Georgina Adam says that the Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema painting, “The Finding of Moses,” that unexpectedly sold for $36m in November had an unexpected buyer:
Three bidders battled for the trophy and, while Sotheby’s refused to identify them, reliable trade watchers claimed they were from China, Russia and the Middle East – with the Chinese buyer emerging triumphant.
Such newly rich buyers are taking the market by storm, muscling into fields previously occupied by western collectors, overturning price structures and accepted notions of value – and, in doing so, rewriting the record books. Apart from bringing new firepower to the art market, these buyers are also redefining taste.
By taste, Adam means the style of work that is valorized. But she might have also added that such unexpected sales are redefining art history. Russian and Middle Eastern buyers could easily be attracted to the subject matter of the Alam-Tadema. Russians for the biblical scene; Gulf States buyers for the work’s Orientalist overtones.
How would a Chinese buyer, however, make sense of that work in an art collection? Whatever the answer is, it will fall outside conventional art history and possibly point toward a novel interpretation.
New Breed of Buyer Puts the Colour Back in Art (Financial Times)