in The International Art Markets: The Essential Guide for Collectors and Investors. James Goodwin (Editor). London: Kogan Page, 2008.
by Joao Magalhaes
The art market in Portugal is difficult to discuss. From an economic point of view, data for analysis remains significantly under researched. Auction houses refused to disclose the total number of their sales (with the exception of Cabral Moncada Leilões). It is also significant that in the study The European Art Market in 2002 (Kusin and Company, 2002) where the figures related to total sales from auctions and dealers, as well as the number of companies and jobs in this area were revealed, Portugal and Greece were the only countries with no data. Art Sales Index reveals very limited data and the INE (National Statistics Institute) studies in cultural area are vague and of no major use to this analysis. There are no academic studies in this matter and dealers associations have also failed to produce financial studies or disclose their associates’ activities. The state’s greater regulation of activity, the promotion of research by professional associations and growing academic interest in the impact of collecting and investing in art on the national economy should help reverse a situation that has surprisingly had little to no effect on the existence of this lively and growing market.
This chapter will reflect upon the current commercial activity of art in Portugal mostly from a qualitative perspective. To this effect, the agents, their characteristics and how they operate are described in order to determine how the market emerged, what the current situation is and how it will possibly evolve in the future.
TASTE AND TRENDS
Taste in Portugal, much like artistic creation, is traditionally conservative and nationalist, and like in any other peripheral region, tends to absorb international trends somewhat belatedly. Models of taste are socially established and mimetic behaviour prolongs them indeterminately, sometimes over several generations. An example of this can be found in the collection of entrepreneur António Champalimaud (1918–2004), sold at Christie’s London in 2005. It demonstrates how the French taste inherited from the Marquis of Foz was still present, even after the revolution of 1974. The sale was a huge success, making a total of 43.7 million euros.
The decorative arts soon became the driving force behind art and the national market. Inside palaces, homes and churches – such as S Francisco Church in Porto and the Palace of Santo Antão do Tojal in Lisbon – Portuguese art found a space of expression, with talha (gilded carved wood), azulejo (tiles) and sumptuous decorative pieces. To this effect, between the end of the 17th century and late 18th century, improved craftsmanship, access to international models, the abundance of high-quality material and relative socio-economic stability combined, increased the production of furniture, silverware and ceramics, which characterize one of the richest periods in the history of Portuguese art. The Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (National Museum of Art) is perfect to study these different areas at their best in a single place.
The 17th century is most likely to be the period where Portuguese furniture best achieved a distinctive national identity, with the employment of characteristic techniques and definition of typical embellishments and typologies. The bufete (centre table), the cadeira de couro lavrado (chairs with embossed leather), and the contador (a cabinet on a stand) with singular ripple cuttings are types that best define this period. Due to their heavy appearance, and sometimes because of the difficulty involved in dating these pieces, current buyers do not pay a lot of attention to this material. This is to the benefit of certain connoisseurs; in fact, it is quite common to find American dealers hunting down this type of furniture, which has developed a large following in the United States, attracted by their decorative qualities.
The 18th century in Portugal, in turn, was marked by the grandiose notions of the absolute monarchy of King Dom João V. With Brazilian hardwood, furniture became richer in ornamentation. The mesa de encostar (console table with drawers) and the cómoda (chest of drawers) are emblematic of this century. France and England were the main sources of inspiration, crossing regularly in their paths of influence. The extension of this sumptuousness steered the way towards the creation of high-quality furniture in the reign of Dom José (1750–77), a period which has set a number of record auction prices.
Thanks to the significant flow of pieces onto the market and social change, this furniture, which traditionally graced the houses of the Portuguese aristocracy, was adopted in the 1980s to accent the interiors of the newborn economic elites.
Regarded for many years as one of the safest investment areas – due to the undeniable quality of most furniture, the existence of a sustained supply and indigenous nature of the pieces – the auction prices of furniture have fallen quite significantly (see Table 1). This is not only a reflection of the economic crisis that has befallen the country, but is a consequence of the lack of major pieces on the market and younger audiences’ disinterest in larger, ostentatious pieces.
