As rated by The World Bank in 2016, Singapore ranks second in the world for its ease in doing business, and second by the World Economic Forum’s The Global Competitiveness Report 2016 – 2017. However, in the context of business, the World Economic Forum also referred to creativity as being the third most essential skill in the workplace by 2020. Having said that, it comes as no surprise that Art World Forum, a new art business conference provider anchored itself in Singapore.
Recently having hosted its inaugural forum Navigating The Global Art Markets on Tuesday 18th October at the St. Regis Hotel, the event welcomed 150 speakers and delegates from 13 countries including Singapore, Israel, Hong Kong, South Korea, Philippines, France, the United States and more. The proud sponsors of the inaugural forum were TWG Tea who hosted the very exclusive speakers’ dinner, and Skyline Club & Lounge who hosted the closing cocktail reception. Alongside a selection of various media partners, the corporate partners supporting the event included the Singaporean European Chamber of Commerce and the Swiss Business Association of Singapore. The 150 delegates and experienced guest speakers varied in expertise from the art and business sectors respectively, both locally and internationally.
In line with its objective to build valuable networks between art professionals and business leaders, and address pressing issues within the art market, Art World Forum curated a high quality and informative full-day agenda which consisted of a selection of presentations, interviews and panel discussions.
To start the day, Professor Timothy Van Zandt, Dean of faculty and research & Professor of economics at INSEAD, focused on how aspects of economic game theory and technology may contribute to the art world. “There are both opportunities and risks with any technological change. The first step is to identify things that won’t change.” With references to price, matching, marketplace, transactions, and disruption, the art market was labelled as a special one compared to most other markets, with complex matching due to the diversity of works and their intrinsic value which, to the most part, is driven by subjectivity. “This knowledge [of matching] is impossible to quantify and replace by a simple algorithm”.
To pick on the aspect of matching, Serge Tiroche, co-founder of The Tiroche DeLeon Collection, referred to his own startup, Art Runners – a logistics company which matches clients with specific capabilities of service providers to promote efficiency. In an era which is embracing the innovative spirit with the help of technology and making way for emerging platforms, there is plenty to be learnt in the cross-over between the art world and the business sector. “Startups have been making a sustainable business out of the arts for decades, it’s not just in the technology era. I do think though that technology will have a huge impact on art. There are so many interesting ways to use technology to expand the way the art world works.”
To state the obvious, technology has assisted companies across all industries to have a greater reach, to expand their networks, promote exposure at an affordable price and has specifically contributed to the consistency in sales of the online art market. However, not to be misled by this increasing trend, viewing such successes in isolation is only focusing on a mere portion of the greater whole. To contextualise slightly on the habit of collecting, the private collectors panel started with a very interesting fact. “12% of collectors start collecting out of love; 6% of collectors say they do it purely for investment; 72% is a mixture of appreciation and passion for the arts with some inclination of investment… That gets you to 90%. The remaining 10% of collectors don’t know why they do it.”
That being said, with the expertise of Thomas Galbraith, partner of The Petraeus Group, it is younger collectors, who are cyber savvy and the online literate that are contributing to the growth of the market while responding to the question ‘Why would I not buy art online?’. In that respect, surely it is to be expected and considered more of a leap for the older generation collectors, the more established, who are perhaps more familiar with the physical space. Galbraith made the point to note however that despite the positive inclination in the sales department, the younger demographics may not have the same purchasing power as older generations, and therefore are targeting lower priced sales.
The so-called millennial generation was then referred to again in the presentation based on the Deloitte art and finance report by Mohit Mehrotra, partner at Monitor Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting, which clearly demonstrated that a significant change, particularly within Asia, was the transfer of wealth from first generation to second. In the younger demographics’ ability to diversify their interest across markets and even regions, it is this transition that is paving the way for newer emerging markets. From the day’s sessions, notable locations stated were Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, as the new key geographies which are contributing moreso to their overall art communities. The trend seems to be “local for local”.
The report also found that non-financial assets (largely concerned with fine arts, jewellery, antique furniture, coin collections, wine collections, precious metals etc) display double-digit numbers in the charts, a majority being in Asia and a selection in other emerging markets. The numbers reflected on how the capital market in such areas has evolved and is a demonstration of how people are gearing towards such passion investments who have a greater interest in owning artworks and collectibles as a portion of a broader wealth offering.
“This may seem like a fascinating opportunity for wealth managers to explore this particular space, but when you go through the league tables of the majority of private banks, and try to decipher what the proposition is in the passion investment space, you don’t find sizeable desks of talent, especially in Singapore. So there may be a sizeable chunk of interest in passion investment hitting our region but when you look at the finance side of the story there isn’t enough supply sitting in these private banks catering to this particular space.”
It was then stated that despite the 50-50 chance of making just as much money in the capital market, client engagement took priority in this exploratory space.
However, regardless of the listed creatively booming hubs, and the collector-based advice – for any risk-averse people to buy artwork now, the question of whether Asia is ready to take the plunge into a dynamically growing art market persisted. Prerna Suri, senior producer for Channel News Asia posed the question “We need more organic growth in terms of artists and ecosystems but can we actually, given the infrastructure challenges, given perhaps the mindset challenges – that art is mainly for private consumption; is Asia ready for having such organic ecosystems?”
The answer remained relatively open-plan. Primarily drawing on the fact that the inaugural Art World Forum did not see the support or attendance of several key players of the local art scene including the art museums, a large percentage of art galleries, and the government-led agencies in favour of culture, the arts and tourism, perhaps a little more time is needed.
From the list of experienced guest speakers and delegates including investors, collectors, dealers, insurers, academics, practitioners and overall art enthusiasts, an estimated 70% of the overall attendance was represented by professionals of the private sector, 10% by the public sector, an additional 10% by the nonprofit sector, while art collectors and professionals in the midst of career transitions represented the remaining 10%.
Art World Forum closed their inaugural forum with a round of applause and is currently in the process of looking to expand its reach to other geographies. In coherence with their mission to continuously engage the global art business ecosystem they will be hosting two or three international forums in 2017. Hong Kong may be considered and a venue in Europe. As a closing note with a particular emphasis on the relationship the arts have with the corporate sector, and perhaps to add to the business slogan ‘Bridging Art and Business’, as a buyer, how much is the art world worth to you?