What is Art?

Painting is silent poetry.” – Plutarch, Moralia.

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” – Leonardo Da Vinci.

Art is a socially acceptable form of conspicuous consumption.” – Jim Chanos, Kynikos hedge fund.

The beautiful and the sublime

Throughout history, art has been upheld as among the most sublime and meaningful creations of each civilization. Great artworks have the power to capture aesthetic beauty, to move, to inspire, and to communicate the consummate nature of human experience. Art is a reflection of man’s drive for excellence.

Look at the visionary works of artists such as Kandinsky, Marc, Pollock, De Kooning; or the master engravings by Antonio del Pollaiolo, Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt and Goya.

Art as the Ultimate Luxury

It is not surprising that the ultra-rich, opulent or potent, are attracted to great works of art: pharaohs and kings of the ancient world; popes and Medici of the Renaissance; industrialists of the 19th century; and today, the modern day oligarchs. Having striven to reach the top they find affinity with the struggling artist, who, driven by his muse, strives to communicate the sublime. “Artists are special people”, says François Pinault, major shareholder of Christie’s, Gucci and Château Latour: “they are capable of understanding the world with more acuity and sensitivity.”

Prolific Genres and Visionary Movements

Delve into the artist’s world and you will see the major genres of drawing, sculpture, printmaking, painting, photography, video and installations.

Study the major eras and movements from the ancient world to the Renaissance to the present. Encounter the diversity of the Ming dynasty, Iznik art, Italian Rococo, and the myriad movements that encompass Western modernity: impressionism, expressionism, cubism, surrealism, modernism, post-modernism.

Investing in Art is not just for the Modern-day Medici

To the neophyte art lover the world of art is a world of glamour, sophistication, luxury and romance. There is an inter-linking of the worlds of art, haute couture, haute cuisine, fine wine and celebrities and each enhances the lustre of the other, producing a seductive lifestyle that is attractive to those with the opportunity to invest. Whether attending Basel Art Fair or visiting the Punta Della Dogana, bidding competitively at Christies against Big Larry G, Buddi TeK or the Mugrabi family, art can give one a social ‘high’.

The allure of art is its marrying the qualities of luxury goods with promises of high investment returns and unrivalled social prestige.” Art of the Deal, Noah Horowitz.

‘Holy Moly’: A glimpse into the world of art with a competitive night at Christie’s NY

In her article, for the FT, Georgina Adams describes the sale of May 13th 2014 at Christie’s:

As afternoon turned into evening, limousines lined up outside Christie’s Rockefeller Plaza headquarters. Elegantly dressed visitors made their way past Marc Quinn’s eye-catching sculpture… The saleroom was packed. All the regulars were there: Larry Gagosian, kingpin of art dealers; members of the Mugrabi family, traders with a massive position in Warhol and Basquiat paintings; François Pinault, luxury-goods mogul, owner of Christie’s, collector, and founder of two museums in Venice. And the glitterati, too: designer Marc Jacobs; Olivier Sarkozy, half-brother of France’s former president Nicolas, snuggling up to his fiancée, the actress-turned-fashion designer Mary-Kate Olsen. And, above the main floor, in ‘light-boxes’ or private rooms with a view of the action, were the players who wanted to see but not be seen.

The sale started in high gear; the records piled up; even seasoned dealers were stunned. “Holy moly,” whispered dealer and collector Adam Lindemann to his neighbour as a Warhol White Marilyn zipped to $41 million; by the end, the sale had totalled almost $745 million – the highest-grossing ever”. Georgina Adam: Big Bucks- The Explosion of the Art Market in the 21st Century.

If you consider yourself a philanthropic patron of the arts but lack deep pockets or a substantial bank account then you needn’t worry. You don’t have to be a Carlos Slim, Getty, Gates or Buffet to emulate Giovanni di Medici.

Collecting works from unknown artists before they receive recognition amongst the cognoscenti can be both lucrative and enjoyable. The film producer Stefan Simchowitz is reported to have bought 34 paintings by Colombian Oscar Murillo for a total of $50,000 early in the artist’s career; the works now make up to $400,000 at auction.

The aim is to find the most imaginative and talented artist and if you are successful you might discover the next Judd, Ai Weiwei, Cattelan, Tyeb Mehta, or Candido Portinari.

This is where Liz Xi can help.