Friday, April 28, 2017

How to Know Work Will Blossom or Flop

The Art of Investing in Art: How to Know Work Will Blossom or Flop

An artist’s representation greatly impacts your ROI

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Caligraphy, 1994. Rasim Babayev
Collectors often wonder how to differentiate between an emerging artist that holds long-term promise as an investment and an emerging artist that may fade away. In the art market, there is no silver bullet that guarantees an artist is going to be a good investment. However, here are a few practical measures that will increase the probability that pieces you buy at a premium don’t end up in a garage sale selling for cents on the dollar.
Choose Love
Pick art you love—every piece you purchase should pass this fundamental test. Once you decide on a style or piece that appeals to you, examine a few key factors to determine if it will appeal to your investment portfolio as well.
Exclusive or Open Relationship
Is the artist showing in multiple galleries or venues throughout the city or does the artist have exclusive representation? Does the artist have an agent or someone who is fully committed to his or her development? Ideally, although not always necessary, the artist should have obtained exclusive representation.
Art galleries generally will only dedicate time and resources to artists who have exclusive representation with them. If there is exclusive representation, then you know there’s a two-way commitment between the gallery and the artist. This increases the chances that the gallery is actually devoted to growing and selling the artist’s work.
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Portrait of an Art Dealer, 2017. Michael Carson
Type of Exclusive Relationship
What type of gallery represents the artist? Is the gallery more focused on selling inventory or in working hand-in-hand with the artist? You can discern this by learning how many artists a gallery has. Art galleries can’t feasibly provide individualized attention to many artists simultaneously. There will be an obvious detachment from the artist and a greater focus on inventory if a small gallery is working with 30 or 40 artists.
Who else does the gallery represent and where does the artist fall within that list? Is it mainly emerging artists? If so, what’s the gallery’s track record for nurturing and growing winners? If the gallery represents a mix of artists, does the gallery pair its emerging artists with more established ones? When a gallery actively engages with its artists and creates and promotes a community, the emerging artist benefits from having his or her name associated with more recognizable ones. This will also enable them to network and receive support from more established artists. Finally, is the gallery more focused on local happenings or does it have a global reach? You want a gallery that’s committed to the development of the artist and that puts emphasis on expanding relationships critical to the artist’s development and success.
Have any pieces by the artist been acquired by museums or noteworthy private collections? Major successes like these solidify the artist’s standing and stabilize the price of his or her artwork. Many variables play into this, but there is something to be said about purchasing art from an artist that has gone through the acquisition process.
Life Stage
The age of the artist helps to determine a piece’s investment value. There is a lot of worth in the aging emerging artist, including quality of the work, individual artistic development, sociocultural relevance and aesthetic power. However, an artist in his 70s or 80s who isn’t in a major museum or lacks representation by a gallery may not have the time or resources to fully exploit the shifting trends of the current art market to his or her advantage. Although, thankfully, there are always exceptions to this.
Investigate a gallery or agent and see if they are genuinely committed to the development of the artist. Throughout history, art dealers and gallerists have been instrumental in bringing into prominence artists that may have otherwise stayed in relative obscurity. Without this important component, all bets are off.
Georges Berges is the owner of Georges Berges Gallery in SoHo, NYC and of Berges Creative Group, an art advising firm dealing primarily with the secondary market. Follow him on Twitter @georgesberges and Instagram @georgesbergesgallery.

TECHNOLOGY | A Hardware Renaissance


New Lab, a public-private partnership, opened an 84,000-square-foot renovated industrial building in Brooklyn that hosts 80 companies. CreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times
StrongArm Technologies, a start-up company in Brooklyn, makes “ergo-skeletons” that look a bit like futuristic versions of the back support belts that warehouse workers often wear.
Sensors embedded in the devices monitor a worker’s movements, and artificial intelligence software uses that information to suggest rest, stretching or posture changes — an automated safety coach for preventing back injuries.
StrongArm, a fledgling outfit with just 20 employees, is one of a new wave of start-ups making all sorts of devices that offer a glimpse of the future for the manufacturing of high-tech hardware in America’s cities.
The company’s home in Brooklyn is a vast, renovated industrial building, where World War II battleships were once made. Now it is dedicated to commercializing digital-age hardware start-ups.
Continue reading the main story
New Lab, a public-private partnership, opened the doors to the 84,000-square-foot space last June. It now hosts 80 companies across a range of industries and in various stages of development, but they typically have three to 20 employees.


