The backbone of Spanish art – think Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí – inspired an outburst of abstract expressionism during the 1950s. Artists began to group together, united in their environment and their generation. They read the same books and, in the absence of external influence – those being the Franco years – they all felt a sense of belonging to a tradition of their own.
El Grupo Paso (which includes Rafael Canogar, Luis Feito, and Manuel Millares, amongst others) and the Dau el Set are just two examples of groups that gave rise to a distinct 'voice' and strength. With this as the backdrop, important artists such as Juan Muñoz, Miquel Barcelo, Manolo Valdes, Jaume Plensa, Antonio Lopez and Juan Genoves emerged to lead contemporary art in Spain.
There are great examples of success at auction, and international collectors compete fiercely for great works by Spanish artists. Juan Muñoz' Esquina Positive sold for US$5.4 million, Miquel Barcelo's Faena de Muletas reached US$6.3 million and Antoni Tapies' Blanc amb Signe Vermellos for US$1.5 million. A recent surprise for Christie's was the sale of Juan Genoves' work Incendiarios I. It sold for US$242,000 with an initial estimate of US$30,000, and many clients have been trying to get hold of one since. These results are particularly impressive: only a few artists ever reach such figures.
The possibilities are there and they are exciting. Three acclaimed artists, Canogar, Feito and Farreras, all represented by New York's Gallery Art Angler, are from a very similar time and movement, as are the more famous Rothko, Motherwell and Pollock. They may not be as well known but they offer significant investment opportunities. Xavi Carbonell, an abstract expressionist and 'infantile' painter with work described as whimsical, fresh and powerful, is an emerging artist also represented by Art Angler. His work shares hints of his inspirations, but his style is very much his own and he truly stands out at art fairs, which has led to his current success.
When it comes to purchasing a piece of art, it should rarely be made with an eye exclusively on financial return. It's true that putting wealth into art rather than other forms of investment has increased over the past few years but there is great wisdom in only buying what gives you pleasure. The best advice would be to buy the best you can afford, at whatever price level. The better the period, subject, condition and importance of a work of art, the better your long-term investment will be. Lastly, try to avoid 'fashionable' artists.
Jason Dick of Art Angler explains, "In general terms, the higher the value of a work, and the stronger the artist's career is, the more likely collectors will view it as an investment, but not all collectors have the same budget, and personal wealth is relative... while some clients prefer established artists, others are looking for tomorrow's great artists. It's really a question of where you are on your personal art journey."
Before buying, look at the gallery representing the artist. Are they doing a good job at promoting them internationally? Having an international base of collectors is key to how an artist can develop. Also, whether the artist is producing a lot of work or not, how they have progressed and what they are doing next are all indicators of how your investment might go.
Looking to the future, the current economic crisis in Spain has hit artists hard, gallery sales have decreased and museum budgets reduced, so visibility is limited. This will lead to young Spanish artists settling and creating abroad, but as they absorb the influences of other countries while maintaining their Spanish identity, the result could be some seriously interesting art. Furthermore, the foundation of Spanish art is everywhere throughout Spain, in the culture, schools, colleges and gallery network, and this all stands Spanish contemporary art in very good stead.
Antonio Machón: Conde de Xiquena, 8 1º A, 28004 Madrid, Tel. +34 91 5324 093, www.antoniomachon.com
Galeria Edurne: Avda Constitución 52, 28280 Madrid, Tel. +34 91 8907 032, www.galeriaedurne.com
Galeria Elba Benitez: San Lorenzo 11, 28004 Madrid, Tel. +34 91 3080 468, www.elbabenitez.com
Galeria Elvira Gonzalez: General Castaños, 3, 28004 Madrid, Tel. +34 91 3195 900, www.galeriaelviragonzalez.com
Ediciones Estiarte: Calle de Santa Engracia, 6, 28010 Madrid, Tel. +34 91 3081 569, www.edicionesestiarte.com
La Caja Negra: C/Fernando VI 17, 2º izq, 28004 Madrid, Tel. +34 91 3104 360, www.lacajanegra.com
Galeria Marlborough: Orfila 5, 28010 Madrid, Tel. +34 91 3191 414, www.galeriamarlborough.com
València, 284, 1r 2a A, 08007 Barcelona, Tel. +34 93 4674 454, www.galeriamarlborough.com
Galriea Joan Prats: Rbla. Catalunya, 54, Eixample, 08007 Barcelona, Tel. +34 93 2160 290, www.galeriajoanprats.com
Galeria Trama Petritxol: 5, Ciutat Vella, 08002 Barcelona, Tel. +34 93 3174 877, www.galeriatrama.com
ADN Galeria: Enric Granados, 49, Eixample, 08008 Barcelona, Tel +34 93 4510 064, www.adngaleria.com
Galeria 3 Punts: Enric Granados, 21, Eixample, 08007 Barcelona, Tel. +34 93 4512 348, www.3punts.com
Yusto / Giner: C/ Madera 9, 29603 Marbella, Tel +34 95 1507 053, www.yusto-giner.com
Houses of Art: Marbella Club Hotel, Blv. Pr. Alfonso von Hohenlohe, 29600 Marbella, Tel. +34 95 2857 196
Art Wanson Gallery: Marbella Club Hotel, Blv Pr Alfonso von Hohenlohe, 29602 Marbella, Tel. +34 95 2541 541, www.artwansongallery.co.uk
Pedro Peña Art Gallery: C.C. Tembo Bloque C., CN. 340, Km 179, 29602 Marbella, Tel. +34 95 2824 962, www.galeriadeartepedropena.com