Financial Times Weekend: Hockney Early Etchings


As the London art market prepares for its auction season (beginning February 28), the spotlight is on the guarantees used to encourage wary sellers. To add to the suite of financial incentives, the art investment firm Willstone Capital has obtained a $100m credit line from the New York hedge fund Allegiance Investment Advisors, and two other investors, to include advancing immediate cash against an auction-house guarantee. Olyvia Kwok, a dealer and the founder of Willstone Capital, says that this overcomes an average two-month wait for funds after work sells. Her firm’s fees begin at 1 per cent a month, for a minimum of six months, and there is also potential to take a cut of any price achieved above the guarantee level. Loan and advance arrangements can also be made through the auctioneers directly, as well as through other niche firms. These add to a growing trend for owners to shift their risk. This month, Sotheby’s revealed that it would be selling Klimt’s “Bauerngarten” (1907, estimated at about £35m) as the star lot of its high-stakes Impressionist & Modern art auction on March 1. Catalogue symbols show that this carries an irrevocable bid — a form of guarantee that means a third-party has promised to buy the work — and that Sotheby’s has an (unspecified) ownership interest in the work. Guarantees are limited to a handful of blue-chip works and are not particularly liked by the market, not least because the exact structure, costs and beneficiaries are kept under wraps, plus they arguably distort true demand. But they are not surprisingly popular with sellers who are prepared to exchange some of their possible upside for the ability to secure cash from an illiquid asset. Whether or not works of fine art, rather resistant to rational investment strategies, can absorb such pass-the-parcel products remains to be seen.While David Hockney’s works are delighting in a large show at Tate Britain, a nearby exhibition of his early etchings, not By: Melanie Gerlis FINANCIAL TIMES February 17th 2017 23 included in the museum retrospective, is proving popular at Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert gallery (in association with the print dealer Lyndsey Ingram). Ingram reports that nearly all of the available impressions, priced between £12,000 and £30,000 each, have sold, mostly to private UK buyers, with one — “The Marriage” (1962) — going to the British Museum.Hockney began to make prints through etchings in 1961 when at London’s Royal College of Art, where he discovered that the materials and facilities were available to students for free. Ingram describes them as “overlooked, raw and important”…

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Image: David Hockney, The Marriage Etching and aquatint, 1962.