StrongArm Technologies, a start-up in Brooklyn, makes “ergo-skeleton” back support belts.CreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times

On Thursday, New Lab announced that 14 of its companies, including StrongArm, are joining an urban technology initiative with the New York City Economic Development Corporation. The goal is to generate technology for urban challenges ranging from traffic congestion to local food cultivation.
“We want them to not only make technology in New York, but to deploy it in New York City,” said Alicia Glen, New York’s deputy mayor for economic development.
That you don’t have to be a giant company to have a good hardware idea has been evident for years at Maker Faire events, where inventors showcase their homemade engineering projects. Last year, more than one million people attended Maker Faire events worldwide.
Enthusiastic amateurs can matter a lot in technology. Hobbyists led the personal computer revolution, before it morphed into a huge industry.
“The maker stuff is great, but the key to having a real impact will be entrepreneurial companies and ones that can scale up, generating revenue and jobs,” said William Aulet, managing director of the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But progress in hardware — the messy physical world — tends to take longer than in the digital-only realm of software. For a decade now, cloud computing and open-source software have drastically lowered the cost of starting a software company. So the number of software start-ups has surged.
Now, it seems, is the time for hardware, where a similar phenomenon is getting underway. It is helped by the software trend, but it is really driven by new hardware tools like 3-D printing and laser cutters as well as low-cost, open-source hardware that allows for rapid prototyping that accelerates the pace of development.
The hardware start-ups tend to be clustered in urban settings like San Francisco, Boston and New York. The Urban Manufacturing Alliance, a nonprofit community development organization created in 2011, now has about 550 members representing more than 150 cities.
There are signs that manufacturing employment in cities has stabilized, and is reviving in places. After steadily declining for three decades, the number of manufacturing jobs in New York increased by 3,000 from 2011 to 2015, to more than 78,000, the most recent figure available.
This nascent hardware resurgence is difficult to measure precisely. The start-ups are working in many industries, from manufacturing to health care, and research analysts typically classify them as entrants in those industries rather than hardware companies.


Farmshelf is a New Lab start-up that uses sensors and software to develop hardware units for locally grown food. CreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times

But there are signs of a groundswell of high-tech hardware start-ups, beyond breakout companies like the electric carmaker Tesla and Nest Labs, the digital thermostat company, which Google bought for $3.2 billion and is now a subsidiary of the parent company, Alphabet.
Funding is becoming more plentiful from traditional venture capitalists, the venture arms of major corporations and venture funds that are dedicated to hardware start-ups, like Bolt and Lemnos Labs. The companies in New Lab, for example, have raised more than $250 million.
For most companies in New Lab, the Brooklyn center is headquarters, and where their design and development are done. As the hardware start-ups grow, how much manufacturing will be done in the city is an open question.
StrongArm, for example, is starting to gain momentum, having sold more than 4,000 units of its digital safety wear in the last couple of years. Its manufacturing is done by contractors, one in an industrial district elsewhere in New York City and another in upstate New York.
New Lab offers hardware makers free or low-cost access to 3-D printers, laser cutters and other manufacturing equipment. That has been a lure for companies like StrongArm.


David Belt, the chief executive of New Lab. CreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times

“What we do requires a ton of equipment, and that’s what got us in the door,” said Sean Petterson, the company’s 26-year-old co-founder and chief executive.
A handful of corporate partners, including General Electric, Intel, JetBlue, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Autodesk, have signed up to work with the New Lab start-ups in various ways.
The cities of Copenhagen and Barcelona, Spain, also plan joint innovation programs with the Brooklyn hardware center. And New Lab says it is setting up a fund, New Lab Ventures, to invest in its companies, with a goal of raising $50 million.
Beth Comstock, vice chairwoman of G.E., who is in charge of new business development, has visited New Lab several times. Ms. Comstock even did a video interview with Andrew Shearer, chief executive of Farmshelf, a New Lab start-up that is using sensors and software to develop hardware units for locally grown food.
“We need to be constantly learning, connecting with new companies coming up, and seeing new business models earlier,” Ms. Comstock said.


