Art investments are nothing new. Digital art investments, however, are a little more novel – especially non-fungible tokens, unique cryptographic assets that identify a specific digital entity. They’re the latest craze to hit the market, with some serious money trading hands in an effort to get hands on these tokens. How then, should an art investment firm respond? 

To that end, we speak to Art Works’ Managing Director Troy Sadler. Art Works began in 2011 as a fine art gallery with an investment advisory arm, though it has since expanded its offerings. In the digital world, an online gallery showcases and democratizes with some slightly more accessible art. In the physical, they’ve got a new business-to-business offer: custom-made, made-to-order oeuvres and furniture for commercial projects of any size (think hotels, offices and the like).

Sadler’s spent a better part of the last two decades in Australia and Hong Kong in leading art investment firms, with a vast network in the arts industry and an expansive knowledge of the Asian art market. We speak to him on NFTs, the democratization of art and how investment appetites have changed in tandem with the pandemic.

Troy Sadler
Troy Sadler

How do you think the art investment landscape has changed since Covid-19? 

We’ve seen strong sales over the last 12 months, similar to what we saw after the Global Financial Crisis in 2008/2009, where there was a real shift in investors’ strategies towards more tangible assets, safe havens for their money. People are increasingly looking to diversify their investment portfolio with art (which is great for us!). So, in spite of the economic impact of Covid-19, the art investment landscape has remained relatively resilient. 

What about digital art?

Digital art is a real buzzword at the moment and there is definitely appetite for it. We’ve seen a lot of hype around NFT art recently and it will be interesting to see if and how they will transform transactions for the art world. From an investment perspective, I definitely think digital art will attract its own set of investors. New collectors who are very tech-minded or very much in the cryptocurrency sphere and are starting to look at art as an investment because they are now seeing this through a different lens – whether it’s about authenticity, appreciation value or content that resonates. Overall, it has brought renewed attention and excitement to the art market, which can only be a positive!.

Tell us more about NFT art – will Art Works be sticking their hands into the NFT pie?

We love art in any form and are very open-minded. We see a lot of positives around NFT art such as prominence and potential royalties for artists, but whether it’s a bubble or not remains to be seen. Staying educated about the art world and the shifts in consumer preferences is key for us, so we’re exploring how it can be valuable to our clients and if the market will continue to grow. 

On the other end of the spectrum, how does Art Works’ online gallery broaden the digital art market?

Without physical space constraints, Art Works online gallery expands the experience of art for the consumer through the content we can curate and share. It allows consumers to access artists from all over the world and experience their work more intimately. We’ve been able to bring a more global perspective to the art and artists we showcase. For instance, we now have artists from Africa to Peru, Belgium and New York. And while we do have examples of the artists’ pieces in our gallery, an online format allows a deeper look at their extended collection, coupled with real time updates on the projects that they’re working on, upcoming shows or career highlights, so consumers can really be immersed in the artists’ worlds.

Does this democratization apply to art investors as well?

Traditionally, art was very much reserved for the rich. Artworks you would see at auctions were generally classic masters and higher end blue chip art. Over the last 20 years however, we’ve seen an explosion of growth in the contemporary art market, which has pushed demand for high quality and accessible art in this space. Where there were basically no contemporary artists being sold at auctions 20 years ago, we’re now looking at billions of dollars’ worth sold for contemporary pieces. As more people are educated on the security of art investment, there has been a growing sophistication in the appreciation of all forms. We’ve also seen great growth within the contemporary market at auctions, as reflected in the contemporary art index which was up some 48 per cent last year. The surge in value of contemporary art has in turn driven demand globally and allowed us to invest more in contemporary artists. These are artists that are still living and in the mid-stages of their career which makes their art more accessible financially; it’s allowed contemporary art to be an investment as opposed to when the market was a lot smaller and only allowed for the elite.

Finally, take us through Art Works Design.

For the design side of our business, we like working with interior designers to first get a feel of the aesthetic they’re trying to build before we source for artworks that we think would enhance the overall look they’re after. It’s very much about the aesthetics, how the piece works together with the other design elements within the space, how it inspires a certain mood for people when they walk into the room. 

And did you see an uptick in people who wanted to inspire a different mood in their homes during the pandemic?

We found that a lot of people were spending more time at home (during Covid-19) and wanting to refresh their homes and make it feel a safe and comfortable space to be in. The number of people who love art and are always asking about different artists has increased tremendously since Covid-19. With the range of art we have available in the online gallery, we could easily cater to different tastes and budgets.


Find out more at the Art Works website