Not Only Bitcoin: How to Start Collecting Art and Make a Buck?

Collectors such as Leonardo Dicaprio and Jay-Z who frequent art fairs around the world, know, that aside from being beautiful, art has become a solid investment with high returns. You can purchase works of art in the local art market to decorate the walls of your home and that will also provide good returns after a few years. It is worth noticing some of the leading names in the upcoming sale at Tiroche, curated to mark the 70 years celebration of Israel.

Similar to the virtual coin, works of art too achieve prices never imagined. Only last month a rare masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci sold for 450 million dollars and already the art market is buzzing about the day sales of single works of art will reach higher than a billion dollars. How is this happening, what are the mysterious forces that drive the market and who are the potential art buyers? Tiroche, the leading Israeli auction house, points out the significant expansion of the art market in the last decade, and explain the source of this trend. The astronomical price paid for the lost masterpiece by Da Vinci derives from the appetite of the Emirates (purchased by the Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi).However, collectors such as Dicaprio and Jay-Z who frequent art fairs around the world, know, that aside from being fun, art has become a solid investment with high returns. As opposed to skyrocketing prices abroad, prices in the Israeli art market are a lot more accessible.

More and more people today understand that art has a double value - we enjoy it aesthetically, and also as a profitable investment. If in the past only knowledgeable people and the super-rich were collectors of art, today art is more accessible to every household, and buying art for the home has become easier. In Israel, as around the world, works of art have entered homes as part of a lifestyle culture, says Amitai Hazan, co-owner of Tiroche Auction House - third generation of specialists in art and auctions.

Reuven Rubin, En Route to Safed
Reuven Rubin, En Route to Safed, the 1930's

The value of art begins with living with art at home and it passes on from generation to generation, acquiring financial value the more important, rare and better it is. Collector circles started to expand already in the early 2000s. The standard of living in Israel raised, incomes went up accordingly and the exposure to art in Israel and around the world. In the 2000s young and educated people entered the market, established high-tech individuals started investing more in lifestyle and interior design, posters and decorative just wasnt enough anymore. Just as you would invest in a top-notch kitchen and designer furniture, so did the taste in art improve and demands went up.

As a financial investment, Hazan explains: In the past decade since the economic crisis of 2008 a few alternative channels of investment appeared. Just like the rise of the Bitcoin - a result of the lack of confidence in the traditional investment market and the exposure of banks to risks and over leveraging - so is art seen as a profitable and a promising market. It is a sound investment on the one hand, because every dollar (or Shekel) that you spend on art has a source and a valuable product to show for it, and as for prices, on the other hand, the sky's the limit.

But there are also works of art that appreciate as time goes by, these are masterpieces, outstanding in size, quality or other parameters, and these have proven to be fruitful investments even more than real estate or the stock market.

In the upcoming sale at Tiroche, that will take place on 20 January 2018, classical Eretz-Israel works of art especially stand out. As commonplace in any area of the globe, there is a tendency to collect and appreciate local art, and like Leonardo - masterpieces by the greatest Israeli artists are considered to be precious and prestigious.

Nachum Gutman, playing on the balcony in Jaffa
Nachum Gutman, playing on the balcony in Jaffa, the 1920's

In our next sale we will feature several rare and important works of art by artists with high demand, stresses Hazan, and points out pieces by NachumGutman, Marcel Janco, Yosl Bergner, Reuven Rubin, Moshe Castel and Mordechai Ardon - who holds the record price for an Israeli work of art ever sold.

The Fisherman by Reuven Rubin is unusually large compared to other paintings by Reuven and it manifests the impressive wide range and many a resource in the works of the highly appreciated Hebrew artist. The painting, 200x270 cm was a prototype for a rug designed by Reuven in 1966. Inasmuch as in subject and style the painting plays with Jewish and Christian myths and alludes to the miracle of the loaves and fish in Christian faith. Notice that the painting is from the Rutie Ofer collection, widow of the late tycoon Yuli Ofer.

Hardly ever discussed in Israel, but the identity of the collectors from which these works of art appear on sale are a major criteria in the art world for prestige and provenance . In this sale, works of art from the collections of Gaby and Ami Brown, the Piron Collection will be auctioned.  

A highlight of the sale is a rare oil painting by Gutman from 1925, Music Players on a Balcony in Jaffa, estimated 100-150 thousand dollars. A group of young, well dressed Arabs are depicted, playing music and having a good time on a balcony in Jaffa, with a view of the sea. Art historian Gidon Ofrat points out that, most of the Israeli artists in the 1920s painted idealized depictions of their Arab neighbors - friendly, having a good time, and not as alien figures or terrifying enemies. Perhaps in the spirit of European Orientalism, a school some of Eretz-Israeli artists belonged to or perhaps a romantic or ideological expression of the notion of the Jewish settlement in a land of peace.

Tree of Knowledge is a fascinating painting and a remarkable one by Yosl Bergner. In this early painting, from the 1940s, Bergner is still searching for his voice and style, and here he expresses his similarity to Marc Chagall and Jewish masters from the School of Paris. In comparison, in his painting Bella from 1969, the influence of Magritte is evident and Bergners association with Surrealism at the time, as seen in the repeating motif of the large eyes of his familiar and beloved figures.

