Art insider looks in, and buys in, to collector car world

Art insider looks in, and buys in, to collector car world

“Summer is high season for car sales, the biggest of the year, where over $300 million worth of vehicles trade during a frenzied week of auctions, in California alone.

Kenny Schachter bought this 1961 Alfa Spider at RM Sotheby's London sale | RM Sotheby's photo by Cymon Taylor

Kenny Schachter bought this 1961 Alfa Spider at RM Sotheby’s London sale | RM Sotheby’s photo by Cymon Taylor

The New York Times referred to Kenny Schachter as an artist/lawyer/roving curator. For more than 20 years, he has been a curator of contemporary art exhibits for museums and galleries. He teaches art history at the graduate-degree level and his own art has been featured in several one-person exhibits. He also writes for artnet.com, which recently published his two-part ‘Dealer Diary: Of Art & Cars,’ and apparently splits his time between New York and London.

I found his art-world perspective on the classic car hobby fascinating and thought you might be interested in what he has to say:

“Summer is high season for car sales, the biggest of the year, where over $300 million worth of vehicles trade during a frenzied week of auctions, in California alone. The results were robust and only slightly off the mark from last year (and like art, well off 2014 tallies), boding well for art as the markets closely track each other.

“The differences are still marked though. For starters, the (collector car) sales proceed at a snail’s pace (despite the inherent speed of the underlying assets) moving along at frustratingly small increments and lasting about forever. Also, you get drink tickets with your catalogue upon entry prior to the onset of sales — at least in the UK — and a dangerous cocktail at that…

Father and son turned as white as the car until someone bid more for this RS200

Father and son turned as white as the car until someone bid more for this RS200

“September 7 saw the auction at RM Sotheby’s London, which I attended with Sage, my 14-year-old. To give the kid a taste of the auction process, à la Nahmad family, who famously let their children bid in diapers (and gamble), I encouraged Sage to throw up a paddle for a 1996 Ford RS200 at £170,000- £210,000 ($220,000 to $270,000) at a price well below the estimate.

“By the time he complied, the lot hit the reserve and he (we) turned as white as the paint on the Group B rally legend — as impossible to get into as it is to drive. Incidentally, car auctions are unsurprisingly mostly male and white, for now anyway. Thankfully, Sage ended as the under bidder, always a propitious position.”

FYI: The car sold for £173,600 ($232,624).

“For as long as anyone would listen, I’ve been preaching Porsche, how radically undervalued they are (the record stands at $10 million) in relation to Ferrari (the top auction price is $38 million, and over $50 million privately). Yes Ferrari owns the 1960s, and Jaguar the ’50s, but no other manufacturer has won as many competitions from the ’70s to the present. Lo and behold, a 1995 Porsche 911 GT2 at RM Sotheby’s London fetched $2.4 million, well over $1 million above the previous record for the model.

“The 1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider was a slightly different story, an attractive small sports car geared as an affordable entry-level vehicle produced from 1955 to 1962, designed by acclaimed coachbuilder Pininfarina. Adding to its single-family ownership status (prized in cars as much as in art), the Giulietta was featured in the Italian film The Best of Youth in 2003 (another value adder for both).
Taking full advantage of the drink tickets, I splurged on the unrestored, time warp Alfa above the high estimate (still well below $100,000)…

FYI: Schachter bought the car for £56,000 ($74,040).

At this point in his writing, Schachter suggests that Adam Lindermann, whom Schachter calls a “gallerist and trader,” is changing the collector car market by bringing a practice from the art world to classic car auctions.

FYI: Lindermann is a former Wall Street banker who launched a Spanish-language radio company, a Grammy Award-winning record label, has art galleries in New York and Los Angeles, has been responsible for some record-setting art sales, and is the author of a couple of successful books on collecting art. But back to Schachter’s words:

He's happy with his 'girly' car' | Cymon Taylor

He’s happy with his ‘girly’ car’ | Cymon Taylor

“Adam is a squat, surly throwback to a 1950s guy’s guy in his late 40s who, against my better judgment, I like and respect (with a fistful of salt). He also races and collects cars of that era (and earlier), having recently driven stints at the vintage races Le Mans Classic and Watkins Glen, which are neither easy nor particularly safe. In another art tie-in, it was painter Richard Phillips that launched Adam’s sportive driving. I’m not sure what’s more hazardous, trading cars (and art) or driving them — quickly.

“Lindemann reflects a significant change and potential growth factor in the car market: the introduction of third-party guarantees. Guarantees recast the art market’s penchant to roll the dice by speculatively pledging to buy a work prior to a given sale, with a view to some upside (with no money down) should it surpass the guarantee.

“Adam is the first and only player jumpstarting the market in this vein, adding fuel to the mix, pardon the puns. He previously did it last year on a Jaguar C Type, which performed exceptionally and most recently (as whispered throughout the market) on a D Type Jag for just under $20 million, which made over $21 million (with the house commission) at RM in Monterey this summer, achieving a modest gain for the investor. He certainly knows his Jags cold.

“Lindemann wasn’t too impressed by my auction acquisition, calling the Alfa “a cute, delicate, girly car,” and “a bit femme” for him. Actually, he’s kind of right. It was previously owned by a woman, but so what? And he may have called me a pussy (seems Trumpian), too, for turning down his invite to compete against him in an event.

“I can’t deny he’s correct about that too — the thought terrifies me. I prefer my cars inside… of my office. Let him run his. I will exhibit mine and take them on short jaunts to town for lunch and on the school run, the only times I have to drive. To each her own, no?

“I think the worlds of art and cars have the capacity to collide like art and celebs (granted not to the same extent). In that regard, I’m working on an upcoming display of classic cars and art in the context of industrial design. Stay tuned.”

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