Ask an Art Adviser: Is Art a Bubble? Are NFTs Art?


Nowadays, top collectors tend to rely on art advisors for guidance on what to buy and what not to buy. One of the famous names is Lisa Sif, a New York-based consultant.

Having counted Leonardo DiCaprio as a client until a few years ago, Schiff has been in business since 2002 and now has an office in Tribeca, which doubles as an artist’s exhibition and production venue.

In a recent telephone interview, Schiff talked about the impact of a pandemic on her business, the NFT epidemic, and the state of the global art market.

This conversation has been edited and summarized.

How did the pandemic affect your business?

Many of my clients bought more homes and started remodeling, so they had more empty walls. It has provided many businesses. The pandemic has also really pushed us all into the online department.

What does that mean?

I’m now seeing two modes that create value. It is a new system where the investment value and the important and aesthetic value are separated from the traditional system and the art is lost.

The creation of traditional value occurs over many lifetimes when an artist passes many consensus-building benchmarks, including other artists, curators, institutions, scholars, and collectors. Over time, some artists and their artwork will move to good companies.

Today it’s pretty confusing. Certain auction houses mimic the collectibles market. Everything is upside down tchotchke. Evening sales are for those who know that auction houses can make a profit this week. There are sneakers, dinosaur bones, some NFTs, 50 artists I’ve never heard of, and 3 artists who are supposed to actually be on the evening sale.

This is really anxious. I don’t know how to pay $ 3 million to an artist who is 30 years old and doesn’t have a museum show. I’m afraid of this strange market, which is based solely on information and chatter.

So where are you heading?

This has affected many new financial mechanisms, so we are heading into a truly dangerous territory. The new banking system will make its own valuation based on transactions at today’s auctions.

What do you think of Beeple, who sold NFTs at Christie’s for $ 69 million last year?

It’s not art. That’s another thing.

Why isn’t it art?

Second, it’s completely divorced from its aesthetic and critical value, that the only qualification for your success is based on what someone is willing to pay. NFTs eliminate art due to the nature of the definition method.

I have no problem editing digital art and I don’t need to be more secure on the blockchain. The problem is that something can be quickly tied to the amount of money that is selling.

By the way, I buy and sell NFTs. I don’t see them as art. I’m gambling.

You are an art advisor, but you also sell art owned by your clients. Isn’t it a conflict of interest?

I treat them as very different businesses. I have a client who sells things. I can’t offer my client’s stuff to other clients. Because I represent both sides. You have to be transparent.

How was your advice to Mr. DiCaprio?

It was a big treat. He is a 1,000 percent real collector. He collects dinosaur bones, trips and things from trips, odds and ends.

Can you give us an example of an artist he likes?

The Colombian Camilo Restrepo, who had a show at Steve Turner in LA, would not have seen the Camilo Restrepo without Leo. I saw the work through his eyes and loved it.

Especially when it comes to good art, the price of art seems to continue to rise. Is art a bubble?

So far, that’s definitely not the case. These four artists have a bubble, but these 1,000 artists are depressed.

I tell the new collector: Art is not a liquid. If you think you need to pay for an emergency, don’t collect art. Transactional windows are, for example, two weeks long and unpredictable. And if you don’t have it, don’t try to sell it. But everyone does, and they hate it, and they are furious.

At any given time, even the $ 100 million Jean-Michel Basquiat head is worth zero until it matches someone who is willing to pay the amount they believe is worth it.

It’s not the impression people have of the art market.

They just see the auction prices and everything go up. They also do not understand the entire auction system. How many works were guaranteed? It tells you a lot about selling. Things may not be fully sold without their warranty. It’s difficult in any industry so far. We are in a ruthless and capitalist space.


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