How do I promote my grandfather's art

Online art trade: Interview with artnet Vice President Sophie Neuendorf

D.he online art trade is becoming more and more important in the wake of the corona crisis and digitization. The Neuendorf family from Germany is a pioneer and expert in this field Gallery network started back in 1989.In a globalized art world, after 32 years of company history, artnet offers information on artists, galleries, price developments, exhibitions and the international art trade. With the renowned “Price Database”, the world's most extensive archive for auction results (includes more than twelve million results), collectors, art lovers and experts can find comprehensive information on the art trade. Artnet launched its first online auction back in 2008 - this is of inestimable importance today, in particular.

But what does the future of the art market look like?

What should be considered when buying art online? And how has the corona crisis affected global trade? In an interview, Sophie Neuendorf talks about current trends, the family business and art in times of crisis.

Ms. Neuendorf, your father Hans Neuendorf founded artnet in 1989 with the aim of bringing transparency to the art market and made it a success. To what extent did art shape your childhood?

Sophie Neuendorf: "My childhood was shaped by art on all sides. We grew up with the works of artists such as Lucio Fontana, Picabia, Twombley, Kounellis, Baselitz, Nay and also the works of my grandfather, Georg Karl Pfahler. When I was eight years old, we moved to New York because my father founded artnet there. Apart from that, my father founded the first art fair in Cologne with a few other dealers at the end of the 1960s. And he showed the first Pop Art exhibition in Hamburg, with works by Warhol and Lichtenstein. That was in 1964.

My mother studied art history at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris and grew up with art herself, as my grandfather was not only an artist himself, but also collected his contemporaries. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather in his studio and scribbled all over his sketchbooks. "

You and your brothers have worked for artnet for many years. What are the advantages of a family business? And how are the tasks distributed?

Sophie Neuendorf:“The high level of trust and a degree of honesty that may not exist in corporations is certainly an advantage. It is truly a privilege and a pleasure to work with my brothers. We still learn a lot from our father. As the next generation, we add new ideas to the business that the older generation may not find relevant. For example artificial intelligence, machine learning or social media. When social media started, my father didn't believe it at all. As a representative of a very well-read generation, he found Facebook and Twitter terribly superficial. The younger generation in general, on the other hand, may lack the patience and knowledge that many years of experience bring with them. But thank goodness we didn’t let social media put us astray, because they are now a very important part of our company and also of the art trade. Now more than ever! How often has it been said that artists have sold works via Instagram or the Chinese WeChat! "

What art is on the wall in your home? And do you have a favorite artist

Sophie Neuendorf:“I love to live with different eras in art history. Accordingly, I hang contemporary works and modern art as well as old masters or photographs. I believe that good works, no matter what time, can live well together. At home there is a particularly beautiful picture by the old master Lucas Cranach the Elder and of course works by my grandfather Georg Karl Pfahler. He painted one for me and dedicated it to me, and I am particularly attached to it. A picture by West Coast Pop artist Billy Al Bengston as well as a wonderful sculpture by Robert Graham and works by Spanish photographer Miguel Soler Roig are in my apartment.

Choosing a favorite artist is like having a favorite child, so actually impossible! But we are always looking for young artists. Especially with my brothers Henri and Albert, I often discuss which artists and pictures we are currently finding exciting. The topic is as important to us as a discussion about politics or religion. "

The art market has changed a lot lately and overall interest and investment are increasing, especially among young people. What do you advise these new customers. And what should you watch out for when buying art online?

Sophie Neuendorf:“Conventional auction houses send out catalogs and only hold an auction a few times a year. Buying art online, on the other hand, is clearer, faster, easier and more transparent. I would be careful to only buy from reputable websites. My tips: Pay attention to quality. It is better to have one really good picture than several mediocre ones. Wait until a really good picture is released for sale within the existing budget. Check the artist's prices and market so that a good buy can be identified. We sell them world's most renowned price databasewhich is used for this purpose by collectors and dealers worldwide. Also, consider the transaction costs before bidding. Buyer's premium, shipping, insurance and taxes can make the purchase considerably more expensive. "

Corona crisis and art - how do they fit together? How do you think the crisis has affected the art world?

