Despite current global economic downturn, Deborah Iskandar attests that Indonesian art is now in the international art radar.
With an enthusiastic gesture, the newly appointed head of Sotheby’s Indonesia asserts that some collectors do consider art as an alternative investment as the price of some masterpieces tend to rise as time goes.
Also a consultant of Sotheby’s Hong Kong, the American Deborah who has lived in Jakarta for 18 years recalls the most recent Sotheby’s auction of Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings in Hong Kong. Held in October 2008 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, the auction brought HK$71,625,748 (US$9,165,947), far exceeding its high estimate of HK$35 – 48.5 million (US$4.5 -6.2 million). The sale included the works by prominent artists from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.
“This auction has set a new record for Indonesia’s contemporary works of art. The 2.5 meters tall and 4.35 meters long painting depicting the resolve of human spirit by Indonesian artist I Nyoman Masriadi’s The Man from Bantul, dating from 2000, sold for HK$7,820,000 (US$1,000,725),” Deborah says while showing the catalogue. Rudi Mantofani, Agus Suwage and Handiwirman are among other Indonesian artists whose contemporary works reached an astonishing hammer price of hundreds of thousands US dollars.
As for the modern paintings, Javanese Returning Home by German artist Walter Spies (1895 – 1942) achieved HK$9,380,000 (US$1,200,359). Walter’s work depicts five solemn Balinese figures walking across the foreground, expressing natural dignity and beauty.
Works by one of the founding fathers of Indonesian modern art, Affandi (1907 – 1990), also sold well. While Banyan Tree, Affandi’s depiction of wisdom and serenity achieved a hammering price of HK$1,460,000 (US$186,836), the 1970’s Ginza, Tokyo was sold for HK$1,940,000 (US$248,262).
The results of Hong Kong’s sale show a tremendous growth of interest in Southeast Asian paintings that has attracted many art collectors worldwide. But more interestingly, amidst the current global crisis, Indonesian art showed sustainability in the October auction.
Sotheby’s London Auction of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art
As with other investments, many clients are concerned about the state-of-the-art market. However, when the art markets show an adjustment, the real collectors will come out to pick up good paintings at more reasonable valuations. The recent Sotheby’s auction in London illustrated the state-of-the-art market.
Many of the paintings on offer were very reasonably estimated like the work of Zhang Fanzhi. This impressive portrait of the masked face walking with the dog is Fanzhi’s seminal work having first estimated at £300,000 (US$430,000) with the winning bid of £500,000 (US$720,000).
The auction of Impressionist and Modern Art which took place in February this year also witnessed a new world auction record for a sculpture by French artist, Edgar Degas. Being the top price of the series, Degas’s Petite danseuse de quatorze ans was competed for by three bidders before being sold to a private Asian collector for £13,257,250 (US$19 million). This price, which surpasses pre-sale expectations, establishes a new record for Degas’s sculpture. The owner had purchased this sculpture at Sotheby’s London in February 2004 for £5 million (US$9.1 million).
In spite of the economic downturn in the financial markets, the results for these auctions (both in London and Hong Kong) were very encouraging. While the market is not recession proof, good works that are reasonably estimated are generally sought after despite negative market conditions.
Given the recent rise in the prices of art objects like paintings, and the returns, investing your hard earned money can be very tempting. However, those that buy paintings solely for investment may not see the expected returns. This is because they do not invest in time in understanding the market, which artists are the ones to buy, and also what is the best painting by an artist. Collectors should have the knowledge of the artwork and aware of economic condition before entering the art investment realm. Deborah advises, “Thus, you undergo careful research and buy the best you can afford.” As the phrase goes, quality never lies, and the same is true for art.
As investing in art is unique, Deborah advises that when great picture comes along, you may have to pay a high price to obtain it, even above the “current market price”: Someone trying to buy for investment may not spend the money, so back to the basic principal, “buy what you love” and “buy the best that you can afford”. There are some people out there who treat art as a highly speculative and lucrative commodity as a financial investment. Especially when an artist is hot, there is a tendency for people to go in to buy the artist’s works, expecting its value to go higher.
“But remember that art is not a liquid asset like a stock and a bar of gold. Art is not like a bond where you can sell as soon as it matures. Also, market taste can change, and an artist that is “hot” today, may not be so in 20 years. People are interested to buy only when they really love a work of art,” Deborah remarks.
In other words, as she furthers, “If you buy a painting and sell it for a profit, it is good investment. But, if you buy a painting and lose money, it was a fun hobby and you have had the enjoyment of living with art.
By Aulia R. Sungkar, published in the 4th edition of PMR Magazine S’pore, March 2009.
Photos courtesy of Indonesia-now.com and Sotheby’s.