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.
(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.