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Australian and Asian contemporary art: 2012 and beyond

December 2012


Goodbye, 2012!

At this time last year, we were bombarded with a negative outlook for the world in 2012. The Mayan calendar "end of the world" is still due – and on my birthday... Somehow, I expect to be around for the new year!

It's more interesting to look at the reality of 2012, not all the hype surrounding it. I don't like to comment on the investment aspect of art, but, even looking at the broader topic of "investment", it was a standout year:

  • Stock markets continued to move ahead, some slower than others, but they were quite positive overall.
  • Gold, the commodity that seems to be on everyone's mind, increased steadily throughout the year, no doubt to a lot of doom and gloom reporting.
  • Real estate seems to be still taking a hit in Europe, but is stabilising in the US. In Asia, ex China, it increased in value... yet again.

What about art? (A luxury item that surely couldn't survive in this economy?)

Angel 1 by Asian artist Pairoj Karndee
Angel 1,
synthetic polymer on canvas, 120cm x 90cm
by Asian artist Pairoj Karndee (Thailand)

This was a year for record sales and individual artists reaching new highs. Some of our artists' prices moved ahead by over 30% in 2012 and we believe this trend will continue next year and hopefully beyond.

Southeast Asian contemporary art is building its momentum and we expect that, as the region grows significantly over the next decade, its art will become more desirable and lead to increased values. We are already seeing increased interest from European and US based collectors building on what has been established over the last 5 years in particular.

The contemporary art of China too hasn't taken a rest, despite what many commentators were predicting. There were no tear away records in 2012, but prices moved steadily ahead.

This brings me to another passion of asart: Australian Aboriginal art.

Swamps at Talarada by Aboriginal artist Ngoia Pollard Napaltjarri
Swamps at Talarada,
by Aboriginal artist Ngoia Pollard Napaltjarri

There is no doubt that due to a number of issues in Australia, including poor sales practices, Australian Aboriginal art on the whole suffered in 2012.

  • The Australian government's intrusion into self managed superannuation funds investment options further dampened confidence and led to an overall decline in sales. Many trustees had invested successfully in artwork, particularly Aboriginal, but were now faced with quite severe administrative issues and the potential for harsh penalties.

  • Added to that, the introduction of an Artists Resale Royalty Right added another level of charges onto an already ailing segment of the art market.

  • Also, and it cannot be denied, there are a large number of Aboriginal artists whose work is just not that good and are producing work to a formula.

But is it all negative? The simple answer is "no"! Established Aboriginal artists are still selling strongly. The generation of artists whom we concentrate on, the older female painters, are now sadly producing less due to age and infirmity, and this has led to their values moving ahead.

We have been buyers of their works and will continue for the foreseeable future. We feel these artists, including Ngoia Pollard Napaltjarri (view image above), have produced some of the finest artworks to come out of Australia and that they are fundamentally undervalued – often substantially!

We encourage all of our collectors to look at these artists as their works can be quite extraordinary and complex. If you have any questions, drop me a line.

So now, we look to 2013 with some optimism.

Uncertainties can still undermine confidence, but there are opportunities if one is prepared to grab them... and hold them for the good times that will come.

We would like to wish you the warmest of season's greetings. Wherever you are in the world, have a safe and happy festive season and our best wishes for a wonderful 2013.

Happy collecting and don't hesitate to contact me.
Anthony Smith and the asart team

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Anthony Smith has been invited by Art Antiques Design to share his expertise about art in a series of articles:

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