– With the prices of masterpieces now exceeding the purchasing budgets of the largest public museums, the latter are being forced to find new ways to pursue their development.
Competing against corporate foundations and private collectors with much deeper pockets and a much greater flexibility of action, State institutions have to pursue long-term projects that are less reactive to market trends.
Artprice’s CEO /founder thierry Ehrmann recalls: “The world saw more museums built between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2014 than during the entire 19th and 20th centuries. Indeed, every year sees the opening of around 700 new world-class museums on five different continents, each with a minimum of 4,500 artworks.
The ‘Soft Power’ ambitions of the major powers (particularly China and the United States) are an essential geopolitical driver of this Museum IndustryR growth and represent a fundamental element in Artprice’s conceptualisation of today’s Art Market.”
Continuing to buy…
With a basic acquisitions budget of less than $20 million a year, lots of historical pieces are simply beyond the reach of the Louvre Museum (the world’s largest museum by visitor numbers). Fortunately, the Louvre receives occasional one-off donations. In 2016, France and the Netherlands agreed to jointly acquire two Rembrandt portraits from the French Rothschild collection. Each State contributed €80 million to acquire one of these two paintings, which will be shown alternatively at the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum, but always together.
Nowadays that type of solution is very exceptional indeed because in the vast majority of cases the major museums are no match for the billionaires. However, by implementing a variety of legal mechanisms (loans, donations, gifts) certain States have managed to enlist their highly valuable support.
In July 2002, Massacre of the Innocents (c. 1610), a painting freshly re-attributed to Peter Paul Rubens, generated the art world’s third best-ever auction result (at the time) at Sotheby’s in London. Canadian businessman Kenneth Thomson paid $69.7 million to acquire the work, which he then lent to the National Gallery in London before donating it to the Art Gallery of Ontario, an acquisition that the Canadian museum could not have made on its own.
Contemporary Art already too expensive
In 2017, the 40-year-old Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa paid $110.5 million at Christie’s in New York for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (1982). Two years earlier, the same collector purchased another major canvas by the New York graffiti artist for $57 million. Both works will soon be exhibited, along with the rest of Maezawa’s collection, in his own Contemporary Art Museum located on the outskirts of Tokyo (Chiba).
While waiting for his museum to open, the young collector lent the $110.5 million painting to the Brooklyn Museum for the exhibition “One Basquiat” (January – March 2018). The show received an unexpectedly high number of visitors, attributable, in part at least, to the presence of this work, having suddenly become Jean-Michel Basquiat’s most famous work.
In an interview with the New York Times in May 2017, Ann Temkin, chief curator of the MoMA’s painting and sculpture section, regretted that her museum did not acquire works by Jean-Michel Basquiat in time. Twenty years after the artist’s death, the prestigious New York institution does not possess a single work by Basquiat and his prices are now so high that it cannot hope to acquire one directly.
Private collectors regularly lend their works, but there can be no doubt that the MoMA is waiting for a definitive donation. Several works on paper have already been promised by the collector Sheldon H. Solow and made available to the museum.
Basquiat is the most striking example of a Contemporary artist whose prices climbed far too quickly. But many other Contemporary artists are experiencing a similar situation. These include Peter Doig, Richard Prince, Christopher Wool, and more recently George Condo and Rudolf Stingel.
From private collection to museum
The major European institutions (the Louvre, the Prado, the British Museum, etc.) were established in the late-18th and early-19th centuries around important private collections, often royal collections in fact. For over two centuries, in response to the growing importance of ‘culture’ in society, States tried to enrich their collections by acquiring artworks at roughly the same pace as the development of artistic creation.
At the same time, major private collections were built up by powerful industrialists and bankers like the Rothschilds and Rockefellers. Some of these collections have found a place in major museums like the Robert Lehman collection at the Metropolitan Museum.
As of the 21st century, private museums have multiplied in number exponentially. To a certain extent, their success has been driven by media coverage of the Art Market. New York’sNeue Gallery, which opened in 2001, received international publicity with the acquisition in 2006 of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I for $135 million, an all-time record for Art Market (at the time).
The growth of the Art Market has intensified competition between major museums and collectors. The latter build more personal and sometimes more coherent collections when it comes to Contemporary art. In the United States, these collections have spawned some of the most prestigious Art Centers in the country: The Rubell Family Collection (Miami), The Broad Museum (Los Angeles), The Hill Art Foundation (New York).
In Europe, corporate foundations and private collections have also become part of the cultural landscape. France, particularly, is home to lots of major private institutions like the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul de Vance, the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris and outlets for ‘new’ art in enchanting places such as the Carmignac Foundation on the island of Porquerolles.
The strength of Asian collectors
Asian collectors also have all the necessary qualities to participate in this new model: an immense appetite for Art and its History, tremendous financial capacity and, above all, the desire to share their collections with the general public. In Japan, the Mori Art Museum, created by the promoter Minoru Mori, has established itself as a veritable temple of Contemporary Art.
In China, billionaire Liu Yiqian is actively working to build one of Asia’s finest collections. His museum – the Long Museum in Shanghai – combines traditional and Contemporary Chinese art, as well as historical Western artworks. On 9 November 2015 he acquired Amedeo Modigliani’s Reclining Nude (1917-18) at Christie’s in New York for $170 million.
In fact, Liu Yiqian is so wealthy he apparently bought the painting cash… with his American Express card.
Copyright C 2019 thierry Ehrmann –www.artprice.com
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