A good time to start collecting

Out with the speculators, in with the real collectors and why not invest in some Great Masters? These were some of the conclusions reached at the 2nd Athens Art Business Conference 2009, organized by Axia newspaper in Athens on May 27. Focusing on the current crisis and new markets, the event hosted speakers from auction houses such as Christie’s and Bonhams, as well as from the Fine Art Fund Group, the Athens Biennale and the Indian Art Summit. Speaking at the conference, Greek Culture Minister Antonis Samaras stressed that «art and entrepreneurship are not mutually exclusive, as some people might think.» The minister noted that acknowledging the coexistence of these two elements is a prerequisite if Greece is to find a spot on the international art map. Philip Hoffman, founder and managing director of the Fine Art Fund Group, asked the question that was on everyone’s lips: Has the art market bubble burst? The answer is that there is not any single market out there, but at least 70 markets (Greece and China, for instance). While for some artists, the party may be over, for others, as seen recently in the case of David Hockney, it’s time for new records in sales. «This is the right moment for buying art. On one condition – patience,» noted Hoffman, whose Fine Art Fund Group is an international investment partnership offering opportunities in fine art investment. Hoffman also stressed that while 2009 is a good year for acquiring the work of the Great Masters, it’s not necessarily a good time to sell them. Jeremy Goldsmith and Terpsichore Angelopoulou, representing auction houses Christie’s and Bonhams respectively, used plenty of data and made comparisons with turbulent periods in the past. Both experts noted that they are not particularly worried about the future of the art market. According to Goldsmith, speculators are withdrawing from market, but the serious collectors are alive and well. Also participating in the conference was the XYZ trio, artistic directors of the Athens Biennale, namely Xenia Kalpaktsoglou, Poka-Yio and Augustine Zenakos, who raised the issue of the funding of major visual arts events. Meanwhile, Neha Kirpal Narayan, associate director of the India Art Summit, enlightened those present on the subject of India’s art market, which is very similar to that of Greece. Giorgos Economopoulos, a lawyer and legal adviser to the National Gallery, talked about the phenomenon of forgery and possible solutions to the problem. Conference attendance was good and, apart from the not-so-elegant use of mobile phones during speaker presentations, the day conference was held in a decent manner, with a number of interesting moments and plenty of opportunities for discussion. As for next year, it would be nice to hear voices coming from Greek galleries as part of the panel, not just voices from the audience.