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Any investment is a sort of an adventure. Nobody knows the end result, nobody can predict where it might lead to but let me quote here Mr Bezos’ mother who said to him ” Are you going to be selling records as a business on line?” We all know what has happened since to that adventure of Jeff Bezos. Amazon is the biggest company on the planet selling everything on line.

I had to be daring, I had to take risks and in that way I fell into traps, I madde many mistakes but I also invested into very profitable art and I met interesting people who became the bridge of  my success. All along mistakes were an issue and lessons I have learned from a good guide to success. Some of them I have narrated already but here I am advising people to look into the markets and see where the momentum is. Get early into those markets and you will rip the benefits for sure.


Can the gravy train carry on delivering in the 1990s?

The years between 1983-1989 proved miraculous anyway I looked at them. I had ventured into art with a few pounds and by the end of the decade I was dealing in paintings selling for tens of thousands of pounds. More importantly, I knew I was a good art investor because 95% of my investments returned significant profits. Results and experience told me that I was getting better year after year, but was that right or was it because of boom times?
The year 1989 was a very profitable year with plenty of lessons learned. I sold well and I bought well. I was really happy with my dealings and nearly everything was going perfectly well, actually too well to feel comfortable about!
The Somerscales had been entered for Sotheby’s Marine Sale in May 1990 with an estimate of £3-4000 and an expectation to sell close to £5000. It sold for £3800, a satisfactory result, yielding a profit of 140% for the six months’ investment, although still lower than expected.
The recession was approaching, the clouds of the Gulf War were looming over the horizon, but I did not see any of that to take cover. I was too busy investing to notice and I was as optimistic and bullish as most other investors. The world was a paradise full of enjoyable fruit as the euphoria of 1989 continued into mid-1990. But apparently hell is next door to paradise – impossible to imagine at the time. Sense and reason are just a blade’s edge away from madness and the irrational. A mad dog barked and the whole world went insane with the Gulf War.
My business instincts deserted me, luck abandoned me and everything I touched turned to dust. Nearly everything turned against me and the happy world of 1985 –1989 turned into a nightmare overnight, threatening to wipe everything away.
• I invested in a Parthenis painting that was to prove a bad investment.
• The Somerscales sale developed into a Pyrrhic victory.
• A sound investment in a painting by Paul Kallos, after a serious error on a Martin-Ferrières painting, went wayward because of the events in the Middle East.
• Investing and losing £5000 in oil futures destroyed my defences and decimated my fund reserves.
It seemed a conspiracy of the powers to teach me a lesson. Losses were mounting and the bank account was turning from pale red to dark, bloody crimson. When finances take the route south, they do so in a very fast way, and there is nothing to stop the course of disasters, no breaks to apply or obvious, easy solutions.


Be first into any market; reap the benefits before the masses


Yiannis Papanelopoulos (1936- ) signed, oil on canvas 80 x 120 cm


The Greek art market was getting into gear. Fundamental indicators and conditions were beaming in bright colours, and those who got in first were to reap the rewards. Thus Greek art and Greece became my playing field and gradually the focus art for my dealing after 1987 and the next two decades.
• Being a new, developing market it offered plenty of opportunities with the potential of much more over the following years.
• Greek art was spread all over the world and a dealer like myself had fantastic opportunities to acquire bargains without much competition.
• It was possible to buy and sell privately without the auctions taking a major chunk of the profits.
• It was possible to buy and sell quickly.
• It was possible to work on commission and as an agent.
Selling was very good in Greece, but what about buying? Buying privately there is a lot more dangerous than anywhere else. The banana skins are thrown your way, they are laid carefully and you have to avoid them, if you are to survive. Whenever you buy privately, you need to be extra vigilant, extra careful and suspicious. There are too many shady characters and too many unscrupulous individuals trying to sell fake art. Titles of high ranking are misused in order to deceive, meaningless guarantees are offered and recommendations founded on money rewards are at play and of no value. Check everybody out yourself before you hand over money.
Greeks owning any art think very highly of their possessions even if they are worth nothing. That, I am afraid, includes myself. That sort of mentality makes it very hard to buy art privately without bargaining and without acrimony. The art galleries in Athens back in the late 1980s early 1990s were few and far between. They sold little, and that at very, very high prices. That alone forced investors such as myself to ask people to hunt for paintings in private hands. Only one auction operated in Athens after October 1988 and that was not completely trusted, though I trusted it myself. Thus, there were many opportunities to buy privately but at a cost and with many dangers involved.


Vasilis Zenetzis ( 1935-2016) signed, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm 


The Greek market proved a very good investment area for about twenty years until it collapsed in 2009-12. It is slowly returning to some healthy levels but in my eyes it needs a few more years to rebound sharply and with some purpose. however, there are other markets booming at the moment. Look into South East Asia, look into Eastern European art.

Peter Constant

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