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A colourful painting of a woman walking into a house
A blonde woman wearing a white shirt sitting in front of a blue orange and red block colour painting

Sophie Neuendorf, Vice President of Artnet and Senior Contributing Editor at LUX

Sophie Neuendorf, Vice President of Artnet and LUX Senior Contributing Editor, turns her insider’s eye to emerging trends to bring us her art-world predictions for 2024

1. Online fine art sales will take up more market share
According to financial services company UBS, online fine-art sales made up 16 per cent of the $68 billion global fine-art market in 2022, up from six per cent in 2019. With the rise of a new tech-savvy generation and the desire for digital solutions and experiences, I predict online sales will continue to rise.

2. All eyes will be on Christie’s and Sotheby’s
It’s no secret that the art market has been volatile recently. Sotheby’s failed to consign several hot single-owner sales and Christie’s had the Fineberg sale disaster. But with a summer Sotheby’s sale that included a rare Klimt portrait with an estimate
of $80 million and Christie’s total sales outperforming Sotheby’s for the first half of 2023, the fightback is on. Will Christie’s finally emerge as the art-world auction powerhouse? The stage is set for 2024.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

3. There will be a consolidation of the market
A plethora of art-related companies have surfaced over the past few years. The question is, with online experiences and transactions increasing, which companies will take the lead in this hot segment? I predict that only a few companies will survive and take the lead in the market, especially because of socioeconomic pressures, and this will become apparent during 2024.

4. Art and fashion collaborations will expand
I recently spoke to a friend who works in one of the major haute fashion houses about the rapidly increasing collaborations in art and fashion. These are fruitful creative marriages with benefits on both sides. While the fashion industry gains depth and seriousness, fine art can gain new potential collectors. There have been controversies, such as the concerns over Louis Vuitton’s 2023 collaboration with Yayoi Kusama. At Saint Laurent, however, Creative Director Anthony Vaccarello is doing a remarkable job in supporting established and emerging artists, just like Yves Saint Laurent himself. There’s an exhibition space at the Rive Droite site and global pop-up shows including Sho Shibuya at Art Basel Miami Beach.

A colourful painting of a woman walking into a house

Christmas in California, 2022, by Guimi You. The Korean artist is a LUX favourite. Image chosen by our editorial team, not an endorsement by the writer

5. Museums will deaccession more works
The Whitney Museum of American Art recently deaccessioned seven works, including four by Edward Hopper, with proceeds from the sales said to be going to support new acquisitions. Hopper is indisputably one of America’s greatest artists and it strikes me that the action caused panic in the market – works by Hopper were predicted to take a tumble in value. This is the unfortunate side-effect of deaccessioning artworks. However, I personally feel that an artwork is far better served on an art lover’s wall than in a museum vault.

6. ESG will have a greater foothold in the market
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is a framework that is rapidly gaining in importance. It is not only an indicator of the sustainable health of an economy or company, it is also driving decision-making among the new generation of collectors. Where the baby-boomer generation was interested in how an artist draws from art history, the new generation of collectors is more concerned with asking about what drives the artist. What are they trying to communicate with their work? Does it represent the zeitgeist and discuss contemporary themes, such as #MeToo, Black Lives Matter or the war in Ukraine? In trying to captivate the new generation, galleries will have to engage with ESG reporting and initiatives.

Read more: Artist Ricky Burrows: From the streets to the studio

7. Expenditure in fine art as an asset will increase
I always advise to buy for passion, but with an investment view. According to cultural economist Claire McAndrew, investments in fine art are especially lucrative during inflationary and recessionary periods. I have noticed significantly increased movement over the past few months, especially on the private sales side of the market. From an eye-opening Lichtenstein to a rare Caravaggio, never have I been offered so many works for private sale and acquisition. With the impending transfer of wealth from the baby boomer to the millennial generation, I predict there will be many a marvellous work to hit the auction block in 2024 and, indeed, over the next few years.

Find out more: artnet.com

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX

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Cindy Chao at the new Cindy Chao The Art Jewel Gallery. Courtesy of Cindy Chao The Art Jewel

Cindy Chao is known for fusing art and jewellery to create unique collectibles. Here she speaks to LUX about the importance of her heritage, emotions and craftsmanship

LUX: How has your upbringing shaped your career?
Cindy Chao: Creating art jewels, for me, is a continuation of my family heritage. My grandfather was an architect who always took me to the construction sites of his architectural projects. I was trained from a young age to see the world in a structural and spatial way. My father was a sculptor. He taught me to take into account each angle, form and expression of what I observe, and to transform observations into well-rounded creations.

Both my grandfather and father moulded who I am today. Having the mind of an architect helps me to visualise my compositions three-dimensionally, and with the hands of a sculptor, I am able to pour life and emotion into my wax sculptures.

LUX:  How do you bring the two disciplines of jewellery and art together?
CC: My vision is to bring art and jewellery together by redefining how jewellery pieces are created and perceived. If a great piece of art must transcend culture, language and geographical boundaries in order to be widely understood and appreciated, the same should be true for jewellery. Thus, I hold the belief that every piece of fine jewellery should be a miniature artwork in a wearable form.

