Bloomberg and Christie’s explain the art of collecting

Jen Robinson

“If you buy what you love, you can’t go wrong,” said Christie’s New York SVP, Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art Sara Friedlander last week at an exclusive event hosted by Christie’s and Bloomberg Media Group.

That theme ran through the evening’s program, which centered around a remarkable private collection coming to market this week at Christie’s 20th Century Week Sales. A select group of art appreciators enjoyed a private exhibition viewing of the noted Eppler Family Collection, panel discussion and cocktail reception, sponsored by XOJET.

“This is a collection that was built to celebrate the America the Epplers lived in – radical, revolutionary,” Friedlander added. Joining her in conversation were Bloomberg anchor Julia Chatterley (who moderated), Bloomberg Pursuits Arts Columnist James Tarmy, and Christie’s Chairman, Americas Marc Porter.

Bloomberg Media Group and Christie’s hosted a private exhibition preview and expert conversation on November 8. Speakers included (l-r): Bloomberg anchor Julia Chatterley, moderator; Christie’s New York SVP, Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art Sara Friedlander; Christie’s Chairman, Americas Marc Porter; Bloomberg Pursuits Arts Columnist James Tarmy. Photo: Charles Roussel/BFA NYC

The Eppler Collection includes a comprehensive representation of leading 20th Century artists, including important Abstract Expressionist works by such artists as Franz Kline, Lee Krasner, Alexander Calder and others. Friedlander noted that every piece of art bought by Heinz and Ruthe Eppler as they collected through the 1970’s and 80’s was lived with, displayed in their home to enjoy.

At the same time, their collecting activity represented an astute investment. “I don’t think it diminishes your enjoyment of and engagement with the work to have an expectation that it will maintain or grow its value,” said Bloomberg’s Tarmy.

The Epplers, he added, “were people who were buying at the top – and the collection did very well.” Citing the multi-million dollar pre-sale estimate for the collection, he noted that “when you buy at the top, you have a better chance of seeing return” on the investment than you might with works that are lower priced, and therefore more risky.

Christie’s Porter agreed – with a caveat. “Buying at the top is good, but only if the field in question stays in fashion,” he said. That can be a matter of time, he added – in the world of art, the most sought-after styles shift and often re-emerge.

Guests view Lee Krasner’s “Shattered Light,” from the Eppler Collection. The piece sold during Christie’s 20th Century Week sales for $5.5 million. Photo: Charles Roussel/BFA NYC

Rarity can also be a factor in the size of a collecting market, Porter said; the number of people interested in given market generally correlates to the amount of pieces available.

For the type of work found in the Eppler Collection, the market is global, Friedlander noted. The collection was previewed in Hong Kong first, where it drew strong interest, before coming to New York, she said.

“The Asian market, particularly mainland China, has grown dramatically,” added Porter. He noted Christie’s commitment to bringing artworks to the region, where auction exhibitions can function almost as proxies for museums.

And the market for the Abstract Expressionist art the Epplers loved is expanding. “We’re seeing people who are buying into the idea of the collection,” Friedlander said, noting that artists who haven’t previously been featured in evening sales – including Louise Nevelson, Lee Krasner and Milton Avery – will be this week.

Guests enjoy a private viewing and signature cocktail reception courtesy of XOJET. Guests also received a complimentary exhibition catalogue. Photos: Charles Roussel/BFA NYC

The event concluded with a private viewing of the Eppler Collection, as well as additional works to be included in the 20th Century Week sales. That included the rediscovered masterpiece “Salvatore Mundi” – one of fewer than 20 surviving paintings accepted as from Leonardo da Vinci’s hand, which ultimately sold for a record-shattering $450 million at Wednesday’s evening sale.

And what did the panelists love? From the Eppler Collection, Lee Krasner’s “Shattered Light” and Alexander Calder’s “Calderoulette” were highlights for all three. “There are all these ineffable ways to enjoy and receive value from art,” said Bloomberg’s Tarmy. In an age where experiences trump acquisition for many people, that might be the best investment of all.

Read More: How Bloomberg Pursuits Arts Columnist James Tarmy covers business and art

Bloomberg Pursuits @Luxury
James Tarmy  @jstarmy