Time to collect contemporary russian art?

Is it a good time to collect contemporary Russian art? RN asked several market experts for their opinions.
Vladislav Efimov, artist:

Like any artist, I'll of course tell you that you should collect contemporary Russian art. Why? That's a different question. Some people collect art as an investment. I cannot advise people like that because one has to know how the market works and I am no an expert in that. Others collect art because they love it. For them the art situation today could turn out to be profitable.

In Russia the art market is still uneven and unformed. There are absolute "stars" who sell well and whose work keeps certain galleries in business. And there are artists who are doing very interesting things but in whom gallery owners have little interest because they all deal in the same established names. I hope that now the art situation will even out, that there will be a level field, like the one in the 1990s. Whether or not I am right, September's Art-Moscow Exhibition will tell: if the top names on which all gallery owners have been betting sell poorly, those same gallery owners will be forced to look for something else. Poverty may be a way out of the commercial horror of the last few years.

When there is less money, an artist suddenly has time to think not about doing more of what he has done successfully, but about creating new things that may be just as successful from a commercial point of view. In order to develop, he must produce some bad work. But the commercial vector forces him to work without mistakes, to mass produce his most successful devices. A ware must be recognizable, but art is not an ordinary ware, it lives according to different laws. The struggle between artistic idealism and the market has been going on for a long time, but now idealism may come to the fore.

Sofia Trotsenko, director of the Vinzavod Center of Contemporary Art:

I would say that the time to collect contemporary Russian art began a couple of years ago. And the point is not the prices, but the force of creativity, the number of talented works that have been created recently and the number of new names that have appeared. Of course, in this year of the crisis prices have dropped somewhat. But I cannot say that because of the crisis the art situation has changed significantly in Russia. True, there is a popular opinion says that the crisis is for the best, because only the best work will remain. But I think that one won't be able to say anything definite before October, after the Art-Moscow Exhibition. Of course, I would like to see more new names, and this possibility is, in my opinion, a function of the crisis, because whereas before every gallery strove to sell as much as possible, and everything did get sold, now sales have dropped and gallery owners will be forced to consider the work of young artists who charge less.

Pierre-Christian, Avant-Garde Publishing, Petit-Fute guidebooks

I am not the right person to ask because I have been collecting contemporary Russian art for 20 years. Like anyone afflicted with the incurable disease of collecting, I consider that it is always the right time to collect. So in answer to your question, I would say: Yes! It is time to buy Russian art! Because that will be to my benefit. The more people buy, the more valuable my collection will become.

Whether or not this is a good investment, I have never asked myself. I collected this art because I like it. Associating with artists and gallery owners has been my life. Art people interest me - that's all there is to it. How things will develop, I can't say. Will my children become millionaires? Will I be a rich man in my old age, thanks to my collection? I don't know. I'm not convinced, in any case, that culture and art will be principal preoccupations in the 21st century.

I have the sense that in Russia today several young artists have appeared who work in very interesting ways and are looking for new approaches in art. Still, I can't say that you should rush out and buy their work. Art right now is depreciating in value. But so is everything else. Real estate has gone down too. The art market, however, is unlike other markets. Here two factors matter: 1) the picture you buy may be hung on the wall; it is more beautiful than shares of stock; 2) this sort of purchase leaves you with less liquidity; pictures sell more slowly than stocks.

Five or six Russian art auctions are held every year. That isn't much. If you want to sell a painting, you will have to spend time looking for an auction that is interested in your work and wait till it gets into the catalogue. Selling a work of contemporary art takes at least six months.

Aidan Salakhova, artist, gallery owner

People who are only now beginning to think about collecting contemporary Russian art are a bit behind the times. They should have begun collecting several months ago. It's better to buy in summer before galleries have put together their stands for the European fairs. The time to find a good deal is almost over: after the Art-Moscow Exhibition in September, prices will begin to go up.

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