Noah Kupferman on Collecting Art and the Relationship between Art and Finance in Today’s Global Economy

11 Mar 2019

Art collecting has always been driven more by passion for the beauty and importance of art historical objects than by the investment opportunities that may exist,’ says Noah Kupferman, Programme Director of M.A. Art, Law and Business at Christie's Education, New York, and lecturer of The Economics of the Art Market, a two-day course starting on 18 March in Hong Kong. 

Q. In 2018, Christie’s experienced another successful year with the highest art sales total in company history. Have these record sales across all categories in the recent past made art an attractive investment opportunity?

Art collecting has always been driven more by passion for the beauty and importance of art historical objects than by the investment opportunities that may exist. From an investment perspective there are many asset classes that one can and should consider for a well-rounded risk adjusted portfolio. Having said that, however, the unprecedented increase in value in specific collecting categories over the past several years has inspired quite of a bit of investor passion as well.

Q. Is that why Christie’s Education delivers courses such as the upcoming, The Economics of the Art Market, in Hong Kong? 

Hong Kong is not only an international financial centre but also one of the most important art markets now, so we believe that a course that focuses on both the aesthetic and economic value of art will be appealing to the local audience. As the age-old saying goes, “caveat emptor – let the buyer beware!”, this is true for art collecting as much as it is for any purchase a person may be considering. Acquiring art can be quite a bit different from any other type of purchase a person may make. It is very knowledge-intensive and requires a significant amount of information and time, but this is also what makes collecting art so fascinating and so rewarding.

Q. What are the Asian buyers most interested in? 

Asian buying across collecting categories and sale sites throughout the world continues to be a major theme for the art market. Asian clients accounted for a quarter of Christie’s total global sales in 2018 and Asian sales increased by 8%. Interestingly, more than half of purchases were outside the Asian Art sales category. As new Asian buyers become more and more sophisticated and exposed to art from different cultures, we expect this figure to keep growing.

Q. What would you recommend to a new collector before they buy for the first time?

I am asked this question quite often and the answer is always the same. Go to visit as many exhibitions at galleries or museums as possible. There is honestly no substitute for close viewing and actually handling the works of art - that is the best education of all! Buy the best possible quality of work within your budget instead of buying only because it is a work by a certain artist. And last but not least, ask as many questions as you can to learn as much as you can!

Q. What’s the future of the art market? How is it being transformed by trends such a globalisation, financialization and digital disruption? 

The globalization trend is among the primary catalysts responsible for the incredible growth of the overall art market over the past 15 years. As a former banker, I have a particular interest in the so-called financialization trend. There are pockets of investors who have influenced the art market in significant fashion and one of my biggest interests has always been in investigating the relationship between art and finance in today’s global art world. As for the digital disruption theme, while most aspects of trading art have certainly been influenced by various digitalisation and technological innovation, the art market has been far slower to catalyse into fully utilizing online platforms.