Here is our third suite of posts on the upside to the recession. (You can read our first post here.) They come from Ben Plumbly, the art director of a new Auckland-based auction house, and the editors of Art Asia Pacific, a magazine dedicated to contemporary visual culture from Asia, the Middle East and Pacific since 1993.
A weaker economy creates opportunity. For an auction house? Always lurking behind every auctioneer's shoulder are the creeping twin pressures of higher volume (more pictures) and lower clearance rates (less sales); surely the death knell for any new and under-resourced auction business. That will be them now… But wait. Greater discretion, improved value judgements, a shedding of speculators, re-growth, maturation, opportunity – all resultant emerging factors that ensure a healthier and more robust market and which are becoming discernible among the many new collectors entering the marketplace, tantalized by recessionary bargains, be they real or imagined. Now we've just got to get through this. How? More tightly-focused, edited catalogues to stimulate the market and put it under less pressure. It can only absorb so much right now. Below that thin layer of buyers in this country is air; miss them and that's it. Work harder. Encourage, nurture, stimulate, promote, facilitate. And reserves. Did I mention reserves…
Ben Plumbly is the Director Art, ART+OBJECT, a new Auckland auction house launched in 2007
Art Asia Pacific Editors:
Less money means, for many galleries, fewer shows in the season. Shows being up for twelve weeks instead of five is a good thing for a harried magazine editor. You are on top of cocktail conversation, you can forget to see a show multiple times and still see it, and if you're publishing a review you can very tidily hide the fact that it took an absolute age to edit and was full of rewrites and dreadful problems, because the show's still open, so you can still be on top of things.
William Pym, Managing Editor, Art Asia Pacific
The potency and fun of gossip has been enriched, along with better articles pitched by freelance writers who are looking to consolidate their sources of income.
Ashley Rawlings, Features Editor, Art Asia Pacific
Good times for cities not in financial turmoil: One thing I was struck by in the last week in Israel, where, granted, the recession doesn't seem to have had a huge effect on the art world, was a lack of cynicism. Everyone just wanted to show off their artists, the artwork and their (often new) spaces. Momentum seemed to be building there, not dwindling.
HG Masters, Editor-at-Large and Almanac Editor, Art Asia Pacific
At least during the first few months when people were really holding onto their wallets– collectors started showing more interest and and buying lesser sought (and therefore more reasonably priced) art, such as art from countries in Southeast Asia. And that's great, because there is definitely very exciting art coming out of these places.
Hanae Ko, Assistant editor, Art Asia Pacific
Back to basics: Less predatory-type gallerists on the scene jockeying for coverage on themselves, or their gallery, and not the artists. And for those gallerists still standing, they actually take the time to speak about the art versus who bought it.
Elaine W. Ng, Editor/Publisher, Art Asia Pacific
And a final note from the senior editor: A financial shock is a great time for an art editor to reassess the nature of money, and the nature of value in art, as well as in life. When a hyped-up world, or financial system, collapses, the eye turns instinctively towards what has fallen the furthest, from the heights. A bout of schadenfreude is appropriate at times like these, often as a way of reinforcing long-held suspicions. By fall 2009, it is evident that this crash did not teach the right people enough right lessons. The seeds of more bubbles have only lain dormant for a year, and are about to sprout again. Much of the world is run by people who care only about money.
Don Cohn, Senior Editor, Art Asia Pacific