My jewellery creations are an extension and an expression of my emotions and soul. They carry the thoughts and the mood I experience when I obtain inspiration during the creation process. By combining my creativity with high-quality craftsmanship, I aim to imbue my art jewellery pieces with collectible value.

Cindy Chao The Art Jewel Gallery Gravity-free Showcase.

LUX: Can you share some insights into the process of creating your pieces and the techniques and materials you prefer to work with?
CC: I always view the world from a three-dimensional perspective, so my creations are very architectural, sculptural and organic, and can be appreciated from every angle.

I start every creation with wax sculpting, which is where I sculpt a wax block into a 1-to-1 ratio sculpture of the jewellery piece in my mind. The process is an ancient technique, once widespread in Europe in the 18th-19th centuries. This enables my work to be three-dimensional throughout the project.

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I am particularly fond of crafting my works in titanium. Being one of the lightest types of metal, titanium can effectively reduce the weight of the entire piece; however, its toughness and extremely high melting point also make the forging and setting extremely difficult, and any mistake would cause the whole crafting process to start over again. Using the toughest metal to form the softest curvature has always been an ultimate goal of mine.

Recently, I’ve been working on using unconventional materials in my jewellery pieces. For example, ox horn, maple wood, and golden ebony are applied and combined with titanium, 18K gold, silver, and various precious stones. These organic materials lack malleability and require careful evaluation, selection, and calculation of the joining positions and angles between the metals and unconventional materials.

Sapphire Floral Brooch from the White Label Collection

LUX: Which of your pieces are you most proud of?
CC: I believe that a good work is one that, when you look back, leaves you with no regrets, and with no room to think, If I had another six months, I could have done better.

I believe my latest 2022 Black Label Masterpiece Spring Cardamom Brooch is one of those “no regrets” works.

I created a pair of Spring Cardamom Brooches, inspired by freshly sprouted Cardamom pods, to express the vitality and hope of a new Spring. The brooches feature two oval-shaped cabochon Colombian emeralds of nearly 81 carats each. Next to the emeralds are two glistening hollow diamond spheres that are composed of several fancy rose-cut diamonds. The juxtaposition of a large emerald and the hollow diamond ball is my exploration of the coexistence of the abstract and real.

The brooches were also my attempt to accentuate sculptural aspects with colour science. I truly wanted to create a sense of dimensionality through the undulations, color arranging, gem setting and light. They were set with 28 shades of green gemstones, complemented by yellow and brown diamonds.

2022 Black Label Masterpiece X and XI, Spring Cardamom Brooches

LUX: Can you tell us about your annual butterfly masterpieces and what inspired you to start creating these every year?
CC: My first annual butterfly was completed in 2008, the fourth year after I founded the brand and at a time when I was still establishing myself as a jeweller. It was very challenging for me at the beginning, as an artist and as a brand, and I did not know how long I could persevere. I embarked on this butterfly creation with a feeling that it might be the last piece of work in my life. Even if my creative period ended that way, I wanted it to be special.

The short yet splendid life of a butterfly deeply inspires me. It reminds me that even though human life is brief and fragile, we should constantly undergo metamorphosis, surpassing our limits, and ultimately live a brilliant and meaningful life.

It took me a whole year to create my first butterfly, the Ruby Butterfly Brooch, and I poured all my efforts into it. From the front, you may only notice the pair of rubies on the butterfly, but when turning it over, you discover that the entire butterfly is fully set in a three-dimensional manner from the side to the back. The “side-flying” butterfly with its wings folded together and not yet fully spread, as if it had just emerged from the cocoon and was about to take off, symbolises my state of mind at the time.

From then on, I decided to use the “Annual Butterfly” as a symbol of transformation for both an artist and a brand.

Sweet Violet Earrings from the White Label Collection

LUX: On the note of butterflies and metamorphosis, can you speak about your evolution as a jewellery designer?
CC: My growth as an artist is closely related to confidence, which is crucial for creating good works, but it requires time to accumulate through experience. My increased confidence is reflected in two aspects: first, simplified lines and “subtraction” in my work. Because I have mastered the techniques, I don’t need as many lines to present a piece anymore. Second, there is a breakthrough in colour. Comparing the first “Ruby Butterfly Brooch” with the latest “Aurora Butterfly Brooch,” one will notice that I have become bolder in my use of colour. Just like a painter, the colour tension in early works and later works is certainly different.

The Aurora Butterfly

LUX: In what ways is Asian culture particularly important to you, and how is this reflected in your work?
CC: Influenced by my grandfather and father, I received an education in aesthetics from an early age. My creations are imbued with a traditional Chinese style of “impressionism”, using depictions of nature to express emotions. In my works, I want to showcase a harmonious blend of structural forms and artistic conception, brimming with a poetic and emotive essence.

LUX: You have achieved many accolades in your career, from your pieces being selected for Christie’s auctions to being featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the V&A. What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far and why?
CC: I am grateful for the acknowledgement from esteemed international institutions such as museums, art fairs, and auction houses over the past few years. These commendations have not only been instrumental in building up a firm foundation for my brand, but also instilled within me a profound sense of confidence.