Matthew Putman, the chief executive of Nanotronics Imaging, which uses artificial intelligence and robotics to analyze and detect flaws in high-tech manufacturing. CreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times

New Lab itself began as a test-and-learn start-up. In 2013, it created a “beta” space nearby in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in a building with 8,000 square feet. “It wasn’t obvious that companies would want to come here,” said David Belt, chief executive of New Lab.
But come they did. New Lab has fielded more than 400 applications to select its 80 companies. An idea and enthusiasm are not enough to make the grade. Companies, Mr. Belt explained, must have a product and usually a seed round of funding.
Mr. Belt and his partner at New Lab, Scott Cohen, also recruited companies they thought could contribute a lot to their hardware community and mentor younger outfits.
Nanotronics Imaging was one of them. The company, founded in 2010, grew out of the research of Matthew Putman, then a scientist at Columbia University. Its automated microscopes employ artificial intelligence and robotics to analyze and detect flaws in high-tech manufacturing for semiconductor, aerospace and other industries.
Nanotronics has raised more money than any other New Lab company, $41 million, and its investors include Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel. Nanotronics started in Ohio, and it still has an office there, but its headquarters are now in Brooklyn, where it does its design work and employs 20 of its 60 employees. It operates a factory in Hollister, Calif.
In addition to the 3-D printers and other prototyping equipment at New Lab, Justin Stanwix, chief revenue officer at Nanotronics, said a vital asset of the Brooklyn work space was the connections and idea-swapping to improve manufacturing, tap investors and manage intellectual property.
“That really helps mitigate the risks for these start-up companies,” Mr. Stanwix said.



Lee Relvas’s sculpture reflected in the window glass at Callicoon Fine Arts.CreditMichael Nagle for The New York Times
In any given week, the art galleries of New York — and there are hundreds — are brimful of exhibitions showcasing works old and new, conventional and avant-garde, by the established and by the just discovered. This seems especially true right now, with the international art crowd set to jet into town for Frieze New York next weekend. Current shows feature repurposed pornography, depictions of the surveillance state, glass marijuana pipes, scrap metal, interpretations of a range of African-American experiences, prints from the land of Björk and a homage to the Duchamp urinal. There is magic, a little humor and no small amount of protest art.
How do you navigate it all? Five art critics for The Times have fanned out across the city, each focusing on one constellation of galleries and reviewing their favorites. Interested in only painting? We have those shows. Looking for sound installations? We have those too. Art reflecting the fraught politics of our time? Of course. Pick the flavor of art that suits you:

If You’re Feeling Politically Minded


Works by Rainer Ganahl at Kai Matsumiya. CreditMichael Nagle for The New York Times

KAI MATSUMIYA A tradition of political art on the Lower East Side lives on in the work of the Austrian-born New York Conceptualist Rainer Ganahl, who has been responding to current events with antic, deadpan wit for almost 30 years. The work in this packed show, “Legacy: Bush, Obama, Trump,” covers, in its references, roughly half of that time. In a series of ballpoint-pen drawings, he illustrates the phenomenon of combat as made-for-TV spectacle, introduced by George W. Bush, and of drone warfare that was business-as-usual during the Obama administration. More recently, he has made drawings of words that have been Donald J. Trump’s weapon of choice, like “fake news,” in a 1930s German-designed script. The good news, which is also bad news, is that Mr. Ganahl is unlikely ever to run out of fresh material for his art. The show, which has included public readings of Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” will close on May 3 with the release of a related book. HOLLAND COTTER
Here are more shows on the Lower East Side reviewed by Holland Cotter.

