Two prominent Contemporary Art rainmakers suddenly left Sotheby’s earlier in the year – raising eyebrows in the art world.
After months of wondering what they would do next, news of Yuki Terase and Amy Cappellazzo resurfaced.
Together, they founded an international art advisory firm called Art Intelligence Global (AIG). Headquartered in New York and Hong Kong, the company promises to deliver high-end market intelligence, transactional services, advisory expertise and strategic project execution.
But first, for those unfamiliar – who are they?
Amy Cappellazzo (left) and Yuki Terase (right) are founders of the art advisory firm, Art Intelligence Global (AIG) | ©️ Nicolas Newbold
Yuki Terase joined Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2011 and became Head of Contemporary Art Asia in 2018. She organised auctions with leaders across a number of creative industries including Japanese designer NIGO, South Korean pop star Choi Seung Hyun (known as T.O.P) and Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou. Terase was instrumental in setting major records for artists including Yayoi Kusama and Yoshitomo Nara. She established new benchmarks for Western art in Asia with record-breaking sales for artists including Gerhard Richter and David Hockney, securing numerous blue-chip works for prominent private and institutional collections in Asia.
Amy Cappellazzo spent nearly three decades operating at the highest level of the fine art market. She left the prestigious auction world for the first time and co-founded Art Agency, Partners (AAP) with Allan Schwartzman in 2014. Sotheby's later spent US$85 million dollars to acquire this art consulancy company, meanwhile hiring Cappellazzo as Chairman of the Fine Art Department. She began her careers as an art advisor and curator – rising to Chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Developing at Christie’s and was a key figure in the establishment of Art Basel, Miami Beach.
Impressive, right? So why did they both want to leave earlier in the year for an independent venture? What role does the company have? How do they feel about Eastern and Western art in both markets? What are their views on non-fungible tokens (NFTs)?
The Value spoke to both individuals to find out more.
Many people were surprised by Cappellazzo's decision to leave Sotheby's New York
During her time at Sotheby's Hong Kong, Terase organised auctions with leaders across a number of creative industries including Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou (above)
Maintaining a healthy relationship was key to establishing the new company. Cappellazzo said that with more than 30 years of experience, she felt it was time to take a leap into a new business.
“There is an American expression: This isn’t my first time at the rodeo. You know, as in this isn’t my first time doing this. I had external and personal reasons for opening this company and to collaborate with Yuki. You get to a personal stage of your life or career, and you want to work more independently.”
“During five and half years at Sotheby’s, I worked very closely with Yuki. She would send me two WhatsApp messages – one in the day and one in the night. We both had an excellent working relationship and respected each other,” said Cappellazzo.
“Yuki is one of the most talented art experts I’ve worked with. I’ve worked with people much older than Yuki with more years in the business. But the quickness of learning Yuki has is amazing. I felt she was such a nimble business person and excellent art expert – that was a hard thing to find,” she said.
This strong business relationship was translated into the record-breaking sale of Basquiat’s masterpiece Untitled, depicting a skull. It was bought by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maesawa for US$110.5 million dollars. The sale brought American art to new heights.
Kusama's Interminable Net #4 (1959) smashed the artist's record after it sold for US$7.9 million dollars
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa acquired the 1982 Basquiat painting of a skull
Establishing a company during the pandemic might be too risky to others, but both rainmakers are risk-takers and see its potential.
“All the technological and capital disruptions in the last 10 to 15 years have accelerated during COVID.”
“To build this business meant we needed to understand the disruptions that were happening in the market and take advantage of them to help clients, build collections and being able to serve clients in the best possible way,” said Cappellazzo.
During Cappellazzo's time at Sotheby's, The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art bought Afro-American artist, Robert Colescott's painting called George Washington Carver in May 2021. It was sold for a then auction record at US$15.3 million dollars
The Rise of Asia
One of the biggest disruptions during the pandemic is the continued rise and importance of Asia as a market.
“Asian collectors are very adaptive to the new pandemic situation and are quick to make decisions using their phones to buy the highest-level artworks,” said Terase.
Western clients, whose rhythm of life is slower and might miss purchasing these masterpieces, are therefore encouraged to react quicker and match their Asian counterparts.
Asian vs. Western Art Market
Terase emphasised the equal footing of the company in both the US and Asian region.
“There is always a strong Western interest investing in Asia opening galleries. This is different with our company, as we have an equal footing in both regions – something to note for Asian clients,” said Terase.
She said that Asian collectors are quick learners and have an open-minded attitude towards new artworks. Their taste is not limited to only abstract or figurative art. Richter, Basquiat and Hockney all set Asian auction records with their paintings.
