African art and the nostalgic premium

Discussing the sale of the Jan Krugier collection (info), journalist Scott Reyburn from the NY Times just coined a new term: the nostalgic premium (source). This is the extra money buyers are wiling to pay for works that emerge from “connoisseurial” collections. This term sprang forth in a recent discussion (here) concerning the unpredictability of art prices and the risks of art investment. The nostalgic part refers to the period in time when collectors were still shaping the appreciation of art and were less pre-occupied with the financial aspects. This nostalgic premium is of course a notion that has been known for a long time in the African art world. Especially the auction houses (who love premiums altogether) have been very aware of the positive effect of a famed provenance on prices. Most recently the Sotheby’s sale of the Stone collection (info) and Christie’s sale of the Bartos collection (info), with multiple pages in the sale catalogue dedicated to the biographies of the collectors, prove they know how to use the nostalgic premium to their advantage. But also in galleries, this premium is widely added to the normal price. Personally, I don’t think an object gets any better once having been in this or that collection, it adds nothing to the inherent strength of a piece – but that’s another multi-faceted discussion.