FREEDOM IN ART, COSTAS COULENTIANOS

ODE TO FREEDOM, NUMBER 1/3

 

NUMBER ONE OF OUR EXHIBITION 5TH MARCH-6TH

APRIL 2018, "CYPRUS - FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY"

 

 

ARTISTS ARE FREE SPIRITS WHO SEE THINGS, CONCEIVE THINGS AND IDEAS IN A DIFFERENT WAY, IN A SPECIAL WAY IF YOU LIKE, BUT, AT THE SAME TIME THEY MANAGE TO TRANSPORT THEIR IDEAS AND THOUGHTS THROUGH THEIR WORK TO US, THE VIEWERS, THE SPECTATORS THE THEATRE AUDIENCE.

COSTAS COULENTINAOS IS CONSIDERED ONE OF THE GIANTS OF MODERN/CONTEMPORARY SCULPTURE NOT ONLY IN GREECE BUT IN EUROPE TOO. COULENTIANOS HAS BEEN HONOURED WITH A PLETHORA OF EXHIBITIONS WORLD WIDE AND HIS SCULPTURES SMALL AND HUGE DECORATE IMPORTANT CITIES ON THE PLANET.

THE LATEST TRIBUTE TO HIS ART WAS IN ATHENS AT THE BENAKI MUSEUM WHERE GREEK CULTURE AND ARTS HONOURED THE ARTIST WITH A SOLO EXHIBITION OF HIS WORK TITLED, "THE LAST ACROBAT OF MODERNISM".

THE EXHIBITION SHOWED EXAMPLES 2/3 AND 3/3 OF THE PRESENT WORK AND ILLUSTRATED BOTH PIECES ON PAGE 197 AND ON THE BACK PAGE OF THE CATALOGUE.

ABSTRACT ART IS FREE SPIRIT AND AN ART THAT CAN BE INTERPRETED VARIOUSLY AND DEPENDING ON THE VIEWER. THE WORK OF COULENTIANOS IS A MIXTURE OF IDEAS WHICH WE SEE PRIMARILY AS A SHOUT TO FREEDOM, A SERIOUS CONCERTED EFFORT TO CAPTURE THE OUTER SPACE AND LIBERATE THE MIND TO THE SYMBAN, TO THE UNIVERSE, THAT SURROUNDS US AND PERHAPS DEFINE US IN A WAY WE ARE NOT CAPABLE TO COMPREHEND. 

 

PETER CONSTANT 

THE GOODS ARE IN THE FAR EAST!!

THE RESULTS OF A SOUND INVESTMENT AND A PREMATURE CASHING IN!!

WHEN MAKING AN INVESTMENT THE EYE IS ON THE CASHING IN. UNFORTUNATELY FOR ME, CASHING IN WAS ALWAYS A PROBLEM AND A REAL ISSUE. CASHING IN TOO EARLY!!

 

Hong Kong the old, new world

May 2011

I regret the decision to sell.  I hate the prospect of living without the children that have kept me company for nearly four years.  It is impossible to disassociate sentiments from money matters in art investments.  However, I have become a pragmatist and I see things more rationally at the age of sixty-five.  Pragmatism prevails! Money wins!

The research into the latest sales of Mai Thu’s work favour Sotheby’s as the venue to sell, and thus the negotiations with Sotheby’s Hong Kong start.  The expert in charge loves the paintings the moment he sees images of them. “Beautiful, what the market is after,” he comments.  “We can sell them for you Mr Constant at 55,000 HK dollars each,” (about £4000 each). I am very happy with that, and with no bargaining, no demands except the usual charges as a trader, I prepare to ship the beautiful pair of Vietnamese children back to the region they belong to.

Dreaming of a good sale once again, reliving the dreams of earlier days and earlier times, I start the process of shipping the small pictures to Hong Kong. I am optimistic about the sale result, but also apprehensive at the possibility of the paintings remaining unsold in a far away country.

