A recent article published in The Wall Street Journal gives us a rare peek into the minds and habits of seven top international collectors, each of whom reveal some useful tips on what kind of art to buy, and when and how to buy it. What strategies are these collectors employing?

One of the top collectors the article nabs a quote or two from is the Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad. Broad, a philanthropist who together with his wife Edythe has built up one of the world’s most prominent collections of postwar and contemporary art, frankly expresses his doubts about the price of contemporary art today.

If you look at prices that artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat are getting – and look back at some of the old Masters available for a fraction of that price – you have to wonder.

Click here to read the entire article, called “Following the Smart Art Money”, in The Wall Street Journal.

Eli and Edyth Broad, image The Broad Foundation

Eli and Edyth Broad.

Fluctuating markets: Knowledge the weapon

One of the strategies that collectors use to stay ahead of the market is to become experts in or even scholars of the kind of art that they collect, as has Tom Pritzker, Chairman and President of The Hyatt Foundation and collector of Buddhist and Hindu antiquities.

To better understand the imagery and history of Tibetan art, Pritzker and his wife, Margot, have hiked the Himalayas; he’s now an adjunct professor at China’s Sichuan University and writes academic papers parsing the merits of art made during South Asia’s first-century Kushan dynasty.

Margot and Tom Pritzker. Image Chicagobusiness

Margot and Tom Pritzker.

Aside from possessing an astute intellectual understanding of the works they own, the Pritzkers also have a very personal approach to their collection.

If we find a piece we like, we’ll tell the dealer to send it to us so we can live with it for a couple of weeks and see if it stands up to the rest of the collection.

Market trends: Be wary

Art literacy is also the strategy that Scott M. Black uses against sudden market shifts. Founder of Delphi Management and member of the boards of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, Black is a top collector of Impressionist, post-Impressionist and Modern paintings. Operating under the motto of “save up and bide your time”, Black’s way of collecting is based on a long term vision and as such he is very aware of market trends and “fashions”.

When the Japanese began bidding up Impressionist in the 1980s, Black said he turned to ‘non blockbuster’ painters of the same period like Belgian pointillist Van Rysselberghe.

Scott Black. Image Bloomberg News

Scott M. Black.

Finding hidden gems

Trying to find the hidden gems in the market is something that Blackstone Group’s vice chairman J. Tomilson Hill always aims to do. As a collector of Renaissance bronzes, Hill believes that the very sought after Renaissance sculptor Giambologna is nowadays “overpriced”. Instead, he “is now going after works by Ferdinando Tacca, a “slightly misunderstood” Italian 17th century bronze sculptor.

J. Tomilson Hill. Getty Image

J. Tomilson Hill.

Other collectors mentioned in the post include Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, a collector of Latin American art and founder of the Fondacion Cisneros, philanthropist Ronald Perelman, a collector of Modern and contemporary art, Art Deco and modern furniture, London billionaire and philanthropist Lily Safra and Michael Steinhardt, a collector of mainly antiquities and member of Christie’s American Advisory Board.


Related topics: art indexbusiness of art, collectors

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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