TEFAF Expert Insights Influencer Q&A
- How have you seen the conversation around modern and contemporary art evolve overtime?
I jumped into the art world right as the speculative market for emerging and contemporary art peaked around 2015. With little experience collecting – and little experience even navigating the art world – my early perspectives were entirely shaped by that moment. A rush and then the ensuing crash. I’m sure conversations around historically underappreciated artists were already happening, but that’s how I’m seeing most conversations take shape today. Speaking to collectors, there’s less excitement about the next hot emerging artist and more attention paid towards who will be the next rediscovered one from decades past. Galleries have played a significant role in driving this conversation as well, presenting more and more historical exhibitions.
- In your experience, have digital and social media platforms transformed communication about the art world? Has readily available information shifted the way museums operate (apps, websites, etc.)?
Digital and social media platforms have transformed the art world by democratizing it. The slew of information that exists online today was previously only available by physically going to galleries or having relationships with dealers who would send pictures over mail. Instagram, however, has opened up an entire community of art enthusiasts who are connected by a shared passion and not necessarily a shared socioeconomic background. I, for one, have taken advantage of something as simple as direct messages to get to know artists and other collectors, most of whom I still have never met in person.
Digital and social media platforms have also increased the reach of art to a wider, younger audience. While I would guess that most established art collectors are 45 and older, the majority of my Instagram followers are in their 20s and 30s. This fundamentally changes the art dialogue by giving younger people a voice in influencing how art moves forward or how it will define a period of time.
Most museums have easy-to-navigate websites that provide good information on their shows and artists. Beyond that, however, I believe there is room for museums to further embrace the digital realm. A great example is the “Send Me” feature by SFMOMA, which you can text a word or emoji and the museum will send back an image from their collection. It’s an incredibly fun and engaging way to interact with both the art and the museum. I want to see more of that in the future.
- How has your experience working in the art world shaped your opinion of the industry?
Contrary to what most people think, I actually work in fintech. Being in the technology space has shaped my belief that the art industry is ripe for innovations. Of course, startups like Artsy and Arthena are already changing the way people engage with and invest in art, but there are still significant barriers to entry to finding out about and appreciating it. Over the past few years, art has certainly become trendier with countless Instagram posts in front of the Wynwood Walls and assorted street art around the world. What I haven’t seen yet, however, is a bridge to more critical work found in museums and textbooks. Looking into the art world from the outside, it’s a curious thing that art itself is such an innovative practice yet the operations around it seem outdated.
- The markets for modern and contemporary art are the most buoyant. Do you see this as a continuing trend? Do you think high prices in these sectors deter new buyers from entering the marketplace?
In any market, there are bound to be ups and downs. But on an overall trend, I do see modern and contemporary art continuing to hold and increase in value. The art market is unique. Once an artist passes away, her output is set and the supply available on the market can actually decrease overtime as works get donated to museums. It is basic economics from there, with the highest quality work being the hardest to source and demanding the highest prices. Clyfford Still, for example, was notorious for having only sold 5% of the paintings he made during his lifetime. Virtually every time one of his paintings comes to auction, the hammer price reflects that scarcity.
I think high prices in modern and contemporary art are both a draw and a deterrent to new buyers. One of my earliest memories of the art market was reading about the sale of Giacometti’s Walking Man I for over $100 million. Years later, I saw an Yves Klein exhibition, only to find out how much these blue monochromes went for at auction. The art market’s high prices became a draw because of my curiosity in understanding why and how people valued art to this degree. The flip side is that it can be a deterrent when people think art is too expensive and unsure how to approach collecting. But I would encourage new collectors to visit smaller, satellite art fairs where there are often a variety of good works under $5,000. Works on paper are also a great way to start collecting more established artists without breaking the bank.
- Why is TEFAF New York Spring an important art fair for collectors and advisors to attend?
TEFAF is an important fair to attend because it’s one of the few, if not only, art fairs in the US that covers the broadest range of high quality art. I studied art history in school and am always excited to see a dialogue at TEFAF between contemporary art and antiquities and everything in between. It’s a unique experience to walk down the aisles and see a bold Alex Katz painting only a few booths down from Egyptian sarcophagi. Art borrows from art and it’s important as a collector to see how contemporary art pulls from inspirations that existed centuries prior.
- What exhibitors or pieces are you most excited to see at TEFAF New York Spring?
I’m excited to see some Cycladic figures at Charles Ede as well as a white Ha Chong-Hyun painting that Tina Kim Gallery is displaying.
- TEFAF is known for its high standards. Do you think this will influence potential buyers visiting TEFAF New York Spring?
When I’ve take my mom to museums, she sometimes exclaims in disbelief that the objects on display are real – is that really from 4,000 years ago? Why would they just leave it out in the open? Those questions, although a bit funny in a museum setting, are valid when buyers are considering an acquisition given that the provenance of ancient art is more difficult to verify than that of a work made fresh the year before. For an art fair like TEFAF, high standards instill confidence. I want to know that what I see and what dealers tell me have been vetted.