• Florian Mercker

Art as a multi-channel business.

Trade fairs, gallery owners and auction houses are closely interlinked in the art trade. "Each of these channels has its specific challenge - and collectors benefit," explains private-wealth art expert Florian Mercker.

Where do you get information? Und where kaufen Sie then? I am pretty sure that you have now mentally enumerated the most important channels of the art trade - fairs, galleries and auction houses. That's the way I do it.

However, I have noticed significant changes in the past years. Of course, the fairs are still the most important meeting place, because it is there that the cosmopolitan collectors can get a condensed overview of the current art scene. However, this broad positioning is initially associated with high local establishment costs for the trade fair companies. These costs are borne by the participating galleries via the stand fees to be paid. But they are also increasingly reckoning with a sharp pencil as to whether this investment is worthwhile.

Economic pressure means that well-known trade fairs such as Art Basel in Switzerland, TEFAF in Maastricht or Frieze in London are increasingly trying to establish their brand in other continents, countries and cities. Their aim is to attract additional groups of buyers - above all in the US, Asia and Arab regions. The decisive collectors are thus to be reached locally at their own centre of life, i.e. in New York, Dubai or Hong Kong.

The fairs there also serve to establish and expand the regional art market with all its facets. They offer the infrastructure for galleries, ensure the market place and access to works, artists, museums, curators. This will intensify in the future.

This is fundamentally positive. I see a problem, though. Sales are usually better achieved with mainstream or established blue chips. Young, bulky art, exciting programs with works by unknown artists contribute little to this. A new playing field opens here. More and more often I use so-called side fairs like the VOLTA or the Supersimétrica Art Fair. There I can still make discoveries myself.

Also the gallery gets more meaning again. In principle, the following applies: the art trade resells the existing works of established artists on the secondary market. With its commitment to an often largely unknown artist, the gallery determines the primary market. Sie decides whether an artist becomes known at all and then perhaps finds a broad buyer base later.

The biggest challenge, especially for young galleries, is controlling costs. Gallery rooms at home, trade fair fees, travel expenses, employees - that can get out of hand quickly. I suppose that's why the gallery landscape will split. The small and fine galleries with local main business will be successful if they limit themselves only to selected trade fair participations. And the big ones, who have more than 50 employees and are present at all major trade fairs. The middle falls away.

In addition, there will be fewer and fewer pure primary market galleries. In the future, galleries will also be even more forced to finance the growing costs as art dealers by selling established works and artists. And the ways there will change - especially through online channels.

For the auction houses, the development will continue into lifestyle companies that follow the flow of money - to China, Arabia, the USA, perhaps even Russia again. Their sole aim is to sell luxury goods at the highest price. As a rule, this is only possible with modern and contemporary masterpieces. But because the marketing costs are also high for this, the auction trade will have to expand its product range beyond art.

For me as a collector, this competition is fantastic. Ich do networking on the established fairs, buy then usually somewhat more favorably at the own location of the gallery, let me inspire on Nebenmessen, discover new artists with "my" Galeristen and remain on-line over all trends and opportunities up to date. Collecting art has never been so easy. ®

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