Physical art fairs give ‘full experience’ to investors

He Shusi

Physical art fairs give ‘full experience’ to investors

Though there are more online exhibitions and auctions during the pandemic, it is still essential for new investors to attend art fairs, bid at auctions and visit galleries to avoid risky investments and to get the full experience of any piece of art, said Andy Hei, founder and director of Fine Art Asia and Ink Asia in Hong Kong.

“The accuracy of appraisal and valuation directly impacts the risk of art investment. It is important for individuals to know that opinions and knowledge from the experienced experts are essential and crucial to avoid unnecessary risks,” Hei stressed.

He also emphasized the importance of interacting with gallery owners. “There is so much history in art, especially antiques, and stories that are passed down to the current owner who can share with the potential buyer.”

Hei is a professional art dealer with over 30 years of experience in the fine art market. He has organized 20 international art fairs in Hong Kong, including the only physical art fair in Hong Kong in November — Fine Art Asia 2020.

Like any other market and industry, Hong Kong’s fine art market is struggling right now. COVID-19 presented many challenges last year, both locally and internationally; but many of the dealers, collectors and investors have not stopped seeking and buying, albeit at a more leisurely pace, Hei noted.

“Although the pace is slow, we have proven that there is stability in Hong Kong’s art market,” he said.

Fine Art Asia 2020 attracted over 8,000 visitors and received much positive feedback from exhibitors, artists and collectors. The few postponed auctions also reported strong interest, plus the private sales showed a steady performance, Hei revealed.

“These events in 2020 demonstrate that the situation is better than we expected during this unpredictable pandemic,” he said.

COVID-19’s impact was evident in the antiques and traditional art market, as transactions were slower than usual because of travel restrictions, which meant collectors were unable to visit galleries to study and appreciate the collections, Hei noted.

Usually, antique collectors prefer to physically visit the gallery to study the collection themselves first, because both physical viewing and somatosensory are important to them before making a purchase, he said.

“Antiques come in various unique forms and shapes as they are mostly one of a kind, so without touch and sense it is hard for the collector to know, and this cannot be replaced by online or mobile platforms,” he said. “But for contemporary art, it is easier to show through high-resolution images and (you) encounter less issues in the authenticity, unlike antiques.”

For antique art dealers, if the market is not prosperous, they don’t mind waiting until the economy recovers, when prices will be higher, he said.

Amid COVID-19, online platforms thrived rapidly last year, and the idea of “collecting art” and “cross-culture collecting” are becoming trendier, Hei said.

Noting that cultural exchange has been a huge part of Fine Art Asia, Hei said they have been putting an emphasis on cross-collecting. “We are the only fair in Asia to showcase a wide range of collectible fine art from Asia and the West. With cross-collecting, collectors are exposed to different items and seek investment opportunities in different ranges of art.”

Hei said he doesn’t think there is a “correct” way to invest, because everyone’s perspective and value of art is different.

“Some buy because they like it, some buy because they feel it will increase in value and some buy because of (the) in-depth history behind it. No matter what (the) reason, art is a promising investment and something for everyone to appreciate,” he said.