Art Market with Aylin Seçkin

Aylin Seçkin, a docent who gives lectures on the Economy of Art and Culture in the Department of Economics at Bilgi University, is one of the few academicians in Turkey that researches about art market. Having taken an active role in the previous Contemporary Istanbul Dialogues, the art market guru Seçkin is currently working on many different projects sponsored by TUBİTAK and European Union. In May, she will give a month-long course on Art Markets in Bilgi’s Lifelong Education Center.

In the honor of the launching of our website, we had an interview with Aylin Seçkin who has supported Art50 project from its inception. In our conversation she mentioned about art markets, art as an investment methods, decisive factors that affect the prices of artworks and her own art collection.

What made you start researching about economics of art and culture?
I decided to focus on this subject after travelling to Paris in 2006. That time I want back to Paris and looked at the museums that I always visited with a different eye. Musée D’Orsay, Louvre, Pompidou, Marmottan… I toured them all thoroughly. I even leaked into the tours of master classes. I had an epiphany when I came back to Turkey. I was sure that this was a very rich domain. I researched online, talked to my friends and found out what was happening in Turkey in this field. Then I got in contact with my friend Erdal Atukeren who lives in Switzerland and under the sponsorship of Bilgi University we wrote and presented the article titled A First Look at the Market for Paintings in Turkey which was very well received.

Could you talk about art investments? Does art investments have particular risks?
Art investments have particular risks of course. For example when you buy a classical artwork that costs a lot, it risks being a forgery. Also, you have the risk of dropping, or even going through the painting. There can always be accidents. If it’s very valuable, it can be stolen, so insurance can be very costly.

On the other hand, the work that you buy may be authentic, but may lose its value if the popularity of its artist decreases. In every investment you have the risk of losing value. Let’s say you buy a house. All of a sudden a highway is built next to it and your house loses value.

So, certain assets may unexpectedly lose value due to their character. Another example would be Islamic art works that were very valuable in 2000s and were breaking records in Sotheby’s. After the attack on Twin Towers, Islamic art collections had a serious blow. They have lost value in art markets. Again, sudden events may affect the value of artworks.

How can we tell whether an artwork is a good investment or not?
In general, investments on art should not go beyond the %5 of the savings portion of one’s budget. For example; if one has 100 thousand dollars, one can buy an artworks not more than 5 thousand dollars. For the ones who think whether they should buy gold or foreign currency with that money, it is not a good idea to invest all of the100 thousand dollars completely into art. You can buy a whole lot of things, and an artwork amongst them. This is the result that comes out of my research. Art is a long-term investment. When you buy a piece of artwork, it may bring some returns minimum in the next 10 years and sometimes it may not bring any returns at all. But it should not be bought just because it will bring a return.

What other advice could you give to collectors?
It is most reasonable to have a collection in the form of a portfolio. Another thing that is often said is that one should not always buy works by the same artists or very similar works, but bring together a variety. Just like the way one can add a variety to his portfolio by investing in art with the 5% of his savings, one should also add a variety to one’s art portfolio. It is like buying one video, one installation and one painting or collecting works by different artists. It is also possible to include contrasting artists, some who are more popular, some promising and some less popular artists. This way, the price average would balance each other. In fact, there is a whole other domain dedicated to art portfolio managment. Even though these topics are yet new to Turkey, all will be familiar in the future.

How are the prices of artworks determined? What are the influential factors?
Even though this is a very technical subject, to put it generally first comes the art historical aspect of the work. The part about the subject and the era of the work that involves art historians and art critics. The other part which economists can contribute to is the calculation of certain visual features. Often times, the artist’s name precedes the visual content. The title of the work, its date, whether or not its signature is legible, the subject of the work and its era…all are important. Other questions we need to ask are whether the work is created at a prolific time for the artist or during an unpopular time, is it a rapidly-made work or a work coming through his sadness and pain? Does the work have a story? Is the artist still alive? In which catalogues, collections and art encyclopedias the artist is featured and how many centimeter squares is given to him/her.

An observable aspect of an artwork is the material it is made on. After the particularities of the artist and his/her work come other points that determine the value: The gallerie(s) the artist works with, the number of his/her international shows and the museum collections that he/she is a part of. The purchase venue of the work and its provenance also matter.

Who prefers to invest in art? Is it possible to point to the commonalities between collectors?
It is claimed that the market for contemporary art lies parallel with construction industry in the developing countries. I researched this for Turkey with a study done based on the questionnaires of Central Bank of Turkey. We analyzed that through the questions such as “Are you planning on buying a house within the next 3 or 6 months?”, the people who are likely to buy a house are also willing to invest in art. So the correlation between buying a house and investing in art is proven.

Another point is that collecting is a habit that starts in the family. There is also a group of successful business people who started enjoying collecting art. This is a new phenomenon. It did not exist in 1980s. Maybe there was a group attending auctions, but what they bought were in the style of their parents. Now, this group has changed. But then again, how many collectors are there in Turkey? Not more than 200-300.

As Art50, we would like to increase this number. Our wish is that more people start collecting art so that art becomes more widespread in Turkey.
Yes, definitely. At the end of the day, there can be portfolios for every budget and size. Every budget can have a portfolio, even a small collection.

Do you have a collection of your own?
At the time, they used to tease me. I bought a work by Mehmet Güleryüz that I truly liked. My entire family was asking me, “Everybody is buying a car, something of a brand. What did you go and buy for your walls?” As the time went by, they started asking me “How much would you sell this work for?” It has been 10 years since I bought it for a very good price. Now, these types of works are sold in a very high bracket. Other than that, I have names that I would love to add to my collection. But what is rewarding is to discover young and new artists, posses such an eye, see how the artists take off and be fulfilled with that.




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