As Sothebys Chairman for the Middle East and India, Edward Gibbs has seen a remarkable rise in art buyers from India over the past decade. With a slowdown banging hard on the doors of the Indian market, IANSlife caught up with Gibbs to discover how the number game works in the world art scene.
Art is booming despite a global slowdown on spending. How do you explain this?
Gibbs: There will always be demand for the finest and rarest works of art. Appreciation and love for art has remained constant across cultures and generations.
Is there a general rise in interest and sales across all departments, or is it just in art?
Gibbs: Worldwide sales at Sotheby's last year reached $6.4 billion, a 16 per cent increase on 2017. This was led by growth across categories, including watches (nearly 57 per cent), wine (nearly 41 per cent ), old master paintings (33 per cent), contemporary art (14 per cent), Chinese works of art (14 per cent ) and Impressionist and Modern art (nearly 9 per cent). Indeed, Sotheby's sales of South Asian Art saw an increase too, reaching $24.1 million -- the company's highest total in over five years.
Online sales are also growing. A record number of new bidders participated in Sotheby's sales last year, and the majority of these (64 per cent) were bidding with us online. Online sales reached over $200 million in 2018 (a 24 per cent rise from 2017).
Private collections being sold in entirety are generating a huge market awareness about the art world. How do you feel that can be capitalised?
Gibbs: When the finest private collections emerge for auction, we are all offered the valuable opportunity to discover little seen works of art and expand our understanding of art history through the eyes of great collectors. They also often generate significant excitement in the market.
Some of the finest we have handled at Sotheby's include The Stuart Cary Welch Collection (2011), The Sven Gahlin Collection (2015), The Khosrovani-Diba Collection (2016), and most recently the Guy and Helen Barbier Family collection in June this year. One of the finest collections of 20th century Indian art in private hands, the Barbier Collection doubled presale expectations to sell for $5.5 million.
What advice would you give to millennial collectors?
Gibbs: Research. Visit exhibitions, watch auctions, read books and catalogues. Don't be afraid to ask questions or to seek advice. Buy the best artworks you can afford within your budget. Above all, buy what you love.