[Table 1 ]
Portuguese silverwork seems to have evolved following a similar pattern, the 17th century being representative of profound local features. During the 18th century, there was an increase in production, with direct influences coming from the French baroque and rococo and English neoclassicism. The 19th century, a period without personality, was marked by the prolongation or recovery of old styles. Non-religious items that have survived from the 16th century are rare, of extraordinary quality and usually reflect not only the influences of the Discoveries but also of Renaissance values from Italy or Northern Europe, and are thus highly valued.
In spite of these external influences, silverwork retains a profound national mark. Silver maintains its solid market of collectors and holding an intrinsic value is still seen as an important fact.
Portuguese ceramics is an area with a significant amount of collectors. The range finds expression in faience of the 17th century, which was highly influenced by Chinese porcelain, and in the industrialization of production in the 18th century in Porto and Lisbon, led by the Real Fábrica do Rato, as well as in decorative earthenware from Caldas da Rainha, developed in the 19th century, with caricaturist Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro as the genre’s figurehead.
Over the past 20 years, the sale of important ceramic collections, like the António Capucho (2005), the Maldonaldo de Freitas (1996) and the José Abecassis (1996) collections, have taken place at the Palácio do Correio Velho.
Within the field of porcelain, production by the Vista Alegre factory (founded in 1824), has been the object of several collections, whether functionalist or artistic-decorative in accent. Annual auctions comprised solely of Vista Alegre items have been held since 1997 thanks to the efforts of the factory itself and the Cabral Moncada auction house.
One of the outcomes of the encounter between cultures promoted by Portuguese traders and missionaries is a set of extremely diverse pieces that have attracted European audiences since the beginning of the 16th century. Ranging from exquisite objects produced for the Renaissance wunderkammern through to more functional items, production to reach the ports of Lisbon captivated not only foreign, as expected, but local audiences, to become a part of the Portuguese household. These items – brought from the Azores, China, Brazil, Japan, Sri Lanka, India and so on – continue to draw the interest of Portuguese audiences to this day, and the field presents a unique group of buyers and connoisseurs who have bolstered the value of these items in Portugal. Although these items captivated the interest of collectors since 19th century, collectors re-embraced the appeal and potential of this art produced during the Portuguese maritime expansion after the ‘ XVII Exposição de Arte, Ciência e Cultura’ in 1983.
Owing to its diversity and quality, Indo-Portuguese ivory represents another area of consistent investment. A combination of unique Indian craftsmanship and Christian motifs, these creations possess a market of loyal collectors. The naturalist quality of the intricate carvings from Sri Lanka is highly sought after, although most creations derive from the region of Goa, capital of the Portuguese Asian territories after 1510. Rarer is the eburnean production from China.
Indian furniture made for the Portuguese market from the second half of the 16th century has a strong following nowadays. Smaller or larger contadores (cabinets) are considered emblematic of this voluminous period of production, which ranges from items in teak or Indian rosewood to other more embellished samples with ivory inlays or tortoiseshell veneers.
Indian manufacture for the Portuguese market essentially derives from the regions of Gujarat, Goa and Sri Lanka. Rarer, and thus greatly sought after, jewels, textiles and objets d’art – like the production of Gujarati mother-of-pearl – are highly appreciated and from the beginnings of their import until today always found a broad European clientele.
The passage of the Portuguese through Japan also left its mark. Avid collectors hunt this art, collectively termed Namban (meaning ‘barbarians of the south’) – a name used by the Japanese for the Portuguese. These objects combine traditional style and techniques, such as lacquer, with European shapes and sometimes representations of Christian or western motifs.
Brazilian art should be considered an extension of the metropolis. Its major difference, the excess of ornamentation, is not always obvious but has been, as a collector’s rule of thumb, dismissed in relation to items of Portuguese origin.
