Manager Update - Q4 2013


Wow! What an amazing Q4… surpassing all expectations! 

The quarter was hectic with trips to attend the record breaking auctions in New York, three major league art-fairs (Frieze, FIAC and Art Basel Miami), a visit to Mexico organized by the Serpentine council for the opening of the Jumex Museum, as well as a trip to Gibraltar for the fund's annual onsite board meeting. (View photo album on Facebook)

What is clear is that the contemporary art market continues to expand and attract new collectors who are willing to play big, especially from developing markets such as China, Russia and the Middle East. In the Contemporary auctions, both major auction houses hit new highs, with Christie’s climbing from $973.5 million in 2012 to an astounding $1.4 billion in 2013, leaving Sotheby’s far behind with $851.7 million, still a modest increase from the $794.7 million in 2012. Despite all the traveling and decades of involvement, I am bemused by how many new people I meet, and realize once again how broad this market is and how rapidly it is growing, it is absolutely remarkable!

In this newsletter, now called "Insight" - to better reflect it's contents, we report on the contemporary art market's performance, provide an update on the fund’s 2013 year-end valuation conducted by Phillips auction house, analyze the ensuing data and provide statistics. In addition, we update on sales and post an item on ArtReview’s Power 100 list published this quarter, noting that the two top artists, Ai Weiwei & Marina Abramovic, and 2 new entrants, El Anatsui & Eko Nugroho, are part of our collection. We also post artist spotlights on an emerging Philippine artist, Rodel Tapaya and on a confirmed star of contemporary Brazil, Paulo Nazareth.

October Art Fairs

In the ongoing debate on which art fair is more important, Frieze or FIAC, I call it even. Frieze is much larger and with the addition of Frieze Masters is an absolute must, yet it is overwhelming and almost always feels over-crowded. FIAC feels more professional and more tightly curated. But both fairs presented numerous buying opportunities, and both found interest in one of our star artist from Latin America, Eduardo Basualdo (see artist spotlight), who presented solo booths at PSM Gallery on both occasions. We acquired "Sky", an installation he showed at FIAC. Also during Frieze, I attended the critically acclaimed solo show of Liu Xiadong at Lisson gallery and was pleased to acquire 3 painted-over photographs from the project 'Half Street' in addition to the seminal Marina Abramovic work from 1974, Rhythm 0. We also acquired 2 works by Ivory Coast artist Aboudia during the inaugural African contemporary art fair 1-54, held in parallel to Frieze.

November contemporary auctions in NY

The Christie’s evening sale of Francis Bacon’s “3 studies of Lucien Freud” was the highlight. With over 2000 people in the room and more than 10 bidders battling it out above the $85 million mark, the work eventually fetched $142’405’000 (rumored to have sold to Paul Allen), setting a new world record for a work of art sold at auction. The work significantly contributed to the biggest ever single night auction turnover in history: $ 691 Million. Another big contributor was Jeff Koons’s “Ballon Dog (Orange)” which sold for $58’405’000 setting a new auction record for a living artist. In addition to the traditional Chelsea gallery tour and museum visits, I also took the opportunity to meet potential investors and visit our storage facility to meet management and inspect some of the works.

Jumex museum opening in Mexico City

I joined the Serpentine Council on this occasion in a red carpet tour to Mexico’s art scene. Highlights included visits to the studios of Pedro Reyes, Abraham Cruzvillegas and Damian Ortega whom we collect, as well as father figure Gabriel Orozco. We also visited galleries Kurimanzutto, Labor, Arroniz and Proyectos Monclova, all of which we work with, as well as private collections, museums and other cultural institutions. The trip helped make new connections, continuing to deepen our knowledge of this robust market. We also agreed to acquire an additional work by Pedro Reyes for the collection, further increasing our exposure to South America.

Art Basel Miami Beach

Time for the tropics. As usual it was a big fiesta. I particularly enjoyed the new Perez Museum where Ai Weiwei’s “According to what?” was the inaugural show. Also of particular interest was “28 Chinese” at the Rubell Family Collection. A culmination of 6 research trips they made to China, the exhibition focuses on the younger artists (born post cultural revolution), for several of whom this marked the first US exhibition. We were pleased to see several of the artists we collect feature prominently: Ai Weiwei and Zhang Huan from the older generation, Liu Wei and Wang Xingwei from the in-between group, and He Xiangyu and Xu Zhen/MadeIn from the younger generation. At the fair, we agreed on a number of new acquisitions which will be completed in January and reported in the Q1 2014 "Insight". To conclude the tropical experience, I flew to Costa Rica for a few days of relaxation and nature.

Sales update

During the November auctions in HK we sold two South-East Asian works by artists broadly represented in our collection, Rodel Tapaya from the Philippines (see artist spotlight) and Entang Wiharso from Indonesia. Both works fared well, producing gross IRRs of 57% and 72% respectively. In other news from South-East Asia, Christie’s held their first auction in India in December. The auction was a resounding success, led by works from the Chemould collection, a gallery we know well and appreciate greatly. Sotheby's also held their first auction in Beijing and that too was a resounding success, with several new records set for contemporary Chinese artists that are part of our collection.


As always, we welcome your thoughts/questions/comments and wish you all a Happy New Year.

Best wishes,
Serge Tiroche

Back to Newsletter >>