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How photography becomes a new leader in investment in art


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LONDON. Rich investors buy ever fewer pictures while the prices for photos grow.

The Chicago Art Institute is one of the greatest galleries in the world. Visitors flock to see Edgar Hopper’s Nighthawks and Grant Wood’s American Gothic , two of the most recognizable images in contemporary American art. But what stunned the collectors is that the photo of the visitors to the Institute of Arts, made in 1990 by Thomas Strut, brought more at the auction than any other photo last year. It was sold for 777,088 dollars. And this is not even the only imprint - Strut made 10.

In a recent report prepared by the investment company Coutts - about the latest trends in fashion for art: «Old Masters» lost favor with investors, prices fell by 40% from their peak ten years ago. Eastern carpets and tapestries are completely out of fashion, the prices for them returned to where they were in 2005. Even the boom in classic cars stalled, Ferrari’s prices fell 10% last year. But photography was the hottest new investment for the very wealthy. Photos of Gilbert and George, Robert Mapplethorpe and Andreas Gursky in 2016 collected more than $ 400,000 at auctions.

Until now, photography had an ambivalent status in the world of collecting works of art and not for nothing: collectors are in short supply. There is only one copy of the picture «Nighthawks», whereas the Struth (Thomas Struth) could reproduce thousands, and even millions of prints of its image visitors in the Chicago gallery.

Photographers limit their reproductions to only a few signed images. In the photographers gallery in London, in the first public gallery dedicated exclusively to photography, Anthony Hartley says: «Public opinion is that the sentence is endless, but it’s not so. Editions are usually limited, and very significant. Only five or ten prints are authentic, and the negatives are kept by the photographer. All the prints in the editorial are issued simultaneously, so buyers know that there will never be done, say, 25 more pieces. «

But how to stop the publication of photos later with a large number of issues? «As a rule, this is a self-regulating market. If the photographer produces a new edition, then he just shoots himself in the foot, «says Hartley.

Origin is crucial. At Sotheby’s photo direction manager, Brandei Estes (Brandei Estes) says: «The most important thing is that there was a signature or seal of the artist. If they are not, then just forget about it. «

So, what should you buy a beginner collector and how much it makes sense to pay? Sotheby’s has a reputation for working with multimillionaires, but Estes says: «We start with 3,000 pounds sterling, rising to an average of 10-15,000 pounds sterling. Compared to traditional auctions, this is relatively affordable. «

The top of the British photography market is dominated by what can be called a «decorative» photograph - in other words, what looks beautiful on the walls of rich people’s homes. This often means pictures of models, says Estes. For example, the first print of the young Kate Moss Albert Watson, which is sold for $ 25,000. «Peter Lindbergh, Helmut Newton and Michel Comte are fashion photographers who sell well. These are images that you can contact every day in your life. It is noteworthy that Watson sells other photos, as good as Moss, at a relatively low price. We had a beautiful Christy Turlington (Christy Turlington), which sold for? 5,000, which is cheap compared to Kate Moss. I firmly believe that if you buy such photos now, they will definitely rise in price in the future. « She also notes photos of the wild nature of Nick Brandt (Nick Brandt) as extremely popular with collectors.

In the Atlas Photography Gallery of Atlas Photography Gallery, Ben Burdett says: «Photography is more relevant and understandable for many people who are not professionals in art, and prices are much lower than buying a comparable work of a contemporary artist. Many objects of contemporary art are overvalued and not profitable for investment. «

The search for young, new photographers that are more accessible, is central to the work of the photographers gallery, says Hartley. «These are photographers who are too young to have a secondary market. Our task is to bring them to this level. In the past, we represented photographers who sold pictures for a couple hundred, but which now sell in large galleries 10 times more than at the start. But we always warn about investments. There is never a guarantee. Really, buy, first of all, what you love. «

Among the most popular in the gallery are the works of Eugenia Arbugaeva, who capture the magical realism of Siberia and the picturesque images of Tamas Dezso (Tamas Dezso), in which the abandoned landscapes of post-communist Eastern Europe are represented. Their work starts from 1200 pounds sterling for a 20x24-inch photo of a circulation of 10 copies, and large-scale prints are estimated at 6,500 pounds sterling.

For the vast majority of people, the idea of throwing out a few thousand in the photo is something of a fantasy field. Eamonn McCabe, former editor and photographer of the Guardian, who recently introduced the BBC4 series on the history of photography, is mildly skeptical about the photographic boom among collectors. «Many dead photographers come to life. But I’m not sure that the same will happen to the living. There is a desire for such masters as Man Ray and Irving Penn, the cry of the soul for the craft, which is considered to be vanishing. All that is is a big market for black-and-white photos and for nostalgia. «

«The other day I came across David Bailey. He said that he does not work very much these days, but the art market has discovered him. «

News photography requires relatively low costs, even images of the legendary military photographer Robert Capa, co-founder of Magnum, are sold much cheaper than what is considered an aesthetically more pleasant fashionable print. «Because people know the work of a photographer in a newspaper, they do not perceive it as an art. People are reluctant to pay a lot, «says McCabe.

The success of tourism exhibitions, such as the World Press Photo Awards and the growing appetite among major galleries, can be seen as the prices for photojournalism start to rise. Sophie Wright, Global Director for Magnum Culture, says that Tate Modern played an important role in expanding the presence of documentary photography on the art market. Meanwhile, the V & A (the Victoria and Albert Museum), the first major museum that drew attention to the photo, opens a new center in the fall of 2018, which will more than double its current exhibition space.

However, most insiders admit that New York and Paris are ahead of London in the world photography market, in addition, the demand for the Middle and Far East is growing rapidly. Recently, Magnum sold a complete set of vintage prints of Werner Bischoff, described as a «complete photojournalism» in the planned new museum of visual culture of Hong Kong, «M +». Photos document the influx of Chinese immigrants into the city in the 1950s.

Magnum created a collectors’ club in which participants meet with growing and already prestigious photographers to share their passion - although participation in the club costs? 10,000. Wright says: «It was written a lot about investing in art as a source of guaranteed return on investment in a turbulent economy; but you have to buy what you love, because you are more likely to live with these items for quite some time. «


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