By Tajudeen Sowole
Juxtaposing collecting art for passion with its investment prospect, director of Modern African Art, Bonhams auction house, London, U.K, Giles Peppiatt, and stakeholders in Lagos, explore the potentials of the domestic market for international investment.
TAGGED Art As an Alternative Investment? the forum organised by Ben Enwonwu Foundation (BEF), featured as discussants Amb. Arthur Mbanefo; top art collector, Omooba Yemisi Shyllon; initiator of The Arts Collector Series, Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago; lawyer and notable collector, Femi Akinsanya; and a Chartered Accountant, Folusho Phillips.
Managing Director of Terra Kulture, Bolanle Austen-Peters served as moderator.
Held at The Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos, the Forum also enjoyed the support of the Lagos-based Art Exchange Limited and Awakening Magazine.
In his presentation, Peppiatt submitted that, art could be a good investment, but cautioned that, “good judgement and fortune are both needed in equal measure.”
Arguing that Art should not be “solely regarded as an investment,” he cited examples of works sold at record prices across the world, but which were bought for enjoyment derived from the aesthetics and not necessarily for investment.
Peppiatt stated: “For the long term, art can be the best investment that a collector or individual can make. If astutely bought, correctly maintained and properly sold, the returns will easily outstrip any other asset class.”
Giles Peppiatt of Bonhams, speaking at the event, Art As an Alternative Investment? held in Lagos… recently
While Peppiatt conservatively seemed to have avoided exaggerating the investment prospect of art, he clearly articulated the point that art is one of the safest security exchanges, particularly in a recurring inflation economy.
If high dividend of art is not in doubt, issues such as when to buy or sell as well as which artist is in demand become pertinent.
Speaking from experience, the visiting auctioneer disclosed that he always advised people to “buy what you like, but I would also add: buy what you know about.”
And for those who buy a piece of art for other reasons not necessarily because they liked it, it could be a double loss. “If a work does not appreciate and you do not especially like it, you have lost on both counts; you have an unloved and unsellable work. So I repeat: buy what you like.”
Peppiatt cited example of a piece, Slide 9 Gerard Sekoto, Women in the Suburbs, bought at £10,000 in October 2000, but sold at £86,000 in February 2007.
While making reference to Bonhams’ Africa Now series auctions that feature Nigerian artists, he advised that collectors should be able to connect domestic sale with the global market.
“It is interesting to note that, for example, world record for Ben Enwonwu’s five highest prices were set in the Bonhams sales.” And as a new record has been set by Enwonwu’s Anyanwu, last November at Arthouse, Lagos sales, Peppiatt asked: “How much would the bronze (Anyanwu) have fetched had it been offered on the international market?”
The Lagos auction, argued Peppiat, indicates that African art needs a thriving domestic market to run in parallel terms with the international value.
While urging collectors to buy the best “you can afford,” he also emphasised, “the very best works are never acquired cheap.”
On why collectors hold on to beloved work, Peppiatt reasoned, “when one is thinking about ‘art as an investment,’ evidently you cannot have an investment that you will not realise. Selling is important to prune and manage collections and this has to be done through dispersals.”
He stressed that it is also crucial for works to be released into the market to stimulate collectors. “If collectors all hold onto the works too tightly, a market will wither. Records are made when collections are sold, not when they are bought.”
1. Chairman of the event, Ambassador Arthur Mbanefo
EARLIER, the chairman of the event, himself a renowned collector, Amb. Mbanefo seemed to have pre-empted the message in Peppiatt’s paper when he disclosed that “many of us collect out of sentiments: for the aesthetics of what we buy.”
Femi Akinsanya, whose collection of traditional art was celebrated at the same venue, a week earlier, with the launch of the book, Making History: The Femi Akinsanya Art Collection, and an exhibition, stated that “it’s good to collect, and if you make money, good luck to you.” He urged his compatriots to always “buy what you can afford.”
Folusho Philips, who has over 20 years history of collecting art, spoke on the importance of documenting and artists’ skill.
Chief Yemisi Shyllon urged collectors to extend the value of art to the larger community through donation of works to museums and national gallery. On the investment value, the founder of the Omooba Yemisi Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF), commended ArtHouse, Lagos, Bonhams and Philips de Pury (U.S.) and Terra Kulture, for raising the value of African, particularly Nigerian art.
For the film and broadcast manager and art enthusiast, Mrs Sandra Obiago, the potential of Nigerian art has not been fully explored.
In an emotion-laden presentation, she supported her argument with the remark from the UNDP that emerging economies were yet to tap from the abundant opportunity in the creative sectors.
Nigeria, she lamented, is yet to realise the wealth in her creative sectors.
From the audience, the painter, art teacher, Sam Ovraiti appeared to have removed the lid from the bottled-grievance of his colleagues when he questioned the criteria often adopted by auction houses in rating artists. He argued that the value of an artist at auction should be based on creativity, and not the age or many years of practice.
However, the response of some of the discussants -- which drew a thin line between creativity and years of practice -- seemed to be a global phenomenon, not peculiar to Nigeria alone.
1. Discussants: Prince Yemisi Shyllon (left), Sandra Obiago and Folusho Phillips
All over the world, said the discussants, art galleries, auctioneers, dealers and others set the rules in the bipartite art market, which do not always favour the artists, particularly the younger ones.
Perhaps, young Nigerian artists need to consider the example of one of the Young British Artists (YBE), Damien Hirst, whose auction at Sotheby’s in 2008 recorded the highest sale for a solo artist in history at £111m. Hirst had disclosed that he took that bold step because he was unhappy with the rules set by galleries and auction houses. His statements that “If you don’t like the rules, change it,” is indeed an advice for young artists across the world.
On the issue of auction price as a benchmark for rating an artist, Mrs. Austen-Peters, whose organisation operates auction and gallery, argued that such rating could be deceptive. “Auction price is not necessarily the benchmark because people who patronise the gallery most often cannot buy at auction price,” she explained.
The issue of value for artist appeared to have overshadowed other points raised at the forum, however, the co-ordinator of BEF, Oliver Enwonwu, in his vote of thanks, remarked: “Can anyone really pay the price for an artist’s soul; his work?”
|Rodney Askhia of Tribes Art Gallery, Lagos (left), moderator of the event and MD of Terra Kulture, Bolanle Austen-Peters, Giles Peppiat and Programme Officer of BEF, Luciano Uzuegbu|