Sometime in March, when there were hardly any planes flying over the North Atlantic, a Picasso painting from a private collection left New York City for Europe. While the global economy was visibly freezing, the art trade initially continued. “We sold three outstanding top works in just a few weeks,” reports gallery owner and art dealer Alexander Baumgarte. In the interview he talks about the art market in the times of Corona, the meaning of “blue chips” and who actually sells his works during these times.
Baumgarte is the owner and head of the internationally active Samuelis Baumgarte Gallery from Bielefeld, a region with many secret family businesses. The gallery has existed since 1975 and Baumgarte has seen many fashion and crises come and go on the art market during this time. And he also experienced the global financial crisis of 2008/2009 as a gallery owner. “At the time, the art market was drawn into the wake of the crisis. The art market stabilized and developed positively after just one year. It will be the same again in the Corona crisis, ”Baumgarte is convinced.
To do this, he can cite three painted receipts. There is the work of Pablo Picasso, who has returned to Europe and is one of the most important and best-known artists of the 20th century. The buyer put “a double-digit million amount” on the table, how Baumgarte can be elicited. Soon after, the art dealer placed a work by Marc Chagall from his main creative phase in the 1930s in a “private collection in southern Germany” and finally one by Heinz Mack, one of the important German post-war artists (Group Zero). “There have been further inquiries in the past two or three weeks,” says Baumgarte.
When asked whether the crisis affected art as an investment, he replied: “As always, there are winners and losers in every crisis. The current situation offers great opportunities for potential collectors to acquire outstanding works of art that would otherwise not be available on the market. It depends on the program of the gallery and the dealer. We have a grown network. ”In other words, a good dealer brings the right works of art together with well-to-do and willing collectors.
Baumgarte speaks of blue chips in this context and is based on the language of the stock marketers. They refer to blue chips as standard values from large and stable companies such as Siemens, BASF or SAP. The art expert Baumgarte calls blue chips “important and outstanding pieces from the past 100 years”. In the case of works of art that are not so badly affected by the crisis, Baumgarte also advises orientation on the capital art compass (issue 11/2019). Gerhard Richter, Bruce Naumann and Georg Baselitz were the most recent leaders.
Beyond the blue chips, however, artists fared similarly to the stock market. While many established companies recovered well with share certificates in companies, the emerging markets – including emerging markets – remain under pressure. So also in art, in the “Emerging Artists” segment and in the midfield of 20th century art, “Corona can lead to stagnation,” warned Baumgarte. “There might be a wait-and-see position with contemporary artists.” Another problem: Because the economic crisis is shrinking tax revenues, “purchases from public institutions will be slow”.
Entrepreneurs have to sell
However, even in these times there are collectors who are already available to buy – and who never have the necessary funds. And they can be a bargain, because some of the works owned by medium-sized companies are coming onto the market these days. “In times of economic boom, some of the plants that are now offered are not even sold,” says Baumgarte. “Now some collectors may have to sell off art works because their companies suffer from slumps in sales due to Corona.” This then puts a little pressure on prices, including for blue chips. “High prices are still being paid, but without the corona pandemic, the Picasso would probably have brought in a little more – or would not have been offered for sale.”
While individual blue chips continue to be traded with stable value, collectors ask themselves how stable their works of art are if they go out of fashion. “Art has not only a museum level, but also a social level,” said Baumgarte. “It forms the framework and the self-image of how people want to present and act. That is why there are always waves in art. ”One example is the so-called Old Masters, primarily artists from the 14th to 18th centuries. They were very popular with collectors until the 1990s, “but have suffered recently and have been replaced more and more by the art of the 20th and 21st centuries,” reports Baumgarte. “But in a few decades the old masters may be in demand again.” However, this is also country-specific.
“Art and the art market are a symbiosis. Art should inspire people, ”says Baumgarte. Collectors are “as different as the different human characters are,” says the gallery owner. “There are those who collect across eras and styles, others focus on an artist or a phase.” And then there are also the customers who, for the sake of collecting, also know a certain work of art in addition to house and yacht would like.
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