A Trip Down
Memory Lane Rodeo Drive
Michael Schwartz • January 23, 2019
A New Year often brings reflections and thoughts of the past. I recently began a short walk down Memory Lane, or in my case, down our home street for the past 40 years, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. I recounted some of the things I learned along the way from various key people in my life, and then began a conversation about market trends. Now I would like to expand that discussion in an effort to transfer the lessons I learned to those I exist to serve—the loyal clients of Galerie Michael. While it has taken me five decades to accumulate this knowledge, I will attempt to be briefer here!
By their very definition, cycles are trends that move up and down over some period of time. Sometimes the trendlines are upward, and sometimes they are downward. As a successful dealer and gallerist, I feel it is imperative to share my insights and observations of the current market. I have dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people who helped shape me—in both knowledge and experience. They were scholars, museum curators, art runners, auction houses, other dealers, as well as great collectors and conservators. Many were a positive influence, though certainly not all. Some of the strongest lessons I learned were things I promised I would never replicate. The art world has its share of scoundrels and outliers working in the periphery and shadows.
So what separates a true fine art dealer from the others? There is a consensus that guides us in understanding this important area. It all starts with the quality of the inventory. This is critical in defining the dealer’s reputation and merit, because one can perceive the dealer through the work s/he carries. Great dealers acquire and then sell works in the upper 20% of an artist’s output, and always make the commitment to buy great works of unequivocal quality and authenticity to serve their clients’ pursuit of building museum-quality collections. Great dealers are collection builders; their interest is to place their top works into the foundation of exceptional client collections. Top dealers exist to serve the needs of their clients, not the other way around. Their three-fold mission is service, service, and service—in doing whatever is necessary to protect and guide a client’s best interests—by practicing posterity, not prosperity. This necessarily means that a quality dealer is relationship-driven rather than transaction-driven—a totally different business model.They are known not only for the good deals they make, but also for the dubious deals they do not make. They do this by thinking and negotiating on behalf of their clients’ interests first and foremost—the goal is to place the proper artworks in the correct collections, not to just make a sale.
Finally, it is of paramount importance to educate clients. True partnerships and relationships between a dealer and collectors are built on the dealer’s dedication and ability to understand the “ins and outs” of the art world and then to share that knowledge, expertise and acumen openly and transparently with the clients. By educating clients at the highest level—with all aspects of the process focusing on building museum-quality collections, great collectors are enriched in their ongoing understanding and expertise. Ultimately this translates to a single word—vision. Collectors can develop their vision by combining their knowledge with their experience into understanding. Clarity of understanding allows a person to not only gaze into the past, but to see the future—to see the art trends shaping a continually developing world.
In that regard, I want to share an incredible story of a conversation centuries ago between an artist and a simple worker in a marble yard in Carrara, Italy. “Cut that massive piece of marble there my good fellow” the young artist demanded. “But sir, what in the world would and could you possibly do with a piece of marble of such enormity?” “Young man, question not my decision” the ar tist gazed toward the stone,” I already see the image of a great figure—it’s there, if you look yourself. It’s there—waiting for me to liberate it and bring it to form.” His passionate gaze for the marble intensified as he asked, “Can’t you see the masterpiece just waiting to be brought to life by my hands and chisels?”
This story had immense influence on me as a young dealer, and the phrase “It’s there!” has become my mantra. When I see a great work of art, I often know immediately which collection will be graced and gifted with such a masterpiece—regardless of how difficult the acquisition process might seem. Building distinguished fine art collections outweighs the merits of making transactions. Defining works hold a permanent place in art history and will change good collections into great ones.
I am sure by now you are wondering who is the artist in the marble yard in Carrara. He was the great Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti (1475-1564), who propelled art in the Italian Renaissance to its pinnacle. He was one of the greatest masters whose vision and virtuosity in sculpture rescued and liberated the most idealistic and powerful forms from massive slabs of marble. This sculpture of David is one of the most remarkable works ever created and is permanently exhibited at the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze in Florence, Italy.
I see Picasso as the reigning 20th century artist as clearly as Michelangelo saw the figure in the uncarved marble. Picasso still reigns as the number one 20th century artist sold globally. Picasso’s painting Les Femme d’Algers (Version “O”) from 1955, was sold to a collector in Qatar for $179.4 million; the portrait painting Femme au Beret et la Robe Quadrillee (1937) was sold to a collector in China for $69 million in 2018; and the remarkable sale of Picasso’s portrait of his young mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, Le Rêve, infamously damaged by Steve Wynn’s elbow, sold for $159 million to American hedge fund manager, Steve Cohen, six years after its restoration. The compelling fact is there is an international consensus on the value and the worldwide desire and interest to collect Picassos.
Great paintings by Picasso are limited to a very special and exclusive group of high-net-worth individuals and institutional collectors. When paintings reach enormous new price levels, the prices of unique graphics experience the identical trajectory—a trend that creates an unparalleled collecting opportunity. This is I am sure by now you are wondering who is the artist in the marble yard in Carrara. He was the great Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti (1475-1564), who propelled art in the Italian Renaissance to its pinnacle. He was one of the greatest masters whose vision and virtuosity in sculpture rescued and liberated the most idealistic and powerful forms from massive slabs of marble. This sculpture of David is one of the most remarkable works ever created and is permanently exhibited at the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze in Florence, Italy. Michelangelo’s David certainly true of Picasso. While one might intuitively think that works in color would be more desirable than those in black and white, market statistics reflect the tremendous value appreciation of Picasso’s black and white graphic works, making this part of his oeuvre highly collectable and desirable. Yet as the market moved toward the black and white works, prices rose to the point that most collectors were again seen on the outside looking in. In turn, this provided the next opportunity for collection and positions Picasso’s graphic works in color at a relatively undervalued position. Here is some evidence of the appreciation trajectory of Picasso’s black and white graphic works:
Whereas Pablo Picasso’s most defining works to the graphic medium, such as color linocuts, are recognized as his artistic testament to the graphic medium, this volume of work still remains at an incredible and accessible price—undervalued yet with the utmost importance and tremendous degree of collectability, poised for incredible price appreciation. I think it’s thrilling that one can still own a masterpiece by one of the world’s foremost artists—Pablo Picasso. The fact that Galerie Michael planned this remarkable exhibition almost eighteen months ago validates the simple fact that we are dealers of posterity not prosperity and we’re willing to share this great opportunity. We have allowed our clients to acquire the greatest artist’s most defining works IN COLOR. Following the formula
that has been in existence for centuries—pay a minimum price for maximum quality works. Prior to the inevitable market direction and inevitable dramatic price increase, these major Picasso works will be on exhibition at Galerie Michael.
To see our upcoming exhibition go to https://cld.bz/9fMcyRo