Art Market Update
Qatar has had to build a tremendous amount of infrastructure, including stadiums, roads, and accommodation, in preparation for the 2022 Football World Cup. Estimates put the cost at about US $200 billion. Sadly, on the way to completing these projects, it has been reported that hundreds (if not thousands) of workers have died due to the brutal working conditions, long hours, and poor safety measures in the country and on its work sites. Many of these workers were migrants from India and Nepal, lured to Qatar on the promise of high-paying construction jobs. Instead, what they encountered was typically a form of indentured servitude.
Yet, organizations participating in the World Cup have received no blowback for their tacit support and likely won’t. The 2022 World Cup will still be hugely profitable for FIFA, the competing nation’s football teams, and the event’s sponsors. It is doubtful that football fans will care enough about these issues, to affect any change or accountability.
But what does any of this have to do with art investing? In conjunction with the massive infrastructure projects, Qatar also commissioned several artists to produce public works of art for several sites around the country. So my question is this: Will any artists participating in the Qatar World Cup receive any blowback for their participation? It could be supposed that the art-investing public is a little more concerned with the ethical nature of the things they consume. I think this could be true because of the number of young investors that have recently begun investing in art.
Please note that I am not advocating that artists showcasing their work in Qatar during the World Cup be subjected to a ‘cancelling’ or boycott. However, as an investor, I need to explore this possibility to mitigate the risk of investing.
I think the artists participating in Qatar fall into two camps (and, thus, two risk profiles). The first is the riskier camp of artists that have created very site-specific work, and the second are artists whose work looks like it could have just been purchased off from their respective galleries and plonked unwittingly on its display spot. The site-specific artists are riskier because it could be argued that they would proceeded with the commission even while knowing of the reported human rights abuses. Again, I would like to reiterate that I’m not judging the artists’ choices here, merely that others might do so and why.
The artists that have obviously been commissioned for the World Cup include:
- Ernesto Neto
- Jeff Koons
- Katharina Fritsch
- Najla El Zein
- Olafur Eliasson
The artists whose work may have simply been purchased unwittingly (although unlikely so) include:
- Bruce Nauman
- Faye Toogood
- Fischli & Weiss
- Isa Genzken
- Lawrence Weiner
- Rashid Johnson
- Shezad Dawood
- Tom Claassen
- Ugo Rondinone
- Yayoi Kusama
I should temper the above by noting that a positive risk also exists for the artists participating in the Qatar World Cup. There is the distinct possibility that the events actual boosts their respective profiles, helping lift demand and prices for their artworks. Therefore, all eventual possibility should be folded into your decision making process when choosing what artists you might like to invest in.