Read more: Veuve Clicquot CEO Jean-Marc Gallot on the spirit of the iconic brand

In November 2021, I received the “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” distinction from the French Ministry of Culture. This is definitely a highlight of my artistic career. France – being one of the birthplaces of jewellery art with its extensive history and cultural heritage – has consistently equipped me with abundant inspiration and nurtured my creative endeavours. I feel deeply honoured to be recognised for my vision and contribution in bridging eastern and western cultures through art, and I am aware of the great responsibility that lies ahead.

Sapphire Dragonfly Brooch from the White Label Collection

LUX: What would you say is the overall message you are conveying through your work?
CC: Our lives are finite, whereas genuine art possesses the ability to withstand the trial of time, transcend time, and be passed on from generation to generation.

LUX: You have broken boundaries as a Taiwanese woman in a male-dominated, Western-centric industry. Are you hopeful for the future of other Asian women in the jewellery, art and luxury markets and how do you hope to see your legacy continue?
CC: I am optimistic about the future of Asian female artists as they are gaining global recognition for their immense talent. The opportunities for women in Asia are vast and promising.

My team and I have created our own unique path on this journey, and we aim to continue the growth in the following decades to come, and to become a truly global brand that embraces its Asian heritage. In order to preserve this craft within the wider jewellery industry, I feel it is important to teach and inspire young talent to embrace this age-old knowledge and savoir-faire of jewellery-making.

The making of the Spring Cardamom Brooches

LUX: What would you say differentiates a jewellery piece which is a collectible from one which isn’t?”
CC: The value of a collectible jewellery artwork includes two aspects: rare gemstones and artistic value.

Firstly, top-grade rare gemstones are the primary element that gives jewellery pieces their collectible value. As a new investment vehicle, the market trend for rare gemstones has garnered increasing attention in recent years.

Artistic value is also one of the elements that contribute to the collectability of jewellery pieces. Collectible art jewellery possesses aesthetic, intellectual, and philosophical value beyond ordinary commodities. Artists dedicate themselves wholeheartedly, infusing their emotions into their creations, allowing their pieces to convey the artist’s unique creative stories and inner world.

All images courtesy of Cindy Chao The Art Jewel

Find out more: www.cindychao.com

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Part of a VR series that Beeple released for free public use. Courtesy of W1 Curates

Mike Winklemann, AKA Beeple, shot to fame after his digital artwork EVERYDAY: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS became the first ever purely non-fungible-token (NFT) to be sold at Christie’s, and was auctioned off for just shy of 70 million dollars in cryptocurrency. Darius Sanai spoke to the artist at his solo show at W1 Curates in Oxford Street, London

LUX: There is a lot of societal commentary in your digital artwork. Do you set out to do that, or is it something that develops?
Mike Winkelmann (Beeple): I guess I set out to do it. Im trying to predict things that are going to be issues in the future, or trends that I see developing now. This piece is talking about Natanz. Basically, the US didn’t confirm this, but it was speculated that they blew up the Iranian nuclear reactor. This is talking about how, in the future, I think there’s going to be  more warfare like that where they get into a computer system and f*ck some sh*t up.

If this is the first instance of a computer programme being used to physically blow things up, I don’t think it will be the last. I think it will happen more and more. It’s terrorists getting into a computer system to blow up an electrical plant. I think more things like that will happen.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Can you tell me about your ‘Everydays’ piece?
B: These are ‘Everydays’ in motion, where I made a picture each day and then occasionally I’d think it might be interesting if I animated it. I would take maybe 3 or 4 days and animate a little 15-second scene of that picture. This was a picture of when Trump locked himself in the White House. This was when Elon [Musk] had his baby, and named it X Æ A-12.

Some of them are not specifically about something. That one was during coronavirus when people started talking about killer hornets. This is just some weird Michael Jackson meme. And so on.

LUX: When you started back in the 2000s did you consider yourself a graphic designer, an artist, a filmmaker, or something else?
B: I considered what I was making to be art, just regular art, no different from anybody else. I was just using a different medium. But I considered myself a designer, because the way I made money was through solving visual problems for people. People were asking for concert visuals for Lady Gaga, or concert visuals for the Superbowl. So I’d take the brief of XYZ and say “okay, I’ll do that.”

LUX: So, it’s a practical application?
B: I know the tools; I can build you whatever you want. You tell me what to do and I’ll do it. I did it for money and that was it, while I put most of my real energy into work where I could do whatever I wanted.

The more of this work that I put out there for free, the better I got, until clients like Louis Vuitton were contacting me. It was really like I was a designer by day and also carving away a large amount of time to do my own work, that I wasn’t trying to sell, there was no concept of people collecting it. Art is just something you make and put online and people experience it and that’s it, and it was quite a shift when people began to start collecting it. That was just not a part of the way I thought about art.

