Singapore’s home-grown demand for art
A decade since Art Works Group was founded, CEO Troy Sadler says demand is rising due to the increased amount of time people are spending at home, while art as an investment is fast generating interest. By Joseph Low.
Troy Sadler is owner and CEO of Art Works Group
The global art market has enjoyed good 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, owner and CEO 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 behind the uptick in demand has been the increased amount of time people are now spending at home. This provides the opportunity for many 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.
To help homeowners achieve their goals, Art Works launched an online gallery in March, after a year of Covid-induced social distancing and restrictions on group gatherings. The online gallery features contemporary art, fine arts and investment-grade pieces in a highly curated collection.
The Beautiful Woman by John Paul Fauves
Pivoting towards the digital landscape has become an important part of today’s business model and a highly traditional market, like art, must adapt to the new norm, although people still want to see pieces in person when possible.
“Clients can come in and buy artwork for their homes. The works we deal in are 99 per cent 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 elite 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 is fading away.
FROM TENNIS TO DE NIRO
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 Hampton, New York.
Sam Hardwick, Director of Art Works, with Sadler
Clients at the club he was working for included Hollywood legend Robert De Niro, filmmaker Robert Downey Sr, artist Eric Fischl and photographer Ralph Gibson, and their conversations about art piqued Sadler’s interest.
He started to visit art exhibitions and explore what was 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, with alcohol gaining popularity as an alternative asset class in recent years. Six years later, in 2012, he founded Blue Sky Artists, which represents international artists and supplies their artwork to galleries and dealers across the Asia Pacific. This led to Sadler diving 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.
Void Smile by John Paul Fauves
Artists who have picked Art Works to represent them in this region include emerging and mid-career artists from a range of nationalities such as Lincoln Townley, Danny Minnick, Igor Dobrowolski, Ma Dongmin and John Paul Fauves.
After healthy growth between 2017 to 2019, sales in 2020 plummeted due to Covid. Physical restrictions meant less footfall to the gallery, while buying pieces online was still a novel concept for many art collectors.
However, Sadler and his team persevered and the silver lining to all this was the introduction of the online gallery. In fact, the Australian was proud to announce that the gallery managed to generate S$1 million worth of sales in August.
ART AS INVESTMENT
Sadler says Singaporean buyers now make up 50 per cent of sales, 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.
Troy Sadler: “Give yourself a minimum of seven to 10 years before selling any artwork.”
A larger number of people now see art as a stable, reliable asset class in the alternative investment market, alongside alcohol. Potential investors looking to diversify their portfolio can tap into the expertise of the advisory arm of Art Works, which provides consultation services.
Sadler is confident that clients will be able to gain between 10-15 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 sell art I bought after a year?” However, he advises clients to allow for a minimum of 7-10 years before selling any pieces.
Art investment is a long-term game and Sadler admits 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.
Mi Polar by John Paul Fauves
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 it will only help to grow the art market although it 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; instead, Sadler views them as complementary and remains open-minded about the new developments within the digital sphere of art.
Being among the city’s most forward-thinking art galleries, it may not 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.
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