POST BY PADDY JOHNSON
We’re revving up for the art fairs here at the AFC HQ, and I’m doing my part by reading Skate’s Art Investment Handbook (The updated and expanded edition). Penned by Sergey Skaterschikov (presumably “Skate”), the book discusses art in exactly the way it claims — as an investment. So far this has translated into a disinterest in a lot of the loftier claims for art, or at least a colder look at the field than I’m accustomed to. For example, in a list of characteristics unique to art, Skate writes,
Buyers are more likely to form a personal attachment to art, since in most cases it is unique and handmade, whereas collectibles tend to be standardized and mechanically produced. The very personal connection between art and its buyers flows from the psychological connection of the single human being to the many mediated through the projection of the artist’s creativity manifested in the artwork. The buyer’s attempt to map himself or herself onto a time line, onto an artwork’s ownership history, and perhaps even onto the current celebrity status of the artist can also contribute to the personal connection peculiar to fine art ownership.
This information probably isn’t new to most people within the fine art world, though it’s unusual to read such a detached description. Skaterschikov’s background as the Founder and CEO of IndexAtlas Group, an investment banking, corporate finance & strategy and private equity company, likely informs the tone of his writing. Speaking to this, Skate contextualizes the field amongst the rest, in a list of reasons why art is such a “special” alternative investment. Amongst those cited he writes:
No recurring cash-generating capability and high ownership costs: Unlike equities, which may pay dividends, bonds, which pay interest, and real estate that produces rental income, art does not generate cash.
I haven’t had any reason to think about art this way, so I haven’t. I also haven’t had reason to think about publicity and art as Skate does,
Going with the crowd is absolutely necessary when dealing with investment-quality art. Investing in “no-name” artists who have no resources in place dedicated to “taking them public” is not a return-focused investment strategy. Fortunes in art are made in the spotlight of publicity, not outside of it.
This is interesting to think about as a means of understanding the art world, but paradoxically, not particularly useful to think about as an artist. Art work made for publicity machines typically isn’t any good.