If You Just Want to See a Beautiful Painting


“Walsgrove Morning” (2016), a painting by Sarah McEneaney at Tibor de Nagy Gallery.CreditPhilip Greenberg for The New York Times

TIBOR DE NAGY GALLERY “Sarah McEneaney: Land, Sea, Sleep” is an impressive update on an artist who for nearly four decades has recorded her artist’s life in small, beguiling, superficially naïve paintings. Ms. McEneaney is seen infrequently, usually from the back or from a distance or when she’s asleep, her pets arrayed around her in settings notable for their bold colors, dense details and distortions of illusionistic space that exert a magnetic pull. The new works here document both the solitude and routine of the painter’s life, as well as its perks (artist residencies! travel grants!). A stillness prevails, even when Ms. McEneaney and her partner are on a bullet train speeding across China. It slows us down to experience her spatial and chromatic daring. ROBERTA SMITH
Here are more shows on the Upper East Side reviewed by Roberta Smith.

If You Fancy a Rock-Star Artist


“Media Studies ’77” (left) and “Newspaper Man” (right) in a show of works by Rodney Graham at 303 Gallery.CreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times

303 GALLERY Back in 1996, the astute dealer Lisa Spellman was among the first dealers to relocate from SoHo to Chelsea; now, 303 Gallery makes its home on the ground floor of one of the many brassy towers that have arisen in Highlineville. On view now is a sharp, droll exhibition of exactingly staged self-portraits by Rodney Graham, the slipperiest of the half-dozen conceptual photographers who came of age in 1980s Vancouver. In large lightboxes, the artist appears as a media studies professor in bell-bottom corduroys, smoking in class; as a sleeping antiques dealer surrounded by tchotchkes from British Columbia; and as a private detective peeping from behind a 19th-century newspaper. Like all the best wits, Mr. Graham is a tragic figure at heart — these photographic performances are all elegies for an age when artists had deeper convictions than we today can muster. JASON FARAGO
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Here are more shows in Chelsea reviewed by Jason Farago.

If You Like to See With Your Ears


From Postcommodity’s “Coyotaje” (2017), at Art in General in Dumbo, Brooklyn. CreditByron Smith for The New York Times

ART IN GENERAL Just across the East River and nestled between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, Dumbo has been one of the most on-again-off-again art neighborhoods in the city. With the spike in tech and various creative companies occupying lofts in the area, it is on again. Janet BordenMinus Space and Klompching have opened galleries; Smack Mellon remains a nonprofit stalwart; and Art in General, another alternative space showcasing emerging artists, moved from TriBeCa to Dumbo last year. Art in General’s current show features Postcommodity, a collective of three artists participating in the 2017 Whitney Biennial whose work focuses on the Mexican-American border. Here, closed-circuit video and sound installations offer a poetic, sometimes creepy rumination on what it’s like to cross borders and live under surveillance. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
Here are more shows in Brooklyn reviewed by Martha Schwendener.

If You Just Want to Take a Selfie


“Smokin Sasquatch,” by Coyle, among other works in the exhibition “Outlaw Glass” at Apexart in TriBeCa.CreditJake Naughton for The New York Times

APEXART Bob Snodgrass has been blowing glass since 1971, specializing in marijuana pipes, as he explains in a charming short documentary attached to “Outlaw Glass,” an exhibition at this gallery organized by the marijuana writer David Bienenstock. He first sold the pipes outside Grateful Dead concerts. Several cases here of elaborate, brightly colored pipes made by Mr. Snodgrass’s spiritual descendants, while fascinating, tend toward the showy or grotesque, like a jar of green pickle-shaped pipes by Elbo, or “Smokin Sasquatch,” an intricate, smokable man-beast holding a joint of his own, by Coyle. (Artists of paraphernalia for what is still mostly an illegal product tend to go by nicknames.) While Mr. Snodgrass also does skulls and dragons, most of his pipes, made from clear, wavy glass and colored with mists of molten silver, look like delicate, lovely instruments borrowed from an elfin orchestra. WILL HEINRICH
Here are more shows in SoHo, TriBeCa and the West Village reviewed by Will Heinrich.