Art and Banking

Depending on when and where you are reading this, I hope everyone is having or had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

A few days ago I posted on an article from the Antiques Trade Gazette about dealer banker relations and how the next LAPADA conference will be focused on those relationships (click HERE to read the earlier post). 

The Art Newspaper published an article on a conference about art and finance recently held in Florence, Italy attended by artists, bankers, collectors as well as government officials from the likes of the US Federal Reserve Bank, The Bank of England and the European Central Bank.  The article emphasizes what we have been hearing for some time now, that artistic influence and capital is moving from the West to the East.

The Art Newspaper reports

China has become the largest market for art, both indigenous and Western, but the Gulf, India, Singapore, and Taiwan also have cash and cultural power. There was much debate as to whether financial centres necessarily became cultural centres, but the consensus was, in the words of one delegate who certainly knew what he was talking about, “art tracks money and power”. Abu Dhabi’s plans may be on hold, but there is no doubt about the rise of China.

This was confirmed by the Beijing collector Li Guochang, owner of the private Wall Art Museum and the suitably named Art Bank magazine. We had already been told of the Chinese government’s cultural industry reform plan, launched earlier this year as a “a new pillar industry”, intended to more than double the contribution of their cultural industries to 5% of China’s GDP by 2016. There was some scepticism about the conditions for creativity in China—the case of Ai Weiwei was raised—but at least one Asian delegate was ready to challenge “the cultural arrogance in the room”. Market success was no guarantee of artistic quality (Damien Hirst’s reputation had been much debated), and in any case Western models were not automatically the right ones.

Although there was evident anxiety about China, there appeared to be a certain complacency about arrangements in the West. There was little questioning of how the international art market actually worked. But there was one delegate ready to be a Savonarola, and to go on the record as one. The fact that the Swiss-based Bijan Kherzi is both a financier and an enthusiastic collector of contemporary art gave a weight to his words that academic critics cannot claim. In Kherzi’s view the art world “has been hijacked by the very same forces that poisoned the world of finance: herding, greed, and short-termism leading to asset inflation, market collusion, lack of substance and too many self-possessed individuals”.

Several collectors made it clear they collected for love, not investment, but the presence of so many money men may explain why the discussion devoted to public funding for culture—revealingly framed as “How can public funding support private investment in the arts?”—did not get very far. The consensus was that government funding is in unavoidable decline, and that calls for new models. This was an opportunity for James Bradburne to point to the unique position in Italy of the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation itself. Founded in 2006, it is a public/private partnership between the City and Province of Florence, the Chamber of Commerce, and a group of private funders, set up to reanimate the exhibition spaces and outreach programmes at the Palazzo Strozzi, which also houses three other cultural institutions. Bradburne stressed that, unusually for Italy, the Foundation operates at arm's length from its public funders, as a cultural laboratory for the city.
To read the full Art Newspaper article, click HERE.

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