I WAS SO PROUD OF THE KIDS!!
WHAT AM I TALKING ABOUT?
SOMETIMES WHEN YOU MAKE AN INVESTMENT IN ART YOU GET VERY ATTACHED TO THE ITEMS AND THE IMAGES. THAT WAS THE CASE WITH THE TWO SMALL IMAGES OF THE BOY AND THE GIRL FROM VIETNAM. I HANGED THEM IN A PRIME SPOT AND ENJOYED THEM FOR FIVE YEARS. I, UNFORTUNATELY, WANTED TO PROVE TO MYSELF SOMETHING WHICH I DID AT A GREAT COST.
I SOLD THEM FIVE AND SEVEN YEARS AFTER I INVESTED IN THEM. NET RETURN 50%. IT WAS A GOOD RETURN BUT A TERRIBLE DECISION TO SELL. THOSE OF YOU READERS WHO FOLLOW THE ART MARKET OF VIETNAM KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT.
Mai Thu Trung
(Vietnamese [1906 –1980] Top artist of Vietnam who immigrated to France in the 1930s where he lived until his death. A figurative artist, well respected, collected and considered one of the forefathers of Vietnamese art. Auction price range £2000- 60000)
The catalogue from Deauville arrived soon after I had requested it. There are still printed catalogues and if you have time and you are serious about investing, ask for one. Catalogues are a very good source of provenance in the years to come. Please keep them, and if possible attach them to any art you might invest in, together with the purchase documents.
Mai Thu started his art career in Vietnam and distinguished himself at the Hanoi School of Art. Even though he settled in France in the 1930s, he continued to paint evocative and classic art reminiscent of Vietnamese life and people, especially children and young mothers with their babies. The artist delivered figurative images of the highest quality, human emotions of extreme depth and beauty. Those factors were reflected in the steadily improving price bracket and genuine collectibility of his work worldwide. So Mai Thu became an investment target for me.
Any investment in the artist promised a good, slow upward appreciation, but by how much it was impossible to forecast in October 2007. My targets in the Deauville catalogue were two small paintings by Mai Thu, which could have been considered a pair: a girl sewing ‘La Couture’ and a boy painting/studying ‘Garçon au Travail’. The two Vietnamese children were exquisitely painted and in my view very commercial.
Researching an artist’s market value and trends has always been a pleasing activity for me. It is a difficult challenge, but undoubtedly paramount for any investment. Catalogues in South – East Asian art markets was not the strongest section in my library of catalogues, however there are other ways to research an artist’s performance and sales and these I employ fully whenever I intend to invest in an artist’s work.
• Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction websites, plus hundreds of other auction websites, are full of interesting data and are free. Selling prices are available, images free to look at and they stretch back a few years in many cases.
• Artprice, artnet, artfact are art data companies, which, for a fee, give important information on thousands of artists and their auction performance. The new website 10000artists.com is comparatively the cheapest and provides initial research information for a small one-off fee. When intending to invest a serious amount of money it is worth paying a small sum to look at up-to-date results and images.
It is the first time I try to buy anything at Deauville, a beautiful, sea resort in Northern France. The auction is well established and reputable and I trust their cataloguing and guarantees. There is a small degree of anxiety, but even provincial auctions in France operate legally under laws and rules that offer protection to buyers and sellers.
Provincial auctions should not frighten investors especially if:
• The auction has a track record of good auctions.
• The auction publishes high standard catalogues with correct cataloguing.
• There are guarantees of the authenticity of art offered for sale.
There are four Mai Thu paintings in the sale. The first one is a large, fine painting, but too much money is required for it – well over my budget of £6000. I aim for the two small paintings of the girl and the boy. I love them! They will make a perfect pair!
Anxiety and jitters as usual before the bidding. My limit is £6000 and not a penny more. I have to be strict and disciplined as this is money for my old age, if I manage to reach that. There is competition for the first large major Mai Thu painting and I expect the same for the ones I want. Initially I get the false feeling of bargains, but by the time the bidding starts I change my tune. From one thousand euros estimate each I have to press the issue and go to bidding battles with other investors. Luckily, on both occasions, I come out the winner, but at a cost. I am not pushed beyond my limit, but the total investment comes to £5500.
I am excited and hopeful for this new investment! After twenty-four years of successful trading in art I am testing my skills once again. But what do I need to prove to myself? There is nothing more exciting and rewarding for me than buying a new piece of art. The fun of collecting and investing in art is immeasurable. What makes it so different from other forms of investment you might wonder?
• Investing in art involves travel sometimes, which makes the business very enjoyable and fun.
• Auctions offer opportunities to meet interesting people and strike business relationships.
• Opening up boxes and parcels to welcome home purchases is like opening Christmas presents all year round – great expectations, incredible joy! Is it right? Is it as good as the photos? Does the item hide anything the auction failed to spot?
• You can view and enjoy this investment hanging on your wall everyday – immense!
• Shipping boxes and parcels and the surge of adrenalin that accompanies the reward of your labours – a fat cheque arriving through the post!
The two small paintings need to be collected in France. Why not add to the fun and travel to France too? Why not collect three paintings together since I have also bought another one in Paris? Why not? Paris is the city of romance and fashion and I love spending a day or two there. A short drive of a few hours, a couple of good meals in Paris and the purchase of a good few bottles of wine in Calais on the way back home, what else is life about? Art investments allow plenty of fun and that was another part of the venture I enjoyed and loved. Paris, New York, Athens! What a life!
Joy and enjoyment of art
For four years the beautiful images of ‘Garçon au Travail’ and ‘La Couture’ hang in the corridor entrance of the house. I want them there to view and enjoy everytime I pass by. The teacher in me takes great pleasure and enjoyment in looking at these children, looking at the concentration in what they are doing. More importantly it is their innocence, their serenity, their calmness and happiness that inspire me every time I look at them, every time I show them proudly to visitors and friends. I get so much pleasure out of them that literally I have already been rewarded for the investment. Money matters are important, but emotional rewards are as important and at times of more significance. Am I so wrong in liking the images that I understand, than the ones I have to dig deep into and still fail to find enjoyment in? I am not a shallow person; on the contrary, deep emotions flood my personality and in these images emotions overflow and fill me richly.
Mai Thu Trung – ‘Garcon au Travail’ and ‘La Couture’
I am living in a dream world of my own making. Yet, I know, I sadly know, that the world I build around me bit by bit is temporary and ephemeral. It is an investment. Investment! That is never far away from my mind and my calculations. The South – East Asian region is the heart of an evolving world. China is the manufacturing engine of the world now and Vietnam has benefited from the close links and proximity of the two countries. Mai Thu’s work has appreciated in value enough to hope that, if I cash in my investment, it will return me at least about 50% profit. Shall I cash in or shall I wait a little longer? Timing is one of the most important aspects of any transaction, but will I get it right for once? Past experience does not make a good reading!
Hong Kong the old, new world
MORE TO COME NEXT WEEK!!