The Portuguese were the first to commercialize porcelain in Europe almost immediately after the first encounter with the Empire of China in 1516. Ever since, and through the permanent trading settlement in Macao, Chinese export porcelain has had a privileged role in the Portuguese household and is one of the main vectors of collecting in Portugal. Before the revolution in 1974, the Portuguese had an important role in the international market, largely projecting the prices of Chinese porcelain wares. This political uprising had severe repercussions. Today, and after some changes in deeply rooted social preferences, prices in Portugal are almost the same as in the international arena, and the high prices paid in the middle and lower markets have scaled down. With this change in behaviour, collectors look mostly for pieces in mint condition and with Portuguese armorial bearings. These items stir the interest of quite a significant group of collectors.
Portuguese ceramic tile art (azulejaria) constitutes an interesting case in the Portuguese market. Large decorative panels of the 17th and 18th centuries move the market of this national art. One of the downsides of this not only collectible, apart from its scarcity, is its difficulty of maintenance and relocation, although some items find immediate buyers in foreign collectors. Locally, entrepreneur José Berardo is currently building what will be one of the most representative collections of Portuguese azulejos.
Religious art, which has always been a part of Portuguese life and collecting, is currently experiencing a less fortuitous period. The extinction of religious orders in 1834 and the plundering of churches throughout the 20th century flooded the market with religious items. The 17th and 18th centuries represent abundant periods of production and have a strong presence in the market. Today, only superior items, often associated with schools or craftspeople such as António Ferreira and Machado de Castro, are more easily sold.
But the business that moves the most money, apart from modern and contemporary, is undeniably naturalist painting of the end of the 19th century and beginnings of the 20th century. Initiated in 1870 by the painters Marques de Oliveira (1853–1927) and Silva Porto (1850–1893), this movement stretched throughout successive generations of artists up until the mid-20th century, marking Portuguese preferences to this day.
With variable quality, not always reflected by sales prices, Alfredo Keil (1850–1907), Artur Loureiro (1853–1932), Sousa Pinto (1856–1939), João Vaz (1859–1931), Carlos Reis (1863–1940) and Aurélia de Sousa (1865–1922) are some of the artists with continued collector demand.
José Malhoa (1855–1933) is one of Portugal’s best-loved painters. A national phenomenon of no real genius, Malhoa has admirably maintained his commercial prestige. The highest bid offered in Portugal for one of his registered works was €220,000, although this price does not show his real market potential since his more significant works are predominantly bought and sold in private deals.
The singular Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro (1857–1929) is one of the greatest painters of his generation. Columbano set a record with his painting O Serão, acquired by entrepreneur and collector João Pereira Coutinho for a record €310,000.
In spite of the continued presence of naturalists in Portuguese life, Portuguese art developed during the first decades of the 20th century with the appearance of some interesting figures. Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso (1887–1918), a close friend of Modigliani and the Delaunays, developed a unique idiom with approximations to cubism, expressionism and futurism. Works by the artist of greater importance to emerge on the market tend to be channelled through private sales.
Almada Negreiros (1893–1970), having lived through a greater part of the 20th century, is a seminal figure in Portuguese modernism. A painter, draughtsman, poet and writer, Negreiros left an extensive oeuvre, which circulates on the market with multiple formats and techniques. Other modernists – Mário Eloy (1900–1951), Eduardo Viana (1881–1967), Jorge Barradas (1894–1971), António Soares (1894–1978) and Carlos Botelho (1899–1982) – deserve reference for their quality and assiduous presence on the market.
Following this generation, contemporary work began to develop with a succession of names and registers. The name of Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (1908–1992), due to the international career she developed, deserves natural mention. Her vast body of work regularly appears on the local market with domestic prices sometimes exceeding those of the international market.
Equally situated within the international context, with an impressive career built in United Kingdom, Paula Rego (b1935) is indisputably Portugal’s living artist with the greatest international profile and the highest quotation in auction sales. Owing to their constant and solid presence over the past 40 years on the national market, Júlio Resende (b 1917), Júlio Pomar (b 1926) and Manuel Cargaleiro (b 1927) also deserve particular reference.
