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.

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