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July 21, 2009

Perpetual Patronage

By Spear's

It seems like only yesterday that Hedgehog was sitting in the VIP lounges at Design Miami/Basel and Art Basel (held in Basel, as opposed to Design Miami and Art Basel Miami Beach, which are held in Miami), observing the art world’s patrons.

It seems like only yesterday that Hedgehog was sitting in the VIP lounges at Design Miami/Basel and Art Basel (held in Basel, as opposed to Design Miami and Art Basel Miami Beach, which are held in Miami), observing the art world’s patrons. You wouldn’t think that patrons would actually lug their purchases about, but I’m sure I saw someone stand a Giacometti under the communal lunch table in Art Basel’s lounge.

The fairs attract their fair share of those who come to gawk at the spectacle of the art world on parade, but they attract equal numbers – if not more – patrons, who are serious about art. And not serious in the ‘What sort of a return will this get me in two years’ time?’ way. Serious about how and what they collect.

The recession has not dented their enthusiasm for patronage. From my vantage point (on the ground, knocked over by buyers and their shopping trolleys full of Warhol soupcans and Newson chairs speeding through the fairs), it was clear that deals were being done, although this was in the form of negotiation, rather than easy acceptance of the sticker price.

Claude Greilsamer, director of HSBC Private Bank (UK), who have sponsored Design Miami and Design Miami/Basel for several years now, elaborated on how patronage was holding up: ‘Patronage is surprisingly resilient in this recession so far. Art and design are pretty much part of our client culture and lifestyle.

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‘Our clients have taken advantage of more realistic prices and also know that a few thousand Euros can still buy unique pieces. In the recession they have become more selective and more interested in very high quality events. The pleasure of acquiring a great piece of art or a great chair to sit on remains intact.’ Claude also stressed that the recession has not affected HSBC PB’s commitment to sponsoring Design Miami.

Picture: Audience by rAndom International, where a hundred mirrors rotate towards the person walking through them, but gradually lose interest.

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He elucidated how the rarum genus of art-world patron lives: ‘Our clients are keen to come to major art fairs in Europe and the US at least once if not twice a year – or more for the biggest collectors. Basel and Miami and surrounding exhibitions and events attract more and more couples. Some of our busiest clients will plan a two or three day break.’

As well as the engagement with dealers, HSBC PB’s clients like to engage with designers (tho’ of course Jean Prouve won’t show up even for the best client). Claude says: ‘Design Miami/Basel has grown over the years in quality and respectability and our clients find it a real pleasure to meet at HSBC Private Bank’s VIP lounge the designers in person (for example the Campana Brothers, Marc Newson or Tom Dixon among others).’

As will become clear in an imminently forthcoming blog (update: here it is), patronage can flourish at all levels: from HSBC PB’s jet-setting clients even down to Hedgehog himself. All you have to remember is that recessions are perfect times to start your patronage.

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