Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi (c. 1500)
While those acquisition costs are difficult to comprehend, they are perfectly reasonable when one views the investment the Arab nations are making in building galleries and museums. It is estimated that the newly-opened, 430,000-square-foot (ten acres of floor space) Qatar Museum cost $1,000,000,000 to construct. Then there is the 59,000-square-foot Arab Museum of Modern Art and the I.M. Pei-designed, 480,000-square-foot (eleven acres of floor space) Museum of Islamic Art, both also in Qatar. The next one to open will be the astonishing National Museum, with its breathtaking architecture.
Saudi Arabia is on the same path, though slightly behind their neighbor, Qatar. The Saudi Museum of Modern Art is now being planned in Riyadh. The United Arab Emirates opened the
Louvre Abu Dhabi two years ago, and the Guggenheim is set to open its $680,000,000 museum in the UAE in 2023. Planning is underway for the $270,000,000 Zayed National Museum. Then there is the Museum of the Future, in Dubai, with its $300,000,000 budget.
Western Art in China
China is a different story in some respects, but identical in others. They too have demonstrated a profound interest in the Modern Masters, particularly Picasso. A new museum dedicated to Picasso and Giacometti will be opening in Beijing next year. This is no small undertaking and boasts the support of both Paris’s National Picasso Museum and the Giacometti Foundation, who are under contract to manage the new endeavor for at least five years.
France is also involved in another major undertaking, this time in Shanghai. The Centre Pompidou is collaborating with the Chinese, having just opened a museum in the West Bund, a Shanghai district now known for its up-and-coming arts scene. French President Emmanuel Macron was on hand at the end of 2019 to inaugurate this 27,000 square-foot museum. More than $3,000,000,000 has been spent to date to develop a cultural hub on the waterfront.
What these museums bring is interest, then appreciation, then demand for new collectors and collections. Next to the United States and the United Kingdom, China is the largest art market. As the number of collectors grows, they will certainly move up into either of the two number top spots. Their goal is to cast off any notion of provinciality in favor ofuniversality—and universal approval and respect.
Picasso—Foundation of Modernity
The reasons for his popularity are as clear as the forces driving the price curve. Picasso represents the jumping off point for modernity—he changed art forever. He, like Rembrandt, was a virtuoso—the two of whom were just separated by four centuries. Rembrandt was the most innovative painter and printmaker of the 17thcentury. Picasso held that title for the 20thcentury. He is universally considered to be the single-most-important artist of influence over the entire century. He was the greatest creator and destroyer of form in the entire history of Western Art. He not only took up a medium, but he mastered it. He perfected it. He then transformed it by taking it to technical and creative potential until then unrealized.
He had self-imposed standards fueled by an internal demand for perfection. He experimented ceaselessly—always looking for new greatness. His art will be considered great forever because it embodies the three pillars of greatness in art: mystery, ambiguity and contradiction.
What happens when supply remains static (or decreases due to works being permanently removed from the marketplace) and demand increases? The trends can be summarized simply: with future burgeoning demand and a fixed supply, there will be significant upward acquisition-cost pressure on the buying of art.
Richard P. van Pelt, Ph.D. • February 18, 2020