The packing is finished but the sadness and feelings of emptiness in parting with something living in the house is no exaggeration. I do not fill the space where the two images of the Vietnamese children have been.  Perhaps, I am expecting them back at some point soon. Who knows what will happen in Hong Kong?  FEDEX collects the tiny box containing the two paintings hours after I call them in May 2011. It has been a year or so since I shipped anything abroad and my worry is as usual deep but unnecessary. Will the packet get lost being so small?  Will the paintings arrive safely and as packed? When will the two children arrive and will the expert like them as much when he sees them close up? 

Two days later the packet is still in transit in Paris.  Why is FEDEX so late?  What an ordeal!  It takes six long days to receive confirmation that the paintings have arrived safely in Hong Kong. The email with a photo proves to me that they are finally in the safe hands of Sotheby’s.  They look fine and I feel comfortable once again, but for how long?  This is a business of unpredictable and unexpected events. What new event is going to happen to this old fox? Everything possible has already happened, hasn’t it?

One week later still no contracts from Sotheby’s.  Emails are exchanged with the promise they will send the documentation soon. Two weeks and then three weeks pass and alarm bells are ringing. This is not Sotheby’s normal practice.  I find out that Hong Kong is so busy they barely cope with the limited personnel they have.  Sotheby’s eventually dispatch the contract documents with a reputable courier, who I must admit offer a service I dislike a lot. They fail to deliver as nobody is home, and that’s it!  They never try again; they never deliver the documents! At the end of the fourth week, Sotheby’s email the contracts and everything is back on track.

What a headache already and the omens do not encourage me!  I am sitting on edge. This is not just far away - this feels like events are happening on another planet. The situation is out of my hands, it is out of my control and that inexplicably worries me. It’s Sotheby’s, silly. Calm down!  Stop worrying and start hoping for an unforgettable sale! 

August 2011

It is late August 2011 and there is no announcement of the impending sale in Hong Kong. I am writing the last parts of my diary. It is the last quarter of 2011 and the Mai Thu masterpieces are on my mind all the time. I am frustratingly worried for just one reason now. Will they sell and for how much?  Am I going to be poorer or richer? Silly worries at my age really. I am comfortably well off. The marriage of teaching and trading art has been well cemented and has paid off handsomely. I have built a great art portofolio of some potential and my pension from teaching should be the rock of my retirement.

By mid-September my worry has shifted to the catalogue and its late arrival. When will it come? What will the images be like? Will the catalogue do justice to the paintings?  It finally arrives the third week of September - a lavish catalogue with plenty to admire. I flick through the pages anxiously searching for the entries of the two children.  Then on page ninety-eight, on a full page and next to each other, appear the beautiful children of the Vietnamese master, Mai Thu Trung. The illustration is extremely good and the children look amazing. Perfect images! Breathtaking, real life on paper!

 

Timing, ah timing and the world’s financial troubles!

The financial situation worldwide takes the route south with stocks retreating, real estate prices falling and the manufacturing world on the brink. Who wants to know about art?  I am looking at the pair of paintings and am thinking. Will they return the 50% profit I dreamed of four years earlier? What if they return me 20%?  There is a glimmer of hope. The South - East Asia region is still manufacturing, is still the area on the planet to do business with, and since stocks and shares have been falling dramatically there are only a handful of alternatives to invest in, art being one of them. Naturally, I have to be optimistic, but realistically the picture two weeks before the sale looks grim and gloomy. Am I going to be disappointed or will my investment in South - East Asian art be profitable?

At this moment, it’s all up in the air.  I look at the two children time and again. I love the paintings and I am sure the Vietnamese collectors will love them more. I estimate them to sell for at least 70,000 Hong Kong dollars each now (£6000).

Sunday 2nd October 2011

The world is a very uncertain place at the moment. Anxiety at a world recession causes panic selling on the stock exchanges, including Hong Kong. Naturally, I panic too and I am afraid the two paintings will struggle to sell the following day, Monday. On the other hand, I am hoping investors will divert some of their funds into art, but really when you lose money on the stock exchanges you rein in your investment hunger. My worry and anxiety is immense. 