Within contemporary creation, the market is one that is robust, with a breadth of names that comprise a circuit of galleries and collectors, as mentioned below. Helena Almeida, Jorge Queiroz, Julião Sarmento, Pedro Cabrita Reis and Rui Chafes (with a price range broadly between €15–75,000) are established artists who have generated foreign interest in their work, all of them being also represented by international galleries. Bruno Pacheco, João Pedro Vale, João Onofre, Vasco Araújo and the collective João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva (with a price range broadly between €3,500–15,000) on the other hand, prevail among a group of countless young artists to emerge over the past few years.
The Portuguese auction market is growing and is concentrated in three firms, Cabral Moncada Leilões, Leiria e Nascimento and Palácio do Correio Velho, all of whom are established in the city of Lisbon. The weight of antiques dealers, who used to renovate stockpiles and generate stock flow, has diminished in this market over the past few years. In view of the fact that private bidders have taken on a leading role, auction houses have been forced to present fresher, better preserved, accurately catalogued items for sale.
Auctions however remain quite detached from the contemporary art scene. Sales are infrequent and rarely present works of major importance. There is nevertheless an effort being made by auction houses to attract art from recent years and take advantage of the existing enthusiasm around it. Galleries and private sales circuit continue to control the market of art from the past 50 years.
Auctioneers by and large adopt generalist sales, making broad distinctions on their sales: antiques and Old Masters, modern and contemporary art. Cabral Moncada nonetheless holds sessions uniquely dedicated to silver, whereas other auctioneers hold thematic sales on occasion, namely within the specialized fields of porcelain and faience.
During 2007 four new auction houses appeared in the Lisbon market: Aqueduto, Renascimento, P4 (specialized in photography) and Sala Branca (specialized contemporary art).
Like the field of auction houses, antiques dealers are geographically concentrated in Lisbon, with a few isolated ones in Porto. Keeping up with the international reality, this activity has been moving towards specialization. As a professional body, antiques dealers stopped rejuvenating in the 1980s with the demand of more professionalism and expertise from buyers, dwindling levels of supply and the escalating price of property rents.
We must mention, however, the dealers who increasingly have chosen the path of greater expertise or, within the range of items on sale, have shown preference for certain areas: António Miranda (Galeria da Arcada) is an authority in religious art, Fernando Moncada (Arte Tribal) in primitive art, João and José Mário Andrade (J Andrade Antiguidades) in furniture, Jorge Welsh in Chinese porcelain and oriental works of art, Manuel Castilho in oriental art and Manuel Leitão (Solar das Antiguidades) in azulejaria.
Associates Sebastião Jorge Neves and João Teixeira (António Costa Antiguidades), Florindo dos Santos, Frederico Horta e Costa and Rui Quintela are other antiques specialists on the market. Within a more modern frame, Manuel Reis’ Loja da Atalaia is an authority for anyone interested in vintage furniture. Guy Magalhães Pereira and Álvaro Roquette, on the other hand, are the current spearheads of a new generation of antiques dealers.
In Porto, a city with a tradition of eminent collectors, the panorama is currently one that is quite bleak, due to the increasingly loss of the region’s economic power to Lisbon. Despite this rather desolate environment, Pedro Aguiar Branco (VOC Antiguidades) – working within the reach of the Portuguese Empire – and Luís Alegria – who has a special focus in Chinese porcelain – have gained a wider audience outside the city and are national authorities.
Contemporary art galleries
In the global context of the market, the sector of contemporary art galleries may be considered to be the one working in a more professional way. Currently, a small number of galleries are working like their international counterparts; endeavouring to produce quality exhibitions, to represent a coherent roster of artists, to promote and support their work and channel artist’s creations to the right collections.
More recent art galleries like Baginski – Galeria Projectos, Galeria 24b and Agência Vera Cortês have progressively consolidated a position for themselves on the market through their focus on the work of emerging artists. Graça Brandão, Módulo, Lisboa 20, Pedro Oliveira, Quadrado Azul, Pedro Cera and Presença are examples of galleries with a relative amount of tradition and a mixed roster that ranges from distinguished, rising to emerging artists, and the occasional representation of an international name. These galleries are mostly frequented by national audiences.
