Collecting in the face of the abyss
The cyclicality of the markets and what can History teach us
The past few days have been the definitive crash that was looming in crypto. Now we see a major shakeout. Many participants will leave the market.
I find it helpful to go back to History in times like this.
For those like me who have a newfound appreciation for art collecting, the book “The Joys of Collecting” by J. Paul Getty presents a hopeful vision for the future. Getty is one to the most legendary collectors of the 20th century.
“I found my interest in art growing and developing. I read voraciously on the subject and visited museums and galleries during my infrequent periods of leisure or holiday, not because these were the “things to do”, but because I truly enjoyed doing them. Paradoxically, the more I learned, the more my knowledge served to dampen any inclination I may have for collecting.
In the mid- and late 1920s, very few works of art of good quality were to be found on the market. The best examples of almost all forms of fine art were in museums, huge private collections, or held by very strong hands.
The United States was enjoying a period of tremendous prosperity, and there were great numbers of extremely wealthy men in Britain and Europe. They bid against each other for whatever came on the market. Prices on those items that were available spiraled completely out of proportion to any reasonable scale of values.
Although I had achieved a degree of business success, I was certainly in no position to compete with the collectors of the caliber of the Hearsts, Mellons or Rothschilds. Besides, since my business enterprises were still expanding, I reinvested most of my profits in them. I had only relatively small sums of ready cash at my disposal.
Withal, in the late 1920s, it appeared to me that the days of collecting were just about over. The men who had made their millions and tens of millions before I’d started in business — or even before I was born — swept up just about everything worthwhile that had found its way to the market over the past few decades. The old aristocratic British and European families who still possessed treasure troves of fine art were, for the most part, very well situated financially in those days. And, even if they were not and decided to sell an item or two, they had been conditioned to the idea of entertaining only the most staggering offers for their possessions.
The entire situation changed with awful suddenness. The great panic — the “Crash” — of 1929 shook the art world no less than it did the financial world. The 1930s brought no convincing recovery
The Depression settled over the United States and spread to Britain and Europe. Now, many of the strong hands that formerly held some of the finest examples of art on the face of the earth were forced to relax their grip. Many choice items became available for purchase, and art prices, like all other prices of the time, dropped to levels which would have been inconceivable a few years or even months earlier.
Here was the opportunity for the would be collector with comparatively limited means, which could not possibly have been foreseen before 1929. As I became aware of this, my long-dormant urge to collect things of beauty and examples of fine art finally awoke.”
Not everything is doomed and times like this can be exciting, presenting great opportunities.
Just keep your head high and surround yourself with people who are here for the long term. The Fingerprints Discord is open, come and say hi!
See you tomorrow
Ah good to have some perspective here thank you. Also enjoyed thinking about Getty as a man of relative modest means. :)