How does the art world look from the business side? A prominent London gallerist and an award-winning curator spoke with Brian Noone about recent trends and art prizes
How has the economic downturn affected
the art market?
The important thing that we tell our clients is that they should purchase work that they absolutely love, and not because of trends or for investment purposes. We have found here at Halcyon gallery that, as we deal privately in major works of art by some of the best-known artists in the world, buyers still feel comfortable purchasing these works during difficult economic times.
How does the future look?
The public has a greater appetite for art than it’s ever had before and it would be wonderful to see more public art placement. i think this will be more difficult going forward as given the current economic climate there will be less funding available. Therefore it will be down to galleries like ours to put philanthropic projects into motion to support the public placement of art.
I think the government should look very seriously at tax relief for donations of art, as they already have done in the us. Even if this does not become a reality in the UK, Halcyon Gallery will continue to work with councils and museums in the placement of art. For example, we donated a sculpture by Lorenzo Quinn to the City of Birmingham to commemorate the citizens who died during the Blitz, and the public reaction to that was unprecedented – Lorenzo and I were incredibly moved.
2008-9 was a very important year for us as we took on a major philanthropic art project in the form of raising £1.8 million for a new children’s education centre through the installation of the sculpture Isis in Hyde Park. One of the most important factors is that people actually love the sculpture, and can relate to it.
What role do art prizes play in your gallery?
Unlike most galleries, Halcyon has always had an ethical business policy whereby we purchase all the artwork from an artist before we sell it, and with the constant financial support we give them, they have the freedom to be creative. Having said that, we found Mitch Griffiths partly through his entry into the BP Portrait Award, so we are very grateful for that.
If one of our artists enters an art competition, we of course support them in every way that we can. Our main thrust in promoting our artists, however, lies in making sure they are exhibited in our own galleries and in museums and art fairs the world over, therefore achieving an international exposure which they might not have had otherwise.
President and founder of london’s Halcyon gallery, which deals in both contemporary artists as well as rare masterpieces, his current show is by Italian pop artist Mauro Perucchetti.
Dr Adrian Locke
How has the economic downturn affected the art market?
The art market has certainly been affected by the economic downturn but in a rather unexpected way. Auction sales are buoyant and artists prices are reaching record highs. What is clear, however, is that collectors are much more circumspect, with their interest focussed on acquiring work of museum quality. Unlike a few years ago, lesser work, even by sought-after artists, is failing to capture the same attention or prices.
How does the future look?
The future of art remains very much in the hands of the artists themselves, but emerging markets – whether in Russia, India, China or Brazil – continue to expand. There has also been a substantial increase in the number of important museums being constructed across the world, notably in the gulf states. this emphasises the significance placed on cultural tourism as well as the kudos attached to signature architect-designed buildings and the importance of the collections they house.
What role do art prizes play in the art world?
Art prizes are very important in raising awareness of artists and their work. The attention paid to the Turner Prize, for example, elevates the selected artists into the public spotlight, often igniting fierce debates about the value or role of contemporary art. While winning the prize can act as a springboard for the career of the artist through increased exposure (and financial security) and opportunities, their central value, in being judged by a jury of peers, lies in ensuring that artists, critics and art historians alike have a stake in the ongoing creative process.
Dr Adrian Locke
Exhibitions curator at the Royal Academy of Arts in London since 2001, Locke has co-curated nine exhibitions, whose topics have ranged from Byzantium, Indian bronze statues and British antiquaries to Anish Kapoor, Edvard Munch and the Aztecs. He is currently working on modern British sculpture, which opens at the Royal Academy in January 2011.
Centurion, Q4, 2010