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GİLA BENMAYOR > The inseparable duo, art and finance

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The art world is not in a crisis.

At the most important art fair in the world, Art Basel, a Mark Rotkho painting, guarded by a security officer, had a price of $78 million.

There are people who are ready to pay this fortune to own the orange and white painting by the American artist of Russian origin.

The executive board head of the Contemporary Istanbul fair, Ali Güreli, with whom I visited the Art Basel fair, gave some figures that confirm this.

According to Güreli, the global volume of the art market is $60 billion. From this amount, $12 billion goes to contemporary art and this figure is expected to reach $20 billion in coming years.

The biggest reason for the art world not to be affected by the economic crisis is believed to be “developing countries” that increasingly invest in art. Among these countries are indeed centers such as South America, China and Hong Kong but one should also consider the Gulf countries.

Abu Dhabi has hired the most famous architects in the world from projects like the Museum of Modern Art, Louvre and Guggenheim.

Qatar, for example, has transformed into the most important buyer of contemporary art in the past two years.

Qatar’s ruling Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani, believed to own a fortune of $50 billion and known for his property purchases in London, is said to have paid $250 million for a painting by French artist Cezanne at the beginning of this year.

Indonesian businessman Budi Tek, while building a museum in Shanghai covering 8,000 square meters, is at the same time the best buyer of Western contemporary artists.

While visiting the nearly 300 galleries participating in Art Basel for two days with Ali Güreli, there another person accompanying us: Akbank’s deputy general manager in charge of private banking, Saltık Galatalı.

The most important sponsor of Contemporary Istanbul, which will be held in Istanbul Nov. 22 to 25, has been at Akbank Private Banking for years.

According to Galatalı, who said the number of people investing in art as part of their customer portfolio was quite high, one of the most important reasons for investing in art is the abundance of liquidity in the world.

Going back to Art Basel, the sponsor of the fair, which was visited by 65,000 people this year, has been UBS Bank since 1994.

UBS is at the same time sponsor of Art Basel Miami Beach.

Deutsche Bank, which had supported Contemporary Istanbul in its first year, has undertaken the sponsorship of Art Basel Hong Kong for 2013.

Despite the economic crisis hitting Europe, Deutsche Bank is supporting the Frieze Fair in London as it has been doing since 2004.

One significant aspect of the relationship between the arts and finance is this:

The institutions I mentioned such as UBS and Deutsche Bank are at the same time the world’s leading collectors.

In the contemporary art collection Deutsche Bank launched in 1960, there are nearly 60,000 pieces.
Let me tell you an anecdote I heard from an art expert at Art Basel. UBS Bank, which has recorded a 45 percent fall in its net profits in 2011, is said to have made a good profit from its collection consisting of 35,000 contemporary art works.

June/20/2012

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