Willem Vedovi answered our questions on a peculiar and little-known market that regularly makes the headlines: the worldwide art market.
"There is so much more to the art market than speculation” Willem Vedovi
Willem Vedovi, every year the number of record-breaking art sales seems to skyrocket. The art market has become a much debated topic – some call it a poker game for millionaires. What do you think of the evolution of this market ?
: It is certainly true that the art market has deeply changed over the past decades, but it is nowhere close to the way many people picture it. These few overly publicized sales are the tip of the iceberg and they completely hide the reality of the art market. Yes, speculation is definitely more important than it was before. But there is so much more to the art market than speculation. There is genius, passion, creation… People and the media tend to think that just because the worth of a piece of art is difficult to establish, it has no intrinsic value. It is an ill-conceived idea that completely neglects the creative process. Contemporary art particularly suffers from that cliché: it is often seen as the equivalent of bitcoin for people who forget to consider that it is not a financial asset but an authentic piece of work in which an artist has put its genius whilst aiming for beauty.
The art market is subject to rising interest and dubious theories for its uncommon health. But let’s not forget that this good health is largely due to the rise in both demand and supply, to the globalization of the market and to a rising public enthusiasm for contemporary art.
Willem Vedovi, you yourself have been put in the spotlight after an exceptional Christie’s auction of a Picasso painting you have won. Did not you benefit from that media coverage you consider exaggerated?
: Of course I did: it was a unique opportunity for us to demonstrate the expertise of the gallery Vedovi. It was great for business. The sale had been very challenging, with three other potential buyers, and very high auctions [Editor’s note: Willem Vedovi acquired the painting for 14.6 million dollars] so it was also very satisfying to see all the work achieved make the headlines.
But on the downside, I have to admit that I prefer to remain discreet and that handling the media pressure was no easy feat. I will definitely do it again if I get the chance but it was not that simple. What really shocked me then was how inquisitive and disrespectful of the art market values some media can be. They seemed unable to understand that the identity of the client I had acquired the painting for was a matter of privacy.
You are known as a multilingual man and the gallery Vedovi seems to have been internationally-focused from the very beginning. Does globalization really change something to the way art galleries work?
: You are right, the art market has long been international. But now it is becoming global and that is a game-changing trend. My brother and I have been running the gallery Vedovi for nearly 20 years, and today’s art market has little to do with what it was when we founded the gallery. Globalization is responsible for most of this change. With the emergence of new countries interested in art, we have had to adapt to new types of artists and collectors from Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, to understand and meet their expectations, to develop the recognition of our gallery in the new art capitals etc. It is a whole new level of ‘international’.
It definitely changes how the gallery Vedovi operates. I was lucky enough to have lived in different countries and develop both language skills and a certain proclivity for the international, and it has always been beneficial to the gallery… But what was then a competitive differentiator is now an absolute necessity. And we work hard to expand our international reach: this is why we attend more and more international art events such as the SP-Arte Sao Paulo.
Would you give us some insights about other fundamental trends that could deeply transform the art market?
I think we already see signs of a growing popularity of contemporary art, and that is something I am very enthusiastic about. For decades now, it has been considered an esoteric art, misunderstood by the majority of its contemporaries. I think the Internet plays a major role in its popularization because it grants people easy access to art analysis, which is crucial to understand contemporary art because it is not solely focused on beauty but also on concept.
If it were to further increase, such a popularization of contemporary art could very well become as much a game-changing trend as globalization.