The month’s Melbourne Art Fair has given us many insights into the changing landscape of Australia’s fine art market. One of the most noticeable trends has been the recent move by luxury brands towards collaborating with artists to give their brands that extra edge.
This has been a relatively common occurrence in the international market; with prestigious brands such as Dom Pérignon’s commercial partnership with auction record-breaking artist Jeff Koons. These two parties have teamed up to produce a commercial (and significantly smaller) reproduction of Koons’ Balloon Venus; the limited-edition Balloon Venus serves as a gift box for the Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 2003 and Dom Pérignon Vintage 2004. Priced at $20,000, this makes it one of Koons’ most affordable pieces in the market today; compared to his Balloon Dog Orange sculpture which fetched USD$58.4 million at auction. Only 2 of the 650 produced came to Australia; the last available Balloon Venus, having just sold, is currently on display at Piermarq’s Sydney gallery.
Melbourne Art Fair saw another cross-branding of luxury and art. If you happened to be at the Vernissage event (MAF VIP Opening Night), or perhaps caught Rolls Royce’s Wraith launch in Sydney a week earlier; you no doubt would have seen Australian artist Michael Zavros’ collaboration with Rolls Royce for its newest automobile the Wraith which will set you back a mere $645,000. This collaboration included an exhibition of Zavros’ work showcasing the Wraith, the ultimate luxury automobile branded through Zavros’ hyper-realistic paintings depicting one’s everyday use of the Rolls. If you happened to find yourself at Vernissage, chances are that you suffered from luxury-overload by the end of the evening – yet were still wanting more the following morning when trade commenced.
These exercises in cross-branding creates synergies for both the artist and the luxury brand involved. Often fine art is termed a ‘Passion Asset’ alongside fine wines, high-end spirits, luxury automobiles, timepieces and jewels, and luxury properties to mention a few. These luxury brands such as Dom Pérignon and Rolls-Royce add to their reputation as marquee brands, wafting culture and sophistication wherever they may be. Artists that agree to commercial collaborations, rather than merely reaping a tidy profit, also gain exposure to previously untapped markets. One of the key drivers in any artists’ market is to be seen – not simply by many people, but the right people. By lending their name and skills to these brands artists such as Koons and Zavros have established a visibility in the mainstream market for passion assets.