Thursday 10 May 2012

Nigeria is, genuinely, an emerging market, says U.K-based auctioneer, Dabney

(First published on Tuesday, November 25, 2008)   
THE auctioneer who conducted the last two art auctions in Lagos, UK-based John Dabney took an overview of the events within the global context. Excerpts;
Comparing results of the November auction and that of April?
THIS is taking place in obviously slightly less international easy finance. If you look at the lots sold this time, I think it is highly a success; about 18 not sold this time, though less last time; more money made now...I don't have the figures really, Mrs Chellaram would give you the details.
Generally speaking, the quality of works this time, were better than in April. That is not to say the lots in April were not good. And also the works are not just good, but with reasonable prices, because it is not sensible to have good work with too higher prices or prices that make the value of the works drop. So, I think Mrs Chellaram and her team were able to strike a good balance here.
If you look at it in the context of the global art market at the moment, this auction is remarkably successfully. In the last six weeks, in New York, London and in UK, generally, and in Europe, art markets have taken a nosedive. The interesting difference between the recession now and the recession in the late 1980s and early1990s, is that then, the art market took at least a year to drop following the financial market. This time, it's only taking a couple of months, two to three months. To be honest I was concerned that the market here might be affected in the same way, and while it slightly suffered, it held up remarkably well. Whereas elsewhere, the market has taken a huge drop, in India, China, worldwide, the art market, really has suffered badly. Here, it is still very strong because Nigeria is, genuinely, an emerging market. Also because Arthouse is a thoroughly well run organisation.
The Damien Hirst surprise sales
Damien Hirst's auction was held on a very day of a big credit crunch collapse. I thought it might affect the auction, but it didn't have time to affect it. That was two months ago. Since then, in the last four to six weeks, the contemporary and modern sales, particularly in New York and London has been very badly hit.
What it takes to be an auctioneer.
The first thing to do is to go and work for an auction house. Like any trade, you have to learn it. I went to work for Philips' in London, an auctioneer, 24 years ago. I had a Degree in Psychology then, and that was the beginning of my exposure to the art market. I also started as a painting specialist. When you work for an auction house, if you head a department, property, art or any other, you are also expected to take responsibility as your head of department. So, it's part showman- you have to be able to project yourself in the public face. I don't know specifically what it takes to be an auctioneer, really. Just like some people are better artists than others, so it goes. I enjoy it, I do six to ten auctions a year, including charity auctions. You got to have a reputation for it.
Full time job
I am a Fine Art consultant and property investor. I invest in property in England and Italy. As a fine art consultant, people come to me to ask me about what to buy; how to sell what they have; get valuation for their properties, furniture, arts etc
On African Art.
I am getting more familiar with African art, recognising more of the artists who appeared at the auctions. I would actually like to go and meet them in their studios, to see how they work and operate. I have always had a love of what used to be called ethnographic art' African arts, Asian, Pacific Island arts, etc. But in April when I was here for the first time I got to see more of African contemporary arts. I did do six months in India, towards the end of last year and beginning of this year, working in the contemporary art market there. Again as a consultant, I am just learning about Indian art, which has some similarities with African art. So, it's been quite interesting to know more about African art, and there is still time for me to learn more.

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