A Decade On, Troy Sadler’s Art Works Group is Stronger Than Ever
A decade has passed since Art Works’ inception and the gallery is growing even stronger than ever before.
By Joseph Low
The global art market has seen growth in the past few months. While certain sectors such as the food and beverage industry are slowly recovering from the adverse effects of the pandemic, demand for art has been on the rise. Troy Sadler, Managing Director of Art Works Group, a Singapore-based art gallery and boutique advisory firm is optimistic about the outlook for the art market in Singapore.
One of the reasons why an uptick in demand has been observed could be the increased amount of time people are now spending at home. This provides the opportunity for many to take the opportunity to spruce up the space they now work and live in. And art is a great way for homeowners to express themselves and elevate their abode.
Art Works is a company that aims to help these homeowners achieve their goals. With social distancing still a mainstay in our community, the firm has launched an online gallery earlier this March. Pivoting towards the digital landscape has become an important part of today’s business model and a highly traditional market, like art, has to adapt to the new norm. The online gallery features contemporary art, fine arts and investment-grade pieces in a highly curated collection.
“Clients can come in and buy artwork for their homes. The works we deal in are 99% contemporary and oil-on-canvas paintings,” Sadler says. “We carry a range of international artists across Europe, the US and Asia.”
More than just a business model, the aim of the online gallery is to make art more accessible for everyone and the process of buying art less intimidating. There is a longstanding notion that art is reserved for the elites and is used as a status symbol. However, with art intersecting with popular culture and becoming a part of everyday life, the age-old belief has faded away.
Sadler’s journey towards becoming a veteran in the art scene is an interesting one. His first dabble into the art market came from his interactions with artists, actors and filmmakers while he was coaching tennis in East Hamptons, New York. Clients at the club he was working for include Robert Downey Sr, Robert De Niro, Eric Fischl and Ralph Gibson. They would have conversations about art and this piqued the interest of Sadler.
He would ask if he could visit art exhibitions and see what’s happening behind the scenes. Those years at the various studios helped Sadler form an understanding of how the art market functioned and that sparked his interest in alternative class assets.
In 2006, Sadler moved to Hong Kong where he set up Platinum Wines and Spirits — alcohol is also a type of alternative asset class that has gain popularity in recent years — then six years later, in 2012, he founded Blue Sky Artists. This company represents international artists and supplies their artwork to various galleries and dealers across the Asia Pacific. It was here that Sadler dived full-time into the art market.
While Sadler was dealing with artists, galleries and dealers, he got to know the owner of Art Works and decided to buy out the firm. Art Works was incorporated in 2011 and under his leadership, it has grown steadily throughout the years. More artists have picked Art Works to represent them in this region and this includes both emerging and mid-career artists from a range of nationalities. This includes innovative artists in 2021 such as Lincoln Townley, Danny Minnick, Igor Dobrowolski, Ma Dongmin and John Paul Fauves.
It would be an understatement to say that last year was horrible because the pandemic has screeched the economy to a halt and many industries suffered as a result. Art Works was not spared from the malice of Covid-19. Physical restrictions meant less footfall to the gallery and buying pieces online was still a novel concept for many art collectors. Sales in 2020 plummeted despite citing healthy growth between 2017 to 2019. Sadler and his team persevered and the silver lining to all this was the introduction of the online gallery, as mentioned earlier.
Sadler is proud that the gallery managed to hit S$1 million worth of sales in August last month even though the economy is still recovering. Sharing more about what he has observed over the past few months, Sadler says that Singaporeans buyers now compose 50 per cent of the sales as compared to 30 per cent previously. The market is growing and coupled with greater education on the security of art investment, he has witnessed a burgeoning interest in the appreciation of all art forms.
A larger number of people now see art to be one of the most stable and reliable asset classes in the alternative investment market — alongside alcohols. Potential investors looking to diversify their portfolio can tap on the expertise of the advisory arm of Art Works, which can provide consultation services. Sadler is confident that clients will be able to gain between 10 to 15 per cent capital appreciation with their carefully chosen pool of artists. All the artworks come directly from the artists, granting Art Works the best possible price for their clients.
A common question Sadler gets from his clients is this, “Can I immediately sell away the artwork that I bought after one year?” To that, he responds, “Give yourself a minimum of 7 to 10 years before selling any artwork.” Art investment takes a long term view and Sadler is frank in saying that Art Works is not keen on working with clients who just want to “flip”. At the end of the day, it is in both parties’ interest to have the artist grow and become more known.
On the topic of digitalisation, the proliferation of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) has been all the rage recently and when asked how this will affect the physical art market, Sadler says he welcomes this new form of “art”. He feels that it will only help to grow the art market as a whole but will never truly replace physical art. He likens it to the divide between digital music and musical instruments; the former will never fully replace the latter. NFTs will never replace physical art but instead, Sadler sees them as complementary.
Sadler remains open-minded with the new developments within the digital sphere of art and is not dismissing the idea of NFTs completely. More research needs to be done to see how Art Works can plant itself within this booming area. Being one of the most forward-thinking art galleries in Singapore and the region, perhaps it won’t be long before the firm starts a new series of collaborations with artists to offer blockchain enthusiasts an avenue to own their favourite artist’s work.