Georgina Adam: New wealth from Russia and Asia is driving this boom

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The Independent Online

It is certainly true that the London market is having the most extraordinary boom. It is the second biggest-selling centre after New York, but it is snapping at the Big Apple's heels.

One of the primary reasons is the presence in London of new money: from Russia, India and China. Sales of Russian art are booming. Sales of Indian and Chinese art are booming.

There's a lot of fresh money sloshing around; there is a lot of hedge fund money.

Russians have elected to live in London and the city is sometimes called Londongrad. The Russians have made their money from the sell-off of the country's resources at the end of the Communist era. A lot of the Indian money comes from IT. There are a lot of non-resident Indians in Silicon Valley.

The new wealthy tend to collect the art of their own countries. They buy conservatively; traditional things. They dislike contemporary art. They tend to buy at auction: they are reassured there are other people bidding for things. They are perhaps intimidated in an art gallery.

Who are they? Although [the Indian steel tycoon] Lakshmi Mittal does not buy art, I believe Mrs Mittal has bought quite a lot of very ritzy antiques and now has some art. But, apart from him, there are some very rich Asians here.

You don't see any of the Russian oligarchs at the sales. They buy over the phone or through someone in the room.

Roman Abramovich's wife was seen at the Olympia Fine Art and Antiques Fair, which has just closed in London. It is widely believed that the buyer of the $95m (£51m) Picasso Dora Maar Au Chat in New York last month was a Russian and that he was a new buyer in the market.

There are also sociological and cultural factors for the boom. As well as a broader geographical spread of buyers, there is a broader spread of art being bought. Art used to be seen as something quite élitist, but now it's perceived as something you can buy quite easily. Contemporary art is more widely known about; taxi drivers know about Tracey Emin.

We also live in an age of the "brand" and some of the most prolific artists have become something of a brand. You have got the Rolex and the Maserati and you have got the Picasso and the Damien Hirst. Picasso is a fantastic luxury brand and great Picassos are very rare. The more rare a work is, the more desirable it becomes. In addition, art used to be something for which you needed to be a connoisseur: you needed to know the names of obscure Italians. Now, people feel they can participate in the market.

Undoubtedly, the art market is very strong at the moment. I can't predict when it won't be strong.

During the last big art boom, between 1987 and 1990, there was a lot of borrowed money and when things go pear-shaped the market goes down. But this time people have the money.

Georgina Adam is Art Market Editor of 'The Art Newspaper'

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