Panel talk with Beeple (Mike Winkelmann), Nick Knight from Showstudio and Mark Dale from W1Curates. Courtesy of W1 Curates

LUX: What enabled these to become collector pieces?
B: The NFTs. The NFT thing, which took a lot of people coming up to me and saying, I think you should check this out. At first, I wasn’t sure, I thought it was just weird crypto sh*t, not my thing. Then finally it clicked and I thought, wait a second, this could be the same as moments in the past where people have refused to believe something was art. Photography, that’s not art, it’s just people taking photos. Graffiti, that’s not art, it’s vandalism, how could it be art? Then everyone says “oh wait! I guess it’s art.”

I think that’s what is about to happen with digital art. At the moment it’s this thing that everybody knows and everybody sees all the time and is actually completely ubiquitous in the visual language of our society. It’s websites, it’s voices, it’s TV, it’s video games, everything you see is visual. Art has touched it, but it’s not capital A art, because until recently, there wasn’t a meaningful way to collect it. You could print it out, you could give somebody a thumb drive, but that didn’t really resonate with people until the NFT thing. The ability to prove ownership resonated with people.

LUX: Is there a tension between the traditional capital A art world and the world of digital art?
B: 100%, yes. I think people in the digital world think that because we had the sale at Christie, we’re part of the art world now. In reality, there’s a lot of people still calling bullsh*t on us; we’ve got a long way to go to convince everybody that we’re the real deal.

It’s come a long way in 2 years, I will say that, much faster than I thought. A couple of years ago I would have believed it would have taken us 10 years to get to where we are now. It’s a matter of waiting for it to click for people that the stuff they take for granted, because it’s so ubiquitous, is actually made by people. It’s not that different from painting a picture.  You’re sitting down, you’re producing a picture, it’s got a message, it’s got an aesthetic, it’s the exact same thing.

LUX: Yet many people resist calling it art. Why do you think this is?
B: I think it is just very new, it came out of nowhere. I was as dumbfounded as anyone by these developments. But I think when people have an experience that connects with them emotionally, like any other type of medium, any other type of art, then it will click with them. But they see the headlines and they see “monkey JPG selling for crazy amount” which makes it easier to call bullsh*t on the whole thing. There’s a lot of distinction between the different things people are doing in the NFT space, with some people looking towards a more baseball-type, collectible thing rather than the art side of things. Then there are people who are trying to make serious work that, in my opinion, is no different from any other artist working in any other medium.

Beeple’s Everydays, the First 5000 Days. Courtesy of W1 Curates.

LUX: Is there not a lot of bullsh*t in the traditional art world as well.
B: Yes, but everybody’s used to that bullsh*t. Also, there are so many people who think NFTs look like crap. Most traditional art looks like crap, you just can’t see it as easily. You can go online and instantly see hundreds of NFTs, but you can’t immediately see hundreds of pieces of traditional art – if you did, you would see a lot of crap I’d promise you that. Or you would see a lot of stuff which looks fine but isn’t new in any way. It’s just the same regurgitated ideas that are 100 years old. It looks more like what you would expect art to look like, but it’s not good. I could make some abstract art that anybody would agree is art,  but it doesn’t matter, that’s not good. I think I’m trying to make things for 100 years from now. I think a lot of traditional art is trying to make something that looks like art right now, and half the time it looks like it would have been made 100 years ago.

LUX: Do you think in 100 years people will look at this, you and others, and think this is an inflection point where it changed, just like things changed with Duchamp?
B: We will see. I don’t know, but I think this is definitely a different moment. I think it will be seen as an inflection point because you’re going to see a massive shift as digital tools and digital distribution become more a part of art, because those advance rapidly, they will continue to advance rapidly with technology. I don’t know a lot about painting but I’m not sure how much it has changed in the last 100 years through technology.

LUX: Does this fit better in the Metaverse?
B: What do you mean by the metaverse? I don’t even know what that means, it’s just a marketing term.

LUX: The space where you can go buy a computer rendition of a Dior gown and put it on an avatar and pay for it. I mean, that’s just the beginning right?
B: Except none of those worlds exist. How much time do you spend in the metaverse?

LUX: Not me, but other people do.
B: No they don’t. If you look at these platforms, nobody is spending any time in them, because they’re not engaging enough. It’s like VR. How much time do you spend in VR? Zero.

I’ve gone all over the world many times and heard people talking about the metaverse, but then they don’t spend any time there themselves. It’s like VR. Fun for 2 seconds and then you’ve done it and you move on.

I don’t think it will always be like that, but I think the first thing we will all consider the metaverse is AR glasses. That is what I think we will consider the first true metaverse is, when all of us are wearing glasses and we can all see a layer of things that are the same, when we can all see a digital sculpture right here, and we can walk around it and we all can point to it, and you see what I’m seeing. Everybody being jacked into VR in a tube of goo, that’s a waste.

Courtesy of W1 Curates

LUX: A traditional collector would buy a painting and put it on their wall. How is this art best displayed?
B: Almost all of the pieces that I have now come with some sort of physical element. Some of them are titanium back-screens, and others are like paintings or giant prints, or these human size boxes. A lot of the pieces have physical components like that because to me it’s important to have a physical way to experience the work. To me, it makes it much more visceral and much more impactful.

