Editor’s note: This publication has covered the comments of a firm closely tied to the currently strong investment market in fine art – Constantine. (See here.) Recently, we caught up with Tim Sutton, managing director, to ask about how the firm, which operates around the world, is faring in the current climate, and about the opportunities – and headaches – that this market provides.
1. In the broadest terms, how would you describe your business? Apart from the acquisition recently of a Royal Warrant, what would you say have been the most significant developments at the firm?
Constantine is an established and well-regarded brand in the museum and exhibition space, providing fine art logistics for museums, galleries and collectors.
The real key to our success is our people – we have the best team. Constantine is established and well-regarded because our team constantly develops our services to adapt to the needs of the client and the project. One recent development is a highly sophisticated IT service that allows clients to track their art all over the world. Another significant ongoing development is Constantine’s storage facilities that employ the same climate and safety controls as the world’s leading museums.
2. What are the main trends you see in the business of storing, moving, cataloguing and protecting artworks and other collectibles? How do these vary by geography?
Collections are growing both in number and size of artworks. Art is forming part of ultra high net worth individuals' investment portfolios – this is happening on a global basis but art collections are being moved to London as it is a safe home and is outside the eurozone.
There is a lot of news about the art market expanding east and we transport art all over the world, but our art storage facilities will remain in the UK because of the economic and political stability here.
3. Where is the most intensive demand coming from at the moment for your services? What sort of predictions would you make about the next few years?
There is strong demand growth from galleries and collectors and a steady demand growth from museums. This growth is expected to continue given the considerable increase in gallery and museum investment. There will be many more touring exhibitions. In addition to this, galleries are opening in other countries such as the White Cube in Brazil and the Halcyon in China.
4. When do you think we might be in a position to talk about an art "bubble"? Do you have any misgivings about some of the spending patterns out there?
There is always a risk, but all the wealth reports demonstrate a sizeable adjustment after the financial crash in 2008 of the UHNW individuals increasing their wealth at a very high rate and it is unlikely that this will change. The imposition of high taxes, for example in France, will simply lead to an exodus of UHNW individuals to other countries.
5. Among the type of clients you serve, how significant is the wealth management industry (private banks, single and multi-family offices)?
Art is in the alternative asset class and is an area of increasing importance.
6. How large a quantity of revenues is accounted for by private sector clients and public sector clients?
This is a difficult question and we don’t split revenues in this way. Many of the lenders to public museum exhibitions are private individuals. Overall I would say it is fairly balanced.