Galeria Filomena Soares and Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, on the other hand, have gone to enormous lengths to establish a presence in the international arena. Both strategically represent some of Portugal’s most distinguished artists and their international counterparts in high-profile international art fairs, promoting their work on the global art circuit.
Certain other instances deserve equal mention on the local arena: the historic Galeria 111, founded in 1964, which is currently undergoing a process of renewal; the decisive measures of galeria Luís Serpa Projectos, which drew the international art scene to the market in the 1980s; and Mário Sequeira, located in Braga, who has mounted several prominent exhibitions by high-profile artists and hosted various interesting outdoor sculpture projects.
Like other markets, Portugal has its own art fair, a key event for the contemporary scene. Arte Lisboa is a growing fair of local accent, started in 2000, and which reflects the conservative and limited buying power. To date, it is still in search of its identity, due mainly to the lack of a strong cultural programme. Nevertheless, it is improving year to year. Growing interest in the contemporary art market and increased visibility raised visitor attendance from 15,000 in 2005 to over 19,000 in 2006.
FIL’s Antiques Biennial, a point of reference for the antiques market, alternates with the biennial hosted by the Portuguese Antiques Dealers’ Association. The latter fair possesses a vetting committee, which assures the quality and authenticity of all items on sale.
The art press
The Portuguese specialized art press, like the market, is limited. The monthly L+Arte is a magazine committed to contemporary art and antiques. Available on all local newsstands, the magazine offers a global perspective of this market and is geared towards the general public. Dardo is a four-monthly trilingual (Portuguese, Spanish and English) contemporary art magazine, catering to an international audience. The daily newspaper Público covers the major events on the art scene. Its weekly cultural supplement Ipsilon, as well as the supplement Actual from the weekly Expresso, offer limited reviews and articles on running exhibitions. In May of 2006, http://www.artecapital.net was launched, offering a new vision of art to the net with its selection of headlines, articles, reviews and so on. In October 2007 a new art and antiques magazine was launched, Artes e Leilões.
As Portugal is a country of limited resources, there are very few private collectors with the means of creating coherent and cohesive collections. The Portuguese collector is conservative and is subject to the influence of currents of opinion and taste. Although there may be a category of high-profile contemporary art collectors who exercise an important role, generally the Portuguese collector is reserved – especially within the field of antiques.
Two high-profile cases are João Rendeiro’s Ellipse Foundation and the Berardo collection. Both of these privately owned collections focus on international art, with minor incursions into Portuguese art, and are on public display. Owing to the manner millionaire José Berardo forced his way around the Portuguese government to maintain his collection on public display in 2006, Berardo is, in all probability, today’s most well-known art collector.
Francisco Capelo stands as an example of a Portuguese collector practising in the international arena with a variety of interests. He was responsible for conceiving the Berardo collection, as well as the recent Museu de Design e Moda (MUDE); his private collection sold in attractive conditions to the city of Lisbon for €6.6 million in 2002.
For many years, the collection of the Modern Art Centre of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation was the only institution to systematically acquire Portuguese contemporary art. In 2006, the budget for acquisitions was €900,000. The Serralves Museum, on the other hand, was given a one-year acquisition budget of €1 million.
Several private institutions are currently acquiring contemporary art as a part of their corporate social responsibility commitment. The finest example is the Banco Espírito Santo and its single-minded investment in photography. By funding two major awards and providing numerous other sponsorships, this bank has seriously contributed to photography in Portugal.
The bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos, with a central holding of contemporary Portuguese art and an annual acquisitions budget of €400.000, and the PLMJ Foundation, created by a prominent law firm, with a holding of emerging artists and recent acquisitions in the media of photography and video, are two other instances that deserve mention.