LUX: Are attitudes towards digital art changing?
B: Yes, things are changing a lot. We just had Deji Art Museum in China buy a piece, there are pieces at MoMa right now, you’re seeing a bunch of museums invest. I think when people see work that can withstand criticism and has some actual depth to it, then they’ll change their mind.

But it is taking time. I think people who are truly thoughtful and are approaching it with an open mind, with the attitude that they don’t know everything about art and this could be something new that they want to be a part of, those people are coming around very quickly. But that’s not everybody. People have to change their mind of what this is, and that doesn’t often happen quickly.

LUX: And you mentioned street art and graffiti before. Is there a parallel with what happened there 30 years ago where that wasn’t considered art?
B: 100%, I think it’s the exact same thing. I look at this work as the street art of the internet, because you can post anything you want there’s this free for all thing. All street art is trying to get people’s attention, the street part of it is “permissionless” art where they were going out and thinking, I’m not going to get anybody’s permission to do this, I’m just going to do it. That’s how I’ve always operated. I don’t need anybody’s permission to show this, I made it, I put it on the internet, that’s it.

That’s very different from the traditional art world where you make a piece of art, then you’ve got to wait for a gallery or a museum and somebody’s got to look at it and say yes, I will show that. Nobody has to say yes on the internet.

More from Beeple’s VR Series. Courtesy of W1 Curates.

LUX: How did you engage with art when you were a kid?
B: I went to school for computer science. As a kid, I didn’t do a massive amount of art on the side. I was always doing a lot of stuff on computers. At first I wanted to make video games, but then I got to college and I saw some people who wanted to make video games, and I realised I didn’t want it that badly. I was spending all of my time making weird little abstract clips that had no inherent purpose; they were just little tiny artistic expressions.

I was spending my time making short films too, and so to begin there was no sense of wanting to get people to collect my work or making a living off of it. I actually really liked the fact that I didn’t make a living off of it because it meant I could say whatever I wanted. I never cared about commercial art, I just wanted to make people happy. So I had a good separation there, I could say whatever I wanted without thinking about whether this is something someone’s going to hang on their wall. Because a lot of it is not something you want to hang on your wall, to be quite honest.

LUX: The world is getting weirder and worse. Does that help your work?
B: I don’t think it’s getting worse, but I think it will get weirder. That’s also why I make this sh*t weird; because people think that could never happen. But Donald Trump was just your f*cking president! A man-child with no experience who is paying off porn stars. 20 years ago you wouldn’t have said that could happen.

Read more: Visual art and music meet in Shezad Dawood’s latest exhibition

I look at what happened with me and this crazy $70 million sale. That was honestly a weird bi-product of the conversation about art and digital art, and then crypto with nothing to do with art coming into it. As technologies combine like that, in ways we didn<‘t expect, weird things happen. It’s similar to Trump being elected and the role social media played there. Social media comes and everyone thinks it’s great and Mark Zuckerburg is a f*cking hero, liberating all these people. Then time goes on and you think, wait a second, we didn’t see this coming.

That will probably keep happening. There’s gonna be things we didn’t see coming and it can have massively profound effects. The world is so connected now and so digital already; these things can happen so fast. Suddenly millions of people get behind an idea or a movement. I mean, look at the NFTs. Again, we went from zero to being this billion-dollar industry in months. I think weird things are going to happen more and more.

Courtesy of W1 Curates

LUX: Would you like to be recognised by collections who don’t recognise digital art? Is that important to you or do you not care?
B: Yes, I would like to change their mind. I’ve been trying to help educate people in the traditional art world because I think there’s a lot of people in the crypto world who don’t actually care about art. Their allegiance is to crypto, my allegiance is to art.

I just learned about crypto 2 years ago, and I learned about NFTs literally months before that sale. The traditional art world also has a lot of people who, in my opinion, are not in it for the right reasons, they’re just in it for money. But there’s a lot more people who are truly passionate about this, who truly want to see art evolve and are interested in the continuation of art history and contextualising this moment within it.

I’ve been trying to play in both worlds to some extent. There’s a lot more that can be done in terms of NFTs and art being more dynamic. There’s a lot more to come.

Find out more: www.beeple-crap.com

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Reading time: 14 min
purple steps with blue balls and a yellow wall with a blue floor
purple steps with blue balls and a yellow wall with a blue floor

An NFT from Tezos

They’re being shown at Basel, included in Venice: let’s see what the data tells us about NFTs and their long-term potential. Our contributing editor and columnist Sophie Neuendorf looks into it
A girl with blonde hair wearing a brown jacket

Sophie Neuendorf

At this point, I believe that most of you will have heard of the phenomenon that’s taken the art world by storm: Non-Fungible Tokens, better known as NFTs. Ever since Christie’s sold that now famous NFT by artist Beeple for $69 Million in March 2021, this nascent category has grown exponentially. Over the past year, something like $44 billion has been spent on about 6 million NFTs, usually issued to certify digital creations but sometimes for physical objects such as paintings and sculptures.

The popularity of NFTs can be attributed to several factors. Primarily, it can be attributed to the rapid digitalisation of the art industry. Now, more and more artists, collectors, and professionals are comfortable with browsing, interacting and transacting online. This coincides with the cultural shift to the metaverse, which is a digital copy of the real world. It’s unsurprising that the metaverse should include fine art and collectibles, given that luxury fashion brands such as Gucci, Prada or Ralph Lauren are also represented.