I open the catalogue for the hundredth time. I look at the two lovely faces of Mai Thu’s children, the hope of our world.  Hope! I witness this in classes daily and I enjoy children’s happiness when I see them drawing, playing, studying and doing things they love. Why did I buy these paintings? Is it to make money or is it because of something else deeper in my subconscious? I fail to work it out.

3rd October 2011 3:00 am, London time

I have a sleepless night worrying about the sale in Hong Kong. Anticipation, apprehension, anxiety, immense worry keep me awake and half asleep. The paintings are surely desirable and are going to sell. How much? Guessing is over now as this morning I will find out the result for sure. Has the connoisseur over-estimated the value of his property? Not unusual!  Will they sell or will they become a headache to be brought back to London?

 

 

INVESTING ART CAN BE FUN AND WEALTH MAKER TOO!!

INVEST IN WHAT YOU LIKE AND ENJOY LOOKING AT

 

The art of investment is a science of the highest level.  Avoiding the bubbles, targeting the bargains and investing on the dip are the best tactics of a sound and solid investor; patience and restraint should be exercised in the quest for that right moment and opportunity. As the years went by experience taught me to rein myself in, save the money and wait for that opportune moment.

MAI TRUNG 

 

 

Chapter XXXVII   Emerging Markets Call for Investments!

Investing in art has taken a myriad of routes, innumerable styles of paintings and hundreds of artists.  By the time the Olympics in Athens had finished, my portfolio was about 80% Greek.  That was an unbalanced portofolio, mainly driven by sentiment.  This was short - sighted and very risky. The Greek market had had a great run for over twenty years, which I had exploited well. It had accelerated in the new millennium and as Sotheby’s reported in 2008 had improved by over 500%. But how much further could it climb?   I had no idea, but I was aware of similar rapid increases and then major busts, such as the Swedish and Spanish markets in the late 1980s and 1990s and more recently the Irish art market. 

Quick action was required to put some order into my passion of collecting Greek art and balance my portfolio.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  (Aesop)

A successful investor adjusts to a changing economic environment and that I needed to do once again. The venture had begun with investments in Victorian art and 19th Century European art quickly followed by Impressionist, Contemporary, Russian and Greek art.  Where would I turn to next?  It was always a struggle to be one step ahead or even half a step ahead of the rest of investors/collectors, and then with the Internet and mobile phones revolutionizing information and provision of data it had become even more difficult.  Regardless I had to take remedial action; I had to balance the portfolio.  I would do this by selling Greek art and investing in emerging markets, in underrated and unknown artists and hopefully bargains that went unnoticed.  I had to carry on and look for new investments with potential.

 

Where can I invest £11,000 aiming at a return of 50-100%?

The new millennium pointed to new superpowers and shifting of the world’s wealth from continent to continent and more significantly from country to country. The South - East Asian economies had been showing fast GDP growth for years especially at the end of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. These were the economies that promised an 8% annual GDP for years to come, and if that happened their art would also grow by as much if not by more, I concluded.

Experience of twenty-five years supported the view that economic prosperity and cultural values come together in the long run.

Thus, I turned my attention to South - East Asia.  The problem I had was which artists of which country or countries and at what level?  I knew that the art market of China, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and India had been on an upward trend for a few years already so it was back to research and study of price movements; down to work and an eye on the market for those bargains that are always around us but often go undetected. 

Art is a specialist field where fortunes can be made by informed investors. I have no doubt that anyone can become such an investor, provided strong desire and hard work are in play.

 

Autumn 2007

Depositing the money in a bank would have given me on average 2% annual return or about two hundred pounds annually. That was not clever as inflation was conservatively estimated at 3% annually. No joy in the bank and no joy in stocks that can move up and down like a yo-yo. Thus, the art investor turned to art, naturally! 