Sadly, acquisitions from institutions, public or private, have hardly any direct influence on the local market since most major-budget organisms – Ellipse, Berardo and Serralves – direct their acquisitions to the international market. This explains why private collectors maintain the contemporary art market. This blueprint of the market can also be applied to the field of antiques, where the number of institutions acquiring pieces is even smaller, and the state and its museums, by way of the Instituto Português de Museus, has been granted an infinitesimal part of its needs: €385,000 was the average amount spent per year between 1996 and 2006 on a total of 29 museums.
With the exception of a small elite, the lack of patrimonial tradition amongst the Portuguese is a reflection of the country’s low cultural level. Efforts have been made over the past few years to reverse this historical reality, but they seem to have been to no avail. This background, which is further complicated by weak buying power by European standards, comprises an unfavourable factor in achieving a highly competitive and vibrant art market. Despite this context, the market in Portugal has proceeded in its process of maturation, becoming increasingly more professional and selective.
This positive step forward reveals economic growth, which implies greater regulation, and will inevitably lead to greater financial transparency. In turn, this will enable academics to embark on the much-needed economic analysis of the market which will hopefully unveil its true situation.
The fact that private transactions are not declared means that tax evasion has opened the doors to a parallel market, which continues to exert a substantial influence on the global market. This in turn renders financial analysis an impossible endeavour.
In Portugal, value-added tax is applied to the sales of works of art at a rate of 21 per cent. Regarding acquisitions in auctions, the buyer and auction house’s commission are equally liable for taxation, but not the hammer price.
Following the EU directive, the artist resale right was implemented in June of 2006 to ensure for visual artists or their representatives a percentage of the value of transactions. This law, like others prior to its existence, is most likely to have a limited application and impact on the market. Ultimately, EU legislation will benefit renowned artists with vibrant secondary markets. Auction houses, in the long run, will most likely be the hardest hit by this measure. Despite this downside, legislation will definitively help increase and broaden state regulation of the market. This, in turn, will help make the sale of art a more complex, but in equal measure, a more organized and transparent activity.
Articles are constantly being published in popular business news magazines about investing in art. Although reflecting the existing interest in the area, they are hardly ever informative or enlightening, and the preference in these pieces is usually given to the financial potential of investing without an in-depth, prior analysis of the numbers or mention of the inherent risks. Being an insiders’ market, it may be that certain buyers appreciate the nature of the risk and are able to maximize their investment. In fact, although there are quite a number of individual agents, most buyers still do not see art as an investment. Proof of this is the fact that there are still no institutions or firms in the country with the financial know-how and awareness of the market assisting buyers and their investments. To this effect, the Millennium BCP bank created an initiative which, although short-lived, provided investors and private art collectors with specialized consultancy.
In light of what has already been said, the exotic appeal of Portugal’s heritage is certain to attract international buyers. The sheer quality and exceptionality of particular items, at very reasonable prices, should be the motive of some attention – as with furniture and silverwork of the 17th century and first half of the 18th century. As to painting, names like Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, Amadeo de Souza Cardoso and Almada Negreiros can equally come as a serious surprise to foreign audiences.
Regarding contemporary creation, Portugal has paradoxically suffered from its participation in the international circuit. On the one hand, the country lacks the strength that is needed to rival the international elites; on the other, it is not sufficiently peripheral to produce a distinctive art and thus seems doomed to attempt to internationalize artists with only occasional successes.
The attraction of the Portuguese market lies not only in existing opportunities, but also in the fact that it is changing and headed in the direction of increased professionalism and expertise. Furthermore, the general public’s interest signals this potential and capacity to grow. Following the international paradigm, art fairs have become increasingly important, antiques dealers have had to shrink in number and augment their expertise, auction houses have absorbed a large portion of the market and contemporary art has become more of a commodity. The nationalist tendency of the market will certainly remain, even though collectors at the top end of the market will progressively pick more renowned, international names from the global market.
Knowing that all of the subjects addressed in this text beg further analysis, it is our hope that the ideas forwarded here will be developed, rejected or confirmed with the emergence of new data.