back to the arrival of a new artwork, the moment I look forward to. As I look at a new artwork, no matter whose work it is, I often just ponder on its future.

Will it one day reach these stratospheric heights, be consigned to a museum, or will the work be just loved for itself, irrespective of value? What experience and history has told me is that quality always commands a premium.

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