It was back to the auctions of London, Paris and New York. I scrutinized the work of South - East Asian artists estimated to sell up to £6000, provided they had already sold at auction for over £15,000.  It was a matter of which was the best opportunity and who promised the most in the next five to ten years.  Month after month I searched hundreds of sales and events. It was a major challenge, but also very exciting to get to learn new names and analyse new investment opportunities. Catalogues, the Internet, galleries were visited day after day. There was a rush to invest, even though I kept telling myself to hold off, wait for the right opportunity, the bargain.

 

 

SO WHAT HAPPENED WITH THIS INVESTMENT??

FOLLOW MY BLOG !!! 

CASHING IN QUICKLY WAS THE PLAN!!

CONTEMPORARY ART THE TOP MARKET RIGHT NOW

LOOKING BACK AND LOOKING AT MY PERFORMANCE FIGURES, IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN CONTEMPORARY ART THE TOP PERFORMER. YES THERE WERE OTHER BRIGHT SPOTS BUT THIS MARKET SEEMED TO BE THE ONE BEAMING BRIGHTLY. FROM INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS , TO GREEK ARTISTS, IT WAS ALWAYS THE ONE SECTION OF THE MARKET PERFORMING ALWAYS, OR NEARLY ALWAYS AS THE ONE EXAMPLE BELOW IS SPECIFICALLY BROUGHT BACK FOR ALL TO READ AND BE CAREFUL WITH CONTEMPORARY ART. 

 

Paul Kallos

 

(French, [1928 – 2001] Paul Kallos was an abstract artist working from 1945 to 2001. Originally from Hungary, he survived the concentration camps and devoted himself to art.  Living and working in France, he has a good presence in many museums in the USA, France and England. He is popular and well collected. Auction price range, £500- 13,000)

I spotted the attractive Kallos painting in a small gallery in London away from auctions and the spotlight. It was the ideal investment at the time.  Measuring 146 x 114 cm, a good size for a contemporary painting, and signed and dated 1962, it was just about fine as an abstract piece, even though ideally a date between 1946-59 would have been better.  The colours were harmonious, challenging and meaningful. The rich, bluish general appearance was to my liking and as the artist confirmed to me later, it was one of his figurative paintings of the period.

 

RAGS OR RICHES WITH KALLOS ON FRONT PAGE 

The auction prices for Kallos’ work in 1988 were nothing to shout about. However, in 1989 and early 1990 they improved substantially with an impressive result in New York close to $20,000 dollars for a relatively small abstract painting.  French art was selling very well, it was a hot market and that was where an investor could make easy money.

I liked the Kallos and was confident about its merits. I negotiated the painting at £6,000. It was slightly more than I was hoping to pay, but my hopes were to sell the piece soon enough in Paris where the work was produced some thirty years earlier.  The uniqueness of this investment was that there was no cash involved.  I exchanged the Martin-Ferrières plus two other minor paintings for the Kallos work.  In one deal I got rid of a bad memory and acquired a possible money-spinner.

By June 1990 my bank account was looking like a wilting red poppy ready to drop its petals and die away.  The Kallos was an investment I had made for a quick profit.  It was all about turning £6,000 worth of paintings into at least £12,000 cash within two months.  I was in a rush.  Did I have a premonition? Did I know something others did not? No! Instinct again!

With that in mind I immediately shipped the painting to Paris where the market was very good.  It was entered in an important sale of July 1990 with a reserve of £10,000.  I was happy and very positive of a reasonable return as Kallos’ art was selling well above £10,000. It was simple mathematics, wasn’t it? Where could the problem be?

However one month is a long time in investments and that is very true even in art.  By July 1990 Kuwait was expected to be invaded by Iraq, the clouds of war were hovering low and the Kallos work failed to sell at £10,000.  It was such a disappointment after the effort and speed at which everything was put together.  The expected profit at the end of the 1990 season became another loss-making exercise that worsened my financial situation.

I still own the Kallos work twenty-three years later, and of course I have not made a penny from it.  On the contrary, the interests on the painting have added to the cost of the investment and made it a £9,000 total investment, which is just about its current auction valuation.  Will I ever recover my money? One never knows, but there are plenty of positive signs and the artist’s work of the period is selling and improving well at the time of writing.