Richter's Abstract Bild (649-2) was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong for HK$214 million, once setting the Asian auction record for Western art
In 2017, the total sales of Asian Contemporary Art and Chinese Contemporary Art at Sotheby's Hong Kong fetched HK$360 million and HK$106 million dollars respectively. In 2018, Terase became the Head of the Contemporary Art Department of Sotheby's Asia. In 2020, the above figures rose sharply to HK$755 million and HK$360 million dollars.
Amy agreed, adding that a lot of Western collectors are curious and interested in Asia as a market and a place culturally. “American collectors bought contemporary Asian artists such as Nara, Liu Ye and Murakami. These artists have a sense of humour to their work, but also layers of meaning that Western collectors love."
"Americans want to see artists with a longer career than a couple of years. They want to see who has worked hard and built a career,” she said.
"After collecting Abstract Expressionist artists such as Rothko, de Kooning and Kandinsky, Western collectors wanted to expand their collection with Asian artists – such as Zao Wou-ki – in a way so that their collection could have a conversation between Eastern and Western abstract art."
In 2019, Mark Rothko's abstract work Untitled (1960) was auctioned at Sotheby's New York. Amy's client won the bid. At that time, the second highest bidder was from Asia
To further drive Western and Asian art on both sides of the world, AIG sees the importance to use exhibition space to its fullest pontential.
“We want to have a great exhibition space especially in Hong Kong, where we can do some shows, pop-up projects and view collections from the West,” said Terase.
Cappellazzo agreed. “During the discussing and forming of this business, it was clear having an excellent exhibition space in Hong Kong was not redundant. It’s not like there’s so many to see in a month in the city.”
“In New York, we won’t be building such space because it already has many galleries. We will have viewing space – available on special arrangements,” she said.
The New York branch will be located at 32 East 57th Street – an anchor of the New York art world for more than 50 years. The design is led by award-winning architect, Alan Wanzenberg.
The Hong Kong site will be located in the southern neighbourhood of Wong Chuk Hang – an increasingly desired location for creative industries, including a number of art businesses.
The design is overseen by COLLECTIVE, an international architectural studio. Founded by Betty Ng in 2015, the firm gained fame in Asia in a short period of time. Four directors, including Ng, held positions in different award-winning studios.
Yoshitomo Nara’s Knife Behind Back (2000) was sold for US$25 million dollars after fees, setting the auction record for the Japanese artist
AIG’s key difference with auction houses and galleries is their ability to understand different players in the art market and pushing their own boundaries.
“All of the boundaries of players in the art market – including artists, collectors and institutions – have been blurred during the past 10 years. Each category borrows from the other group – for example, someone who wants to start a private museum wants the best scholarship and curatorial programme."
“Our edge is our flexibility. Yuki has done such a superb job having built Western materials in the Asian market. I’ve been known as someone able to see what the next big thing in the art market is – how it will move and direction it will go in. We hope to keep our antennas really high and see what the next move is in the market,” said Cappellazzo.
In 2020, David Hockney's Thirty Sunflowers was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong for more than HK$100 million
In the modern and contemporary art market, financing strategies and services are essential to client’s success. This type of holistic range of services is found in the merchant bank services that AIG offers.
"In European and American cultures, merchant banks are different from ordinary banks. They provide specialised services such as transaction consultancy, investment strategy and advice on borrowing money. As clients need different things, we will expand our services – how clients keep databases, how they store works of art and how they insure things,” said Cappellazzo.
When Cappellazzo founded AAP in 2014, Adam Chinn was one of the co-partners. After the art consulancy company was acquired by Sotheby's, Chinn was responsible for leading the auction house's global transactions and was promoted to the position of chief operating officer. He is the third partner of AIG.
He is also the founder and co-chairman of LiveArt, an art data platform. He is committed to allowing collectors and artists to directly buy and sell or hold artworks without relying on traditional intermediaries. Before setting foot in the art world, he was the co-founder of Centerview Parnters LLC, an investment bank, and was also a partner of WLRK, a well-known law firm.
NFTs are now part of the conversation in the contemporary art world. Both rainmakers said that they were cautious of how NFT’s trend develops in the next few years, but were open-minded to see in working in this field.
"NFTs are here to stay. What they look like today, they will not look like in two or three years,” said Cappellazzo.
Her thoughts went from the 21st century back to the 90s.
“In the 1990s, we were talking about the Internet. Back then, it was called the World Wide Web. You could ask questions on the platform, and it will give you the answer. Many people could not believe it. But now, we do that many times a day. The NFT moment has started and it will change quickly," she said.
Terase agreed. “Like Amy mentioned, NFTs are here to stay. It will take time to settle and needs to calm down a little to really understand what it means for collectors, artists and stakeholders. But being able to access blockchain technology, transaction records, source authentication, and guarantee of creator income – many artists are excited and seek opportunities among them."
And we at The Value are all eager to find out how their new venture pans out.