Sophie Neuendorf:“Plato was right: Necessity is the mother of invention. The crisis has brought about a profound and lasting digital change in the art market. Dealers, collectors and art lovers are finally embracing the benefits of the internet. Although the crisis was and is very difficult and has also brought a lot of grief and suffering, it has nevertheless also brought about positive changes in the art trade. "

What do you personally take with you from this time? And what do you think the art market will look like after the severe crisis?

Sophie Neuendorf:“The 14th century renaissance was a response to the plague. This pandemic will also result in enormous social changes. This will also affect the art market. It is not yet possible to foresee exactly where we will develop. A trend that we are observing at artnet is an enormous increase in online sales and a high level of interest in online platforms. This will continue even after the end of the pandemic. "

Young artists in particular are having a hard time in the crisis. What do you advise them?

Sophie Neuendorf:“I would advise young artists to take the initiative. There are so many ways to get noticed through social media and websites like artnet. You should use this unique time of upheaval to develop your oeuvre further and work independently or with your gallery in order to use online trading positively. "

Art as an investment like stocks or real estate

Do you personally see art more as an investment or a matter close to your heart, that is: should art be an investment or should it primarily appeal?

Sophie Neuendorf:“I think a work of art has to touch, because then you will definitely enjoy it and be able to deal with it. Of course, it is still advisable to know the value. Since art has established itself as an investment - just like stocks or real estate - you should know what kind of return you can expect. I always give this advice: buy for pleasure but with an investment view.

My father always promoted artists, not because he hoped for an immediate profit, but because he believed in the artist and his skills and was enthusiastic. Unfortunately, artists are no longer so often encouraged out of enthusiasm. One problem is certainly the recognition value of certain artists and the associated prices. The investment is recognizable at first glance, and so is the social status.

What if I have a Picasso on the wall but it doesn't have the immediately recognizable features? For many, it is critical that the mapping take place immediately. Because of this, some works of art don't sell well. Then the picture can still be so good. It's also about the recognition value. But thinking like that is not advisable. I would like more collectors to find pictures, and thus also artists, who simply inspire them - regardless of all expectations. It's not about what everyone else thinks. Because this is the only way for the art world to advance and develop. "

There has been a big death in galleries recently. Has the good old gallery had its day?

Sophie Neuendorf:“Galleries will always play an important role in the art trade because they are the link between artist and society. The art market would not exist without their mediating work. However, it is conceivable that artists will take more and more initiative themselves with the help of social media. "

How do you explain the phenomenon that everyone wants to be part of art?

Sophie Neuendorf:“Art has always been a mirror of society. Initially, the artists worked in the service of the church or the respective ruler. It is fascinating to see how much art is oriented towards the awareness of society and how it reflects trends. It has always been the artists who crossed borders and fostered an atmosphere of tolerance. They are also the ones who point to social grievances. Right now, at a time when we are all forced to live withdrawn and close our houses and borders, art has the power to open up an intercultural exchange. In addition, art has the potential to stimulate important discussions on current topics such as religion, gender, race and politics. "

What is special about artnet and why is the portal so successful?

Sophie Neuendorf:“Artnet is the world's first online art portal. It was founded in 1989. My father is a visionary and launched online auctions in 2008. With many years of experience, it is not surprising that artnet has taken the lead in this field today. It is also the work and experience of my father as an art dealer that has shaped the spirit of artnet. Our customers trust our expertise.

As a core product, our price database has ensured transparency in the art trade. This has created great confidence in the market and has grown it enormously. We then added other products to complement the retail trade: the gallery network, as already mentioned, online auctions, a daily news service, artnet news, which is extremely popular, and, more recently, analytics.

They make it possible to track the market development of an artist or a movement and to compare this with other assets such as gold or the S&P. I think the passion for art and trade is what makes the company so successful. And we, my brothers and I, are now carrying on this spirit in the second generation. "

Interview: Andrea Vodermayr

artnetDatabase for auction resultsart tradeArt marketOnline auctionsPrice database in the art tradeSophie Neuendorf2021-01-20