Art of the 1950s and 1960s is becoming iconic. Abstract art is still an art pursued by serious collectors and that encourages me to play the waiting game.  The artist has been left on the backburner by many, but I feel waiting to sell is a wise decision. The market in France is fine, but Kallos does not sell for more than ten thousand euros at best.  My intuition tells me to hold on, wait a few more years and then try once again.  Patience is the case with this painting and that I am exercising at the moment. Paul Kallos is due for re-appraisal, his art is housed in some of the best museums around the world and I am convinced there will be a sharp re-adjustment of prices.  I like the work and I wish I had the room to hang it up and enjoy it, rather than keep it locked away in the stockroom!

WARNING AND CAUTION WHEN INVESTING IN CONTEMPORARY ART.

 

PETER CONSTANT

 

 

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE IN ALL LIFE MATTERS!!

REGRETTABLY WE ALL SHOW MOMENTS AND TIMES OF IMPATIENCE

 

OVER THE THIRTY YEARS I TRADED ART I HAD SIGNIFICANT PURCHASES AND SALES. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN WITH REGRET I SOLD THE BEST PAINTINGS AND ART I BOUGHT BUT IN MOST CASES THE SALE OF ONE BROUGHT THE INVESTMENT IN ANOTHER. WHEN MONEY IS SO LITTLE,THEN INVESTMENTS HAVE TO TAKE THAT INTO SERIOUS CONSIDERATION AND ACT ACCORDINGLY. I STARTED MY ART ADVENTURE WITH A TEN POUND INVESTMENT IN 1983.

I HAD TO SELL THE BEAUTIFUL SEAGO PAINTING IN 1986 IN ORDER TO BUY THE MAGNIFICENT HANS HOFFMAN THAT TODAY WOULD HAVE BEEN WORTH AT LEAST HALF A MILLION DOLLARS. WHEN IT SOLD FOR 30,000 IN 1986 , I WAS OVER THE MOON BUT WITHIN A COUPLE OF YEARS I CURSED MYSELF AND TODAY I STILL CURSE MYSELF. SHOULD I HAVE SOLD OR HELD ON TO THAT TREASURE? YES, YOU KNOW THE ANSWER BUT MY IMPATIENCE AND LACK OF FUNDS FORCED ME TO SELL.

THE LESSONS OF SELLING THE HOFFMAN PREMATURELY WENT IN AND WHEN I MANAGED TO BUY ANOTHER MASTERPIECE BY ALEXANDRA EXTER I WAITED PATIENTLY FOR THE RUSSIAN MARKET TO WAKE UP AND THEN SELL. ONE WISE GENTLEMAN ADVISED ME IN THOSE HECTIC YEARS OF DEALING IN ART.

""KEEP AN INVESTMENT FOR FIFTEEN YEARS AT LEAST.""

ALAS, I LISTENED NOT, ALAS I WAS PRESSED BY MONEY ISSUES AND SOLD THE EXTER PAINTING JUST AT THE WRONG TIME OF THE RUSSIAN ART PRICE BOOM. YES, ONCE AGAIN I SOLD IMPATIENTLY EVEN THOUGH I WAITED FOR TWELVE YEARS BETWEEN INVESTMENT AND CASHING IN.

 

ALEXANDRA EXTER

IN 2000 SOTHEBYS SOLD THIS EXTER FOR 60,000 FOR ME BUT I KNOW THAT HAD I WAITED FOR THREE MORE YEARS, THE PAINTING WOULD HAVE SOLD AT LEAST FOR 200,000, IF NOT MORE. IMPATIENCE AND LACK OF FUNDS FORCED ME TO SELL THE BEST PAINTING I HAD AND TODAY I LAMENT THE DECISION AND ITS RESULT.

MY ADVICE TO ALL READERS AND FUTURE ART INVESTORS. KEEP YOU ART INVESTMENTS FOR FIFTEEN YEARS AT LEAST, IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT, THAT IS.

PETER CONSTANT