A cartoon monkey wearing a black and white striped top, a sailor hat and red heart shaped sunglasses

Jimmy Fallon’s NFT by Bored Ape Yacht Club

But how can one identify ‘good’ or ‘bad’ NFTs and NFT artists? How do we know which NFTs are a good investment? This process is not much different to that of traditional art: after a period of time, a selection of NFT artists will crystallise as those that are most in- demand and desired. This may be a reflection of tastes and preferences but also of the zeitgeist and, most importantly, of who collects them. Many of us look to tastemakers and well known gallerists or collectors to see what they are buying, then use that information to help us form an opinion.

a line graph

As one does before committing to a traditional work of art, it’s important to research prices and comparables before purchasing an NFT, as the market for NFTs has evolved and changed rapidly, even within the past year.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

As you can see from the graph, the prices for NFTs appreciated rapidly from the spring of 2021. However, since the end of last year, NFT prices have experienced a correction – the average transaction value has decreased substantially. This is in no way a reflection of the long-term viability and value of NFTs as a collecting category, but can be interpreted as the stabilisation of the market. Much more volatile than other assets or collectibles, such as contemporary art or gold, NFTs also suffer from price fluctuations due to the changeable nature of cryptocurrencies. Additionally, as it’s a new category, speculators may see it as less viable and secure as an investment in comparison to traditional blue-chip categories (as demonstrated below, on this page) – as yet, in terms of art as an investment, postwar and contemporary art, for example, are seen as much more secure than the nascent NFTs.

a bar graph

Yuga Labs is the company that is responsible for the extremely pricey ‘Bored Ape Yacht Club’ NFT series. At the beginning of this year, they announced the acquisition of the intellectual property behind their rival Larva Labs’ CryptoPunks and Meebits projects. This means that now three of the world’s most important crypto companies are under one blockchain-supported roof. Yuga Labs thus attempts a novel solution to a riddle facing more and more art professionals in this era of Instagram-ready immersive installations, branded merchandise, and fractionalised ownership: how do you turn a niche obsession into a mainstream phenomenon?

A cartoon girl

One of 10,000 avatar NFTs created by Azuki

Yuga Labs’ answer is to grant direct financial incentives to NFT owners to help the company build – and market – a creative universe around its tentpole intellectual property (IP). The move makes an expensive category accessible to a potentially much wider fan base. Despite the correction in transaction value, these popular NFTs are still expensive. The cheapest Meebit now costs about 5.6 ETH ($14,500). The floor price for a CryptoPunk is about 75 ETH ($195,000). Bored Apes sell for at least 97 ETH ($250,000).

Read more: Maryam Eisler On Tim Yip’s ‘Love Infinity’

A blurry picture of flowers and a building

‘Rebirth’ by Beeple

This new development answers the question of how to build a broad fan base for IP in such short supply, and with such impressive price tags: create derivative works available at low costs. Think of the Basquiat estate licensing the artist’s imagery for Uniqlo T-shirts. The difference is that Yuga Labs is outsourcing this task to NFT owners, rather than proliferating the Punks, Meebits, and Apes in house. Yuga Labs will give direct financial incentives to NFT owners to help the company build and market a creative universe. Or, to compare it to the traditional art world: create prints off of original works on canvas for a fraction of the price.

NFTs have already been shown at major fairs, such as Art Basel. This year’s Venice Biennale is showing NFTs in the Cameroon Pavilion. Galleries and museums, such as the Uffizi and Belvedere, are issuing NFTs of their Old Master and modern paintings. With auction houses such as Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Artnet auctions regularly offering NFTs, it’s only a matter of time until they are less of a novelty and more fully integrated in the traditional art industry.

 

Sophie Neuendorf is Vice-President at Artnet

This article first appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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installation view of a contemporary art exhibition
installation view of a contemporary art exhibition

Installation view of the ‘What’s Up’ exhibition curated by Lawrence Van Hagen in Hong Kong

Lawrence Van Hagen set out to start a travel tech company, and somewhere along the way, ended up curating a successful series of art exhibitions dedicated to supporting emerging artists. Now, Van Hagen runs LVH art, a business dedicated to helping clients navigate the international art market. Here, we speak to the entrepreneur about his unexpected career path, his favourite places to see art and how to start building a collection.

Man standing in a suit amidst contemporary art works

Lawrence Van Hagen

1. Can you tell us more about the What’s Up exhibitions and how you found yourself in the role of curator?

I started a travel start-up and in order to raise funds for it I decided to curate an art show. I wanted to curate a show since my family is in the arts. My mother has her own art foundation, collects, curates exhibitions and writes books on art. We decided to curate a show called What’s Up based on what’s up today in the art world with a focus on artists to look out for, whether they are young or established. We had the first show in Soho, New York with two spaces, 50 artists and 100 artworks. The next show turned out to be even more successful than the first.