Yosl Bergner, Bela
Yosl Bergner, Bela - One of Bergner's important works comes from the Firon collection

Also in the realm of Israeli masters, a work by Ardon Tower of DAvid from 1944, estimated 30-50 thousand dollars. This is an Ardon from the Jerusalem landscapes period, in which he persistently struggles with the local shiny and bright light, writes Michael Vishny about him. In his first decade in Israel, Ardon goes through many changes, he changes his name from Max Braunstein to Ardon, lives in Jerusalem and teaches at Bezalel that reopens in 1935. His sensitivity to light, and the spirituality he attributes to Jerusalem landscapes - drive his paintings from formalist towards the abstract. The fact that he prepares his own paint, like an alchemist that concocts a solvent that will alter the shine of a simple metal to that of gold, surely has an impact on the mysteriousness of his work, Vishny writes.

Samuel Bak, Chess Tools in the Landscape
Samuel Bak, Chess Tools in the Landscape

Marcel Jancos The Deportation is a dramatic stepping stone in the life and work of this artist. It is attributed to the year of his immigration to Israel in 1941,  experiencing profound shock after the murder of his brother in law in the pogroms in Bucharest and the deportation of the Jewish community in Roumania. Janco himself was excluded from any artistic-public activity in the late 1930s on the grounds of his Jewish misdemeanor. His deportation paintings from his Roumanian period were more an expression of his universal humanism than of his Jewish identity, that took a hard blow due to the persecutions.

In the modern section of the sale works by Lea Nikel and Yosef Zaritsky, Ori Reisman and YigalTumarkin stand out; Raffi Lavie, Aviva Uri, Agam and Shalom Sebba. Painting with a Bird by Zaritsky from 1952 is a classic example from his Yechiam series of paintings, where we can trace the artists movement from landscape painting to abstract painting, far away from any specific interpretation. Lea Nikel as well made an artistic journey from the realist image to the absolute abstract composition. Several works by the artist from the period she resided in Paris in the 1950s are featured in the sale.

 Zaritsky's painting
Joseph Zaritsky, Painting with a Bird, 1952. Zaritsky's painting was sold half a year ago for $210,000 - a record price for the artist

Two highly impressive works by Ori Reisman are estimated 30-50 thousand dollars, together with a remarkable collection of works by Meir Pichadze, Moshe Kupferman, Shalom Sebba and Moshe Gershuni who passed away early last year, feature in the sale.

How did Cars Enter the Museum

Featured in the heart of the sale, side by side with significant works of art, is a collection of antique and vintage cars from the collection of Rani and Hila Rahav. The collection comprises of rare models from the 1940s and 50s by Chrysler - the De Soto and the Windsor (with a starting price of 50 thousand dollars); the Mercury given to Ben Gurion in 1956 from an American donor (estimated 90-100 thousand dollars) and the jewel of the crown - a Silver Cloud Rolls Royce, a 20th century status symbol, estimated 200-250 thousand dollars. The Rahavs and Tiroche Auction House will contribute 10% of the  proceeds from the sale of the cars to Elem and Alut, Shiba Medical Center and other non-profit organizations.

Featuring vintage cars together with works of art drew a lot of attention and criticism about ten years ago, when rare BMW models were exhibited in the entrance of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, then directed and head curated by the late Dr. Mordechai Omer. Omer, who was a powerful centralist director, considered the exhibition of vintage cars in the museum as a way of attracting a fresh new crowd that rarely frequented museums. Omer was known to be a hunter of opportunities for raising support and funding for the museum, and the exhibition of vintage cars was only one of many controversial events for raising funds and income such as private events and weddings, but after much criticism was prohibited in public spaces.

In the contemporary section of the sale are fine works of art by Michal Rovner, Eran Reshef, David Nipo, MIchalNaaman and Adi Ness - whose photographs won him tremendous success in the international market, holding a record price for an Israeli photograph - 377 thousand dollars for his piece The Last Supper (untitled) from his soldiers series. Featured in this sale is a work Saul and Samuel from the biblical stories series (2007) estimated 20-30 thousand dollars.

New collectors have lower entry blocks and especially in the contemporary art field works by well-known artists such as Michal Naaman, Tsibi Geva, Michal Rovner and even YigalTumarkin can be found with estimates ranging between $5,000 - 10,000, and works by younger and promising artists at even lower starting prices.

Nir Hods work Angels from 2002 is a large scale work referring to the Twin Tower catastrophe in New York. Hod moved to New York in 1999 and was deeply shaken by the September 11 terror attack which influenced him profoundly. The work is estimated 10-15 thousand dollars. In the new and upcoming contemporary section of the sale are works by Shay Koon, Roy Nachum, Chen Shish and Amit Cabessa, with starting prices of only a few thousand dollars.

The exhibition, that includes the 100 leading Israeli artists, will last only 8 days, starting from 12/1/18 until Saturday, 20/1/18. 

Ludwig Blum, Mahane Yehuda Market
Ludwig Blum, Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem, 1958