How artwork gets sold and what the art market, on a larger scale, invests in can be a bit of a mystery. Ruby Clarkson has written on the opinions and career of Olyvia Kwok to explain how investment in artworks is approached and to provide insight into what is seen as valuable when art is treated as a financial asset.
Behind the Scenes of an Art Auction: Comments from Olyvia Kwok
by Ruby Clarkson
According to Willstone Management—an art investment company set up by Olyvia Kwok, “the global art market is booming at an increase of 7% year-on-year. There has seldom been a better time to enter the market as an investor.”
With such impressive statistics, it’s easy to see why people who are looking to invest their money might turn to art. And this is where Olyvia Kwok’s unique combination of natural talent and great knowledge comes into play.
An art auction can be a thrilling experience, but it takes skill and knowledge to come out as successful.
Who is Olyvia Kwok?
Olyvia Kwok opened her first gallery at the age of 22 in London’s St James’s. This was soon after she had bought a Chinese scroll painting for $33,000 and sold it later for $220,000. She went on to specialise in emerging markets in the art world, and then successfully created and built up an art fund for a private bank in Switzerland through her in-depth knowledge of art as well as innate talent.
Kwok then set up Willstone Management, who is a company that helps people to watch their money grow, even if they don’t have the specialist knowledge that is needed to successfully invest their money in art. This has provided her with the experience needed to navigate through auctions and come out with the best deal.
The Changing World of the Art Auction
When it comes to buying art, it is true that you get a different experience of the piece when you are there in person, next to it in a gallery or auction than if you are looking at it online. However, the internet and technology can be a great way to get a good understanding of a piece.
Kwok states that “100% of my clients are not very active, in the sense that they don’t really come to the auctions.” This could be because the internet means that we can be better informed about everything across the art world – from understanding prices and trends to buying privately, across the world and seeing the work of some artists before they have even sold one painting.
For those who are worried that the internet might be ruining the art gallery and auction, however, the evidence couldn’t be further from the truth – it seems that they are working together to ensure that the world – and value of art goes from strength to strength.
Buying and Selling Art
At art auctions, there is a sense of excitement, a mix of dealers or private sellers are practically running around all day, keeping an eye out for the assets available.
Then, stepping further behind the scenes, in auction houses such as Sworders in East Anglia, there are shelves full of treasures that only some can imagine. Rows upon rows, artefacts and artwork such as paintings, ceramics, treasures are crammed ready to be brought out as soon as stock runs low. Whereas the auction room itself, that people get to see, everything is displayed so beautifully, it’s like an art gallery in itself.
Being able to successfully make money from the buying and selling of art takes particular skills and talent to be able to see where the next big trend is coming from. Technology helps Kwok to be able to see what is on its way up (and down), meaning that she can make the right decision over her choice of artwork.
Kwok philosophises – “We always say ‘as long as the music’s still on, everybody’s dancing, but you have to make sure you’re not the last one left without the seat. So, in that sense, I think when you see that the highest price has been achieved in the auction, that might not be the one to look for in the next guarantee [deal]. It’s the opposite, you have to see the potentials.”
However, technology also offers competition. Online auction houses such as ‘VaulueMyStuff’ has made it somewhat easier for anyone to sell their art online without having to go to an auction, as well as allowing businesses to sell to customers from all over the world.
To try and retain her advantage over the new competition, Olyvia Kwok’s company now specialises in offering a third party guarantee scheme. The scheme works by the company guaranteeing a certain amount for a piece of art in case it doesn’t sell in the auction. The scheme can work for individual pieces all the way through to big collections, but it means less risk for a seller and the potential for Kwok’s company to get carefully selected pieces of art for good prices. It is likely, that this, in turn, will see more people having the courage to put their art into auctions, keeping the art world fresh and modern.
In a world where art is largely unregulated, we look more and more to the knowledge of experts when it comes to buying and selling it. With her endeavours to make everything as transparent as possible Olyvia Kwok has not only allowed people to understand a little more about artwork from a financial point of view, she is also helping art to flourish, especially amongst new and emerging artists.
She believes that “lots of people are actually into very strong hard assets, such as properties, or see collectables such as cars, or diamonds and everything else. Art is being financialized to be a proper asset class. I think […] it’s more solid, more sophisticated to be involved in”, giving people financial security and a legacy for many years to come.
About Ruby Clarkson
Ruby Clarkson is a freelance writer with a curiosity for the ever-changing art world. After studying art and design throughout school and college, she has developed an interest in how artists today can navigate their way through this industry and what is needed for artwork to be recognised “masterpieces”.
You can contact her through this email: firstname.lastname@example.org