A couple weeks ago I attended a panel discussion at the start-up incubator General Assembly, which is also home to the much-anticipated art meets tech Genome Project Art.sy. The event, organized by Annika Connor of Active Idea Productions, was titled “Art as Investment: A Survey and Explanation of the Art Market.” Though it certainly was an ambitious amount of material to cover in a one evening, the panelists took up the task jovially.
Bill Powers, co-owner of Half Gallery and ExhibitionA, and judge on the Bravo reality series Work of Art kept the audience laughing and engaged and true art-star fashion never took off his sunglasses during the entirety of the night. His advice to collectors starting out: “Get out there to see the art, buy editioned prints and check out artist books” to circumvent the bulking pricetags ‘contemporary art’ generally denotes.
Brendan Dugan, art book designer and publisher specializing in limited edition arts publications, was on hand to give insight into the ‘art-book’. The night’s discussions centered on the idea of how to become a collector within a modest budget and the audience ranged from recognizable art world faces to those who stumbled upon this seminar between an all night hackathon and the break room.
Laura Martin, the other half of ExhibitionA, the online platform selling editioned works, discussed prints and how new websites are responding to the inaccessibility of art by putting Gagosian artists such as Richard Phillips and Nate Lowman within reach of all collectors. Pressed for what kind of value the panelists thought the large-run editions would have in the future, they joked that they ‘can’t read the tea leaves’ but cited Cindy Sherman’s early wide-scale editions appreciating.
Sarah Mudge, head of Phillips de Pury day sale, shared her experience working with young collectors and dished about how to find a deal in the auction room.
The key question of the night was not about the investment but rather the ‘it’ value. How does one penetrate the vague subjectiveness of the art world and actually find great art. Annika offered up Marcel Dzama as an artist to note while Bill’s advice – was to just ask for it. Later he recounting that in the 1990’s when Daniel Buren was opening a show in London, which featured the whole gallery wallpapered in the signature stripes, he called and requested a roll of this wallpaper. Amazingly Bill’s wish was granted and he still thinks that’s one of the coolest works he owns, though I doubt we would all have such luck pursuing galleries to sell us their ephemera.