Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Business Opportunity – Alternative Investments – The Automotive Art Business

With value creation forever top of mind here at investment-auto-motives, a flaneur's wander into a few of the premium art galleries of New Bond Street led to a questioning of the creative, human element of the car design process and the resultant sketches, renderings and artifacts. Are not these 'Art'? Derived from industry and perhaps all the more meaningful by doing so.

Although many vehicle icons - such as a 250GTO, DB5 or 550 Spyder - are described as “artistic masterpieces”, we do not in fact mean the cars themselves, but instead the artistic material that led to the styling and manufacture of such revered, and less iconic but more populous, vehicles themselves – whether for a renowned carrozzeria's one-off creation or a volume manufacturer's studio creation leading to 10 million cars.

Visits to both the Salvador Dali Foundation's premises and those of the Opera Gallery set the mind exploring the issue - and critically pricing models - of 'Art'. If one in the series of eight officially recognised 'May West' “Lips” sofas is valued at £60,000 and two of three original Chagall's were £600,000 and £1,200,000+ respectively, what opportunity is there for original artworks stemming from the automotive design process? There appears major potential to expand the generally 'low-value' automotive art world and introduce a new 'high-value' sector. Too indeed expand the very definition and scope of 'Automotive Art'.

To date the arena appears to generally consist of classic car paintings in period settings, Grand Prix, Mille Miglia & F1 'colour-flash' representations and miniature scale realistic and precious-metal models. However recent years have seen the sector envelope the provision of original used F1 vehicle components (from manufacturer's Factory Teams) as 'object d'art'.

As with this last example, followers of art will appreciate that the art-world has started to encompass much more than the traditional artforms of painting, sculpting and latterly 'instillations' (of the Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin variety). Driven by the business needs and mentalities of premium dealers, in tandem with the proviso of art cognoscenti, today we witness a blurring of the boundaries as to what constitutes art. After all is it not in the eye of the beholder?. Definitions now expand beyond “beauty” or “philosophical interpretation” per se, to examples of items “uniquely created” in their own right or “fine examples” of specific design genres, schools or periods.

With this broadened scope 'object d'art' now even encompasses architecture, with the modernist Bauhaus originals from the likes of Le Corbusier, van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright creations and very recently Christies Art Auctioneers presented the Richard Neutra designed 'Kaufmann House' in California. Christie's LA President said “it is symptomatic of the trend to include design in contemporary art sales”...”the barriers between the two disciplines have now blurred”.
So if architecture and its original design-work (GA drawings, elevations, plans etc) is now within the purist definition of 'Art', what of automobiles? After all a single house touches but a few dwellers and visitors, a car touches thousands if not millions of people both in their everyday and their fantasies.

In such an artistic climate, investment-auto-motives posits that this trend has now reached the tipping-point for the marketability and sale value of original automotive design sketches and artifacts, The fertile conceptual worlds of volume manufacturers, niche vehicle builders and independent design studios should theoretically have a treasure-trove of exploratory, preliminary, developed sketches (for alternative treatments); final presentation renderings, 1:5 scale clay models, 1:1 exterior 'clays', 1:1 interior 'bucks', prototype vehicles and of course show-cased Concept Cars. However, unfortunately, given the secretive nature of the business process some of what is created is destroyed for confidentiality reasons.

However, automakers, design houses and auto-museum archives probably hold a veritable array of automotive art and objects d'art in 2-D and 3-D formats. The car is perhaps functionally and stylistically the most important object of the 20th century yet the original creations are essentially 'invisible' and 'lost' – much like the architypical 'barn-find' in classic car circles.
Hence we believe that automotive art in its original sense - as opposed to the previously stated conventional perception, or indeed related items like Andy Warhole's 'Car Crash' – has massive potential in this intellectually enraptured age.

To own not simply, or necessarily, the manufactured article, but the original 'transcript' of the idea....the real conceptual “Auto De Fé ”.