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We have now had shows in New York, London, Hong Kong and Seoul. I work closely with my mother. It’s more my project, but my mother gives me a huge amount of advice and help. It is nice to be able to bounce ideas off one another. The good thing about working with family is trust, you know for sure with family. My mother has kind of been my mentor and taught me what I know today since I didn’t go to art school. However, since I was a kid I was immersed in the arts and always lived with art which led me to start started collecting at a young age.

2. Do you see yourself as a mediator between established and new artists?

A big thing I do with the shows is I tend to bring emerging artists or mid-career contemporary artists together with very well known names. I blend them and create a dialogue between both. I find similarities in inspiration, historical aspects, colours or medium between the established and emerging artists. I do the shows this way since I think that it is interesting and I believe that in order to attract people to a show with emerging artists, you need work by household names as well. Also, when you have younger artists at a show, it keeps the older generation more current. This way of curating shows has enabled me to have a client base from 20 to 80 years old. The older collectors have the most amazing collection of well known artists but now consider acquiring work by a young artist from the shows. I have noticed that the public enjoys shows set up this way.

3. Do you buy art for its beauty or as an investment?

My taste is very classic, I tend to focus on art that is more beautiful than conceptual. However, one thing I tell everyone including myself is to focus on buying what one likes. Whether it is beautiful work or not, it is important to know that you love the work. Second, it’s important to consider investment. For me, it’s a factor of the acquisition in my collection. If it is a very young artist, I tend to not look at it. However if I spend a certain amount of money, it has to have an investment purpose. I will not just spend a big amount of money on something I like, it has to also be of value and something I believe in. One thing to know about the shows I do is that many of the artists we showcase are artists that my mother and I collect. I love to promote the artists from my shows. Lastly, it is more important for people to find what they like, than to have an advisor tell them if what they like will be a good investment.

Abstract artworks on display in an exhibition

Artworks featured in one of the ‘What’s Up’ by artists Franz West, Stefan Bruggemann and Lucio Fontana

4. Which artists’ work do you have at home?

I have a selection of young and old artists. I have beautiful work by Georg Baselitz, who is a well known German painter and sculptor. I have two works by a young artist Donna Huanca, who is based in Berlin. She is an incredible artist, who just did a show at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna. In my entrance, I have a work from the 90s by the American artist Robert Rauschenberg. I have work by Sean Scully, Stefan Bruggemann, Stanley Whitney and George Smith. In the bedroom, I have a beautiful 60s Kenneth Noland. There’s a lot more too.

In my house, I mainly have contemporary work, but with simple classic older artists. Most of the younger artists are a part of my collection and the other work is from my mother. I tend to borrow as well. I always move the artwork around in my flat to create a different aesthetic. I am lucky because the ceilings in my apartment are very high which is rare in London, so I can hang up 3 metre work. It is important for me to keep a lot of art in my house since it is my passion and profession, and I also throw dinner parties where friends come over and they can see what I do. A few pieces of art makes a big difference to a home.

5. Best place to see art in London?

It depends what type of art you are looking for. In terms of galleries, if you want to see more established artists or big shows, all the major galleries from David Zwirner and Gagosian Gallery in New York to Simon Lee in London are great. In London, if you want younger artists, it is good to go to the east end or south of London where you have Carlos Ishikawa and Emalin gallery. When it comes to museums, my favourites are Tate Modern and Whitechapel Gallery for contemporary art. Tate Britain and Royal Academy are also great. Auction houses always have incredible work. If you are not looking for a curated show and you just want to see beautiful paintings, I would recommend the private view before sale at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips. The auction houses have anything from contemporary to established and renaissance pieces. Lastly, to be honest the number one place to see art in London is in people’s homes. Often artists have incredible work in their homes since they trade with people they know.

6. As travel was your first business venture, what’s your next destination?

My next big trip is to Indonesia. I want to visit the Raja Ampat Islands on New Guinea. I also want to see the Komodo Islands with the Komodo dragon when I am there as it is close by. I travel every week as it is part of my work and I love it. I get to see many beautiful places on work trips, however it is still work for me. Therefore, my personal travels are very meaningful and I like to travel quite far to experience something different. My last big trip was to the North Pole. I like to do adventure trips. I am not a very resort-y person, but I always make sure the adventures are mixed with comfort. If anyone needs a travel guide, I am the guy to ask!

Follow Lawrence Van Hagen on Instagram: @lawrencevh

Interview by Andrea Stenslie

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Mario Testino fashion photographs on display at the Dubai Design District in 2016
Erik Bulatov paintings at de Pury de Pury in London, installation view

Three paintings by Russian artist Erik Bulatov in his 2015 show ‘Bot’ at de Pury de Pury in London

The time is right for the art auction world to embrace the new digital technologies and take auctions online. That is the way to tap the vast reserves of potential new buyers, says our columnist Simon de Pury

Conceptually, I find myself fascinated by what is happening in the online world within the art market. This is a market that has been the most resistant of any to the digital revolution. And the likely cause of this is that it’s in nobody’s interest, in terms of the market’s key players, to make any changes to the way the system works.

