“A work that has a unique place in art history will speak its own value like nothing else.”
1. As a Modern and Contemporary Art Specialist at Bonhams in Hong Kong, catering for a new wave of collectors (especially from China), what kind of art is most sought after? Have auction sales diversified lots? Have collecting habits changed?
For every season, Bonhams presents an eclectic line-up of Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean and Western Modern and Contemporary Art to cater for the diversified market in the region. Among all auction houses, Bonhams is best remembered for always being able to do something different.
This March during the Art Basel week in Hong Kong for example, we organized a retrospective exhibition for the British Taiwanese artist Richard Lin, whose works are increasingly sought-after in the market. In collaboration directly with the artist’s estate, this exhibition was a celebration of the great minimalist artist and amongst the greatest shows of his works in the world.
2. In your experience of dealing with buyers, sellers and the overall art market force, what are the main determinants of value? Are blue-chip artists, or artwork, enough to generate the interest, or is the narrative equally as important to create commercial context?
The value of art should never only be limited to its commercial value. At Bonhams we always believe that a piece of art can have a priceless sentimental value to the collector, which is why we always recommend that collectors buy the art they like, rather than purely for considerable investment. That being said, it is impossible to completely segregate the art and the market. The determinants of value of art can vary upon a myriad of factors such as the size of the work, the provenance, the condition, the medium, the subject matter, and the quality. What is especially crucial is the historical importance – a piece that has a unique place in art history will speak its own value like nothing else.
3. When consigning works for sale by an emerging artist, what is most taken into account to assess quality?
The secondary market might not be the most suitable marketplace to develop and find emerging artists, who, in my opinion, would be better off dedicating their artistic achievements in the primary market and with institutions first.
4. Do you think the art market still operates within traditional means, characterised by its opacity and tight network, or are new standards or accessibility, feasibility and perhaps connoisseurship taking flight?
The art market is definitely – and hugely – benefiting from the accessibility like never before. With social networks such as Instagram, information about collecting art has never been more available; everything is virtually at our fingertip. We can now relax comfortably at home watching the livestream of a new gallery show or an evening sale in London or New York. New collectors have more opportunities to learn and to share with their peers, gradually building their connoisseurship along the way.
5. How would you define the role of an auction house? What are its responsibilities in the market overall?
An auction house provides a transparent, trusted and fair platform for collectors to purchase their favourite art. Throughout our history since 1793, Bonhams has been dedicated to providing a well-rounded service from advising estimates to researching our storied art pieces, and ultimately finding a new life for art by assisting collectors with the next treasure in the collection.