FH: No—I don’t get the feeling that the effects of that are very big. The effect is larger on upmarket galleries selling very expensive pieces. There are professional collectors who are really involved with auction prices, but most people are not buying with the idea of selling; they don’t see it that much as an investment. I don’t see it, especially with the market on young art. What I see is that more and more people are interested in buying art, and they want to step in—not at such a high level—but they are interested in buying, in committing themselves, in spending money on it, in making it a part of their lifestyle. We see a huge interest in that. More and more people are finding pleasure in buying art.
IE: Your fair’s strength in presenting works priced at under €10,000 presumably makes it particularly attractive to younger collectors, relatively new to buying art. What can we do in the art world to encourage more individuals to start collecting?
FH: I think we have to explain much better. Explain why the pieces you’re selling as a gallery are so interesting. Explain who is influencing these artists as they make their work, give more art-historical context. And explain online—galleries always want to have a one-to-one meeting with someone in the gallery over a glass of wine. That’s old-fashioned. Young people making money—they’re very busy! They have kids. They go on vacation. The time for collecting, for going into this art world, is limited.
What Art Rotterdam does now, for example, is make a film to introduce the fair. We asked the noted Dutch art critic and historian, Hans den Hartog Jager, to select artists in the fair and to provide art-historical context. So we give people guidance—we take a non-professional, hobbyist collector, who is an art lover and a culture consumer but isn’t completely in the art world—and give them some guidance and more context for the pieces they see. I think explaining is the future.
IE: Is there anything else that could be done to foster collecting?
FH: More openness about pricing. How does a gallery price a work? Why is a work a certain price? Explain it—whether it has to do with a museum show, inclusion in a collection—be more open about it.
We come from an era of not being open about pricing. But times are changing. Being discreet is getting a little suspicious. Why not be open? Why am I not allowed to know the price of this piece? That’s crazy. For every other product in the world, you can find the price on the internet. There’s nothing to hide.
People who are buying art today don’t have so much of a problem anymore with other people knowing the price that they paid. Why not put sales you made to museums, to institutions, to big collectors on the internet? Why not show them to people—and why not put your price list on your website?
IE: We’ve been hearing a lot of chatter around young artists and designers from northern Europe descending on Rotterdam over the past year. While it’s probably still pretty preemptive to start calling it the new Berlin, what do you think is particularly attractive about the city to young artists?
FH: You go to Berlin, and you want to be there as an artist or writer because everybody is there. But Berlin is getting more and more expensive. Twenty years ago, when it [arose as an art capital], it was very cheap. This was the reason artists went to Berlin. Today, Rotterdam has an aspect of that; it is comparable to Berlin. First off, Rotterdam is a production city. I always say in Amsterdam, they sell it; in Rotterdam, they produce it. There are far, far more artists, designers, and architects in Rotterdam than in other cities in the Netherlands, so that also contributes to this Berlin effect. Second, price-wise, it’s a harbor city, and the container ships are getting larger and larger, and now they are so big that they’re building new harbors farther out in the North Sea. The old harbor facilities are empty, so there are a lot of old warehouses, storage spaces, and old harbor buildings—there is a large supply of potential studio spaces, and this also makes the price quite low—the Berlin effect again.