But progress cannot be postponed forever. We have seen the rise of a number of companies that have focused on the online side of the art world. The pioneer of all of them, artnet.com, started 27 years ago with a price guide for artists’ works. For having information at your fingertips, they were the pioneer. Then you have companies in the auction space such as Artsy, Paddle8 (which recently merged with another online auction company, Auctionata) and Artspace which is also doing online auctions. The main auction houses also have an online side to their business.

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The difficulty that the main bricks-and-mortar houses have is that the minute they have a really exciting collection or group of works, their own specialists will fight to have it in their main sales rather than seeing it go to the houses’s online business. So already they effectively have internal competition built in.

Recently I teamed up with Arnaud Massenet, a co-founder with his ex-wife Nathalie Massenet of Net-a-Porter. Arnaud is a passionate collector with a strong interest in art, and so we have put on a number of auctions which we have held online with our company, de Pury de Pury. I also conducted the three first annual benefit auctions for the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. The first two were bricks-and-mortar auctions at which we raised $26m and $40m respectively. With the third one, which we did both live and with an online component, we raised $48m for the foundation. There were challenges such as having to develop a site that could handle the massive increase of traffic you can expect if you have a project involving a celebrity of the stature of DiCaprio. It was a good stress test for the online infrastructure. We have also used a mix of live and online sales for benefit auctions such as for the Fondation Beyeler in Basel.

Right now we believe in this hybrid model, but when you sell art works of quality, and when you put sales together that have been curated, you have to give the chance to potential buyers, if they wish, to see the works physically. You cannot just dispense altogether with offering that possibility to your potential purchasers. The approach is very much to have a stunningly staged physical exhibition, and at the same time, as enticing as possible an experience for the user who will participate solely online.

When you buy and sell artworks at a price range between $10k and $2m at auction with the main houses, you have to leave quite a considerable amount on the table in terms of the buyer’s premiums that need to be paid – 25% on top of the hammer price. Surely for works in that price bracket there must be a more efficient way of selling art, which should eventually put pressure on the commissions.

While the very top end of the market will always be about privileged personal relationships rather than internet sales, I believe that over the next two to five years we will witness a big transformation of the art market, involving a massive increase of its online component.

Read next: The greatest tasting of Masseto in history

At the moment, when you look at an auction online you have a very static image of the auctioneer and the experience is rather boring. This could quite easily be made to be much more lively, fun and animated to engage those who might bid from their office, home or swimming pool or from wherever they are following the sale. This will no doubt happen very soon. Online auctions will become a little more like some of the talk shows on American television, which are live and where you have a studio audience. Having an audience creates the atmosphere that comes across when you watch the programme, with laughing, cheering and clapping, so making it more of a show.

This is not so much of a radical transformation as some people may think. The big auctions now are packed with people filling the sales room, but as soon as you get above a certain price level most of the action takes place on the telephone. You just have the trade and some collectors who want to follow the market closely who remain in the room. So the challenge is to convey the atmosphere of what is happening and the mood of the room. The more successfully you can convey this, the easier it will be for people to get that feel without physically being there.

Mario Testino fashion photographs on display at the Dubai Design District in 2016

Photographs from Mario Testino’s show ‘Heat’ at the Dubai Design District, 2016

A key element is trust. The reason why some online auction companies have not been successful yet is that there is no trust in their expertise or track record. It is essential that such a record is established so that trust develops. A lot will be down to curating: at the moment online art and auction sites just have too much content, and need to have a clear curatorial vision. Once a track record for both buying and selling is established, it becomes much easier, because before that point is reached, you have to make ten times the effort for a tenth of the result. From my 16 years at Sotheby’s, I know that when you work for one of the main players of the duopoly [Sotheby’s and Christie’s], 80 to 90 per cent of the interesting works automatically cross your desk. You just have to make sure that you win slightly more often than you lose. What you lose gets sold by the other auction house. It is difficult for a newcomer in the online world to crack that.

Certain genres of work such as editions, prints and photographs lend themselves to online sales because, while you still need to get a condition report, you will likely have already seen works from that edition so know exactly what they look like. The minute you venture into genres where uniqueness plays a role, such as paintings or other one-off artworks, it changes. Also, the borders between various categories of contemporary culture are breaking down, so architecture, cinema, fashion and music now all cross over with art. We will have many more collaborations between these categories and the internet lends itself to this situation, as breaking down these barriers is done so much more easily online than in the bricks-and-mortar world.

The entry point of the internet is much less forbidding to those who fear crossing the threshold into the art world. It is much less intimidating than going into an auction house and brings many new potential buyers to the market. In one year, the number of individual clients at one of the big auction houses may be around 20,000 – that is an estimate, but in any case it’s a very small number and shows you how that the art market has a massive potential to grow. There is a very small group of individuals who are willing to pay $100m, or more, on a single work. There are slightly more people who are willing to pay $50m on a single work. Further down the scale, you have more people still who are willing to pay $10m, and many players at $1m. There is a huge number of people who do not collect or buy at all and who have no interest, to date, in spending part of their wealth on art. That suggests that the potential growth of the auction market is substantial, and new technologies are the best way to enlarge that art-buying public.

Simon de Pury is an art auctioneer and collector and the founder of de Pury de Pury
 depurydepury.com

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