Sup­ply and de­mand put prices in frame

China Daily (USA) - - IN DEPTH - By PRIME SARMIENTO in Hong Kong

The in­ter­na­tional art scene ended last year with a bang when it wit­nessed the sale of the world’s most ex­pen­sive paint­ing.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Sal­va­tor Mundi was bought for $450.3 mil­lion at Christie’s New York auc­tion in Novem­ber. Saudi Prince Badr Ab­dul­lah Mo­hammed Farhan Al Saud bought it on be­half of the Abu Dhabi Depart­ment of Cul­ture and Tourism.

Im­pres­sive as the price was, in­dus­try ex­perts said it will take more than an artist’s rep­u­ta­tion to in­flate the price for any work of art.

Christoph Noe, founder of art ad­vi­sory com­pany The Min­istry of Art, said: “An art mar­ket is like any other mar­ket. It’s about sup­ply and de­mand.”

He said col­lec­tors’ fi­nances will dic­tate when they buy, what they want to buy and how much they are will­ing to spend.

He added that since a top work of art is unique, all it takes to see the price rise is bids from two high-net-worth in­di­vid­u­als.

The 2014 Christie’s New York auc­tion for an un­ti­tled Martin Kip­pen­berger self-por­trait is a case in point. The Ger­man artist’s paint­ing had a pre­sale es­ti­mate of be­tween $9 mil­lion and $12 mil­lion. It sold for $18.6 mil­lion af­ter a heated bat­tle be­tween two phone bid­ders.

The buyer was busi­ness­woman Zhang Lan, founder of the South Beauty Group chain of up­scale restaurants and one of China’s big­gest art col­lec­tors. Christoph Noe,

Leo Xu, a di­rec­tor of the David Zwirner Gallery in Hong Kong, said a gallery prices an art­work based on the artist’s “in­sti­tu­tional rep­u­ta­tion”.

“How many mu­seum shows or bi­en­nales has he par­tic­i­pated in? How many solo shows has he held? Is there any ma­jor art pub­li­ca­tion that cov­ered his ex­hibits?” he said.

The works of Zhang Xiao­gang have set records at in­ter­na­tional auc­tions. His 1988 trip­tych oil work For­ever Last­ing Love sold for $10.1 mil­lion at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2011. In 2014, Zhang’s Blood­line: Big Fam­ily No. 3 sold at Sotheby’s in the city for $12.1 mil­lion.

While the prices for Zhang’s works may have raised eye­brows, the sur­re­al­ist artist honed his craft for more than two decades be­fore reach­ing the top.

No novice artist, no mat­ter how gifted, can im­me­di­ately charge eye-pop­ping prices. But Xu said that if an artist pa­tiently de­vel­ops his or her ca­reer by launch­ing ex­hibits, join­ing art ex­pos and get­ting me­dia cov­er­age, then prices for works will rise ac­cord­ingly.

Ju­lia Ip, an art busi­ness lec­turer at the Univer­sity of Hong Kong, said that apart from cre­den­tials, artists’ char­ac­ter will also de­ter­mine their sta­tus — and ul­ti­mately their art­works’ prices — in the mar­ket.

An art mar­ket is like any other mar­ket. It’s about sup­ply and de­mand.”

founder of art ad­vi­sory com­pany The Min­istry of Art

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