The $68 trillion inheritance

A very valuable torch is being passed to a new generation, says Chris Carter

At first sight, “Connect, BTS” might look like a colourful play on words based on a crude acronym – something akin to the successful “FCUK” employed by fashion brand French Connection, perhaps. It is, in fact, a series of contemporary art projects launched last week by South Korean “K-pop” sensation BTS. (The acronym apparently stands for “Bangtan Sonyeondan”, which translates as the “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” in English, in case you were wondering.) The boy band from Seoul know a thing or two about attracting the attention of young people. Their latest album, Map of the Soul: 7, sold 3.42 million copies in pre-orders in a week, according to their record label, and it’s not even out for another month. BTS have decided to use that popularity to entice their young fans into the world of art.

As part of the project, the group is funding 22 artists in five cities to produce artworks with the power to “change the world”. “Instead of people thinking that art is different or complex, focusing on your own experiences and emotions will make this a great experience,” band member Jin said at the launch of the initiative via video link to the Serpentine Galleries in London. The gallery is playing host to Catharsis – a “virtual forest” created by Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen, as part of Connect, BTS. British artist Antony Gormley will wind 11 miles of aluminium tubing around New York as part of his contribution to the project, while Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno’s Fly with Aerocene Pacha will float a person into the heavens, aboard a balloon powered only by “the sun and the air we breathe”.

A tasteful baseball cap

The Old Masters market is also going after a younger audience. On Monday, Sotheby’s launched a collection of streetwear through Highsnobiety, a brand better known as purveyors of “skater” culture. The hoodies (£105), T-shirts (£55) and baseball caps (£40) are emblazoned with the Sotheby’s logo and works from the venerable auction house’s January Old Masters sale, such as A Sea-Nymph by Ginevra Cantofoli and Allegory of Abundance and Charity. Selfridges will also be hosting a pop-up store that will sell the range. 

Sotheby’s is in good company with its latest commercial endeavours. In 2018 Gucci released its “Gucci Hallucination” range inspired by Old Masters, while that same year Sotheby’s hung four of its paintings at Victoria Beckham’s Mayfair boutique.

None of this is surprising. In 2016 the “Millennial” generation (those in their 20s and 30s) became the largest cohort in the US labour market, numbering 56 million, according to research from the Pew Research Centre think tank. While “the majority of collectors are [still] baby-boomers”, as art adviser Heather Flow told Artnet News last summer, “they will soon transfer their wealth, and their collections, to their millennial kids”. When they do, “it will be the largest wealth transfer in world history, with estimates of the impending inheritance ranging up to $68trn”, says Brian Boucher on Artnet News. Auctioneers, galleries and dealers are standing by.

The £1 worth £1m

A rare 22-carat gold sovereign from 1937, with a face value of £1, has become the first British coin to sell for £1m. The coin (pictured) bears the face of King Edward VIII, despite Edward having abdicated in favour of his brother, George VI, the previous year. Edward had also broken with convention in being depicted facing left, as he preferred his left profile to his right. Since the reign of Charles II in the 17th century, monarchs had traditionally faced in the opposite direction to their immediate predecessors, says Kevin Peachey on the BBC. But “Edward VIII was quite a vain character”, explains Chris Barker, from the Royal Mint Museum. 

Owing to Edward’s abdication, the trial coin, of which six were made, never went into mass production. Edward asked for a set of the coins, but his brother refused. Four of the coins ended up in museums, with the remaining ones held privately. The Royal Mint sourced one of the latter from the US, where it had gone after being sold for £516,000 in 2014. “When the opportunity came along, I felt I could not turn it down. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” says the present anonymous buyer. “I’m aware that [£1m] is a lot of money for a coin, but if I did not secure it now, I’d not get the chance again.” The most expensive coin in the world remains the “flowing hair” silver dollar, which was the first coin to be struck by the US Mint in 1794. It sold for $10m in January 2013.

Auctions

Going… Love letters, photographs and mementoes that had belonged to Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck and his wife Elaine are heading for an online sale with New Jersey-based Curated Estates Auctions on 27 February. The items include a lock of his baby hair and a telegram from John F. Kennedy (see above) inviting Steinbeck (pictured) to his presidential inauguration. A bin in the shape of an elephant’s foot and a hummingbird wrapped in thread and placed in a miniature leather coffin crafted by Steinbeck are among the odder items. An earlier sale of Steinbeck’s belongings fetched $154,216 with Heritage Auctions in October.

Gone… Memorabilia from the lives of Jackie and John F. Kennedy went on sale with RR Auction in Boston, Massachusetts, this week. The lots included photographs, campaign posters, journal entries, speeches, oil paintings, and two postcards, says Pavel Barter in The Sunday Times. John F. Kennedy, then a senator, sent the postcards in 1955 from his holiday in Ireland to Grace Burke, who worked as a secretary in his Boston office. One read: “It is a great place, Ireland, but in January it is as cold as an Irish landlord’s heart”. The postcards were valued at $6,000 each; a hand-written statement of his intention to run for the presidency was expected to sell for $200,000.

Recommended

Collectables: market in Tintin artwork takes off
Alternative investments

Collectables: market in Tintin artwork takes off

Tintin, the Belgian boy-reporter cum adventurer, is in demand once again. Chris Carter reports.
16 Oct 2020
Collectables: art investors are banking on Banksy
Alternative investments

Collectables: art investors are banking on Banksy

Demand for Banksy’s work shows no sign of abating, says Chris Carter
2 Oct 2020
Lego: building profits from plastic bricks
Alternative investments

Lego: building profits from plastic bricks

The popularity of Lego boomed as bored workers twiddled their thumbs at home. Chris Carter reports
23 Sep 2020
Matchbox toys are on fire with collectors
Alternative investments

Matchbox toys are on fire with collectors

The children of the 1960s are fuelling a boom in collectable model cars, says Chris Carter.
4 Sep 2020

Most Popular

The Bank of England should create a "Bitpound" digital currency and take the world by storm
Bitcoin

The Bank of England should create a "Bitpound" digital currency and take the world by storm

The Bank of England could win the race to create a respectable digital currency if it moves quickly, says Matthew Lynn.
18 Oct 2020
Don’t miss this bus: take a bet on National Express
Trading

Don’t miss this bus: take a bet on National Express

Bus operator National Express is cheap, robust and ideally placed to ride the recovery. Matthew Partridge explains how traders can play it.
19 Oct 2020
Three stocks that can cope with Covid-19
Share tips

Three stocks that can cope with Covid-19

Professional investor Zehrid Osmani of the Martin Currie Global Portfolio Trust, picks three stocks that he thinks should be able to weather the coron…
12 Oct 2020