Will Lyons, 'Visions of the Future' (Scotland on Sunday, 24/04/2005)

Post-war Glasgow has always punched above its weight artistically. Back in the 1980s, a dynamic group of expressionists burst on to the international scene with a confidence not seen in Scotland for decades. Most prominent among them were Peter Howson, Ken Currie and Steven Campbell, all of whom are now world famous. By the time the 1990s arrives, a new generation of artists such as Douglas Gordon, Christine Borland and Simon Starling had begun reacting against this trend, producing more conceptual work.

The city continues to be home to a vibrant, lively art scene today – a fact recognized this week when hundreds of artists, collectors, auctioneers, dealers and critics will descend on Scotland for the tenth Glasgow Art Fair. This year it is part of the new 12-day International Festival of Contemporary Visual Art in the city.

According to the event’s curator Francis McKee, the festival celebrates and supports the continued growth and achievements of Glasgow’s visual-arts sector. Its programme reflects the position of the city as a centre for the production and exhibition of internationally significant visual art. ‘Glasgow’s international reputation in the contemporary art world is founded on the many achievements of artists based locally,’ says McKee. ‘This new festival has been designed to showcase the high level of artistic activity that generates such attention, and to being it to the public.’

For blossoming artists, the festival is a chance to showcase their ideas in front of an international audience. For the dealers, it provides a useful hunting ground for fresh talent. But for the public and the novice collector, it is the fair that represents a lucrative hunting ground and a real opportunity to make a quality purchase.

Spotting the next-up-and-coming artist is not an easy task, however. The main question for first-time art investors, other than how much to pay, is what to buy. How do you get a sense of which works might appreciate in value?

To help you through the minefield, Scotland on Sunday’s art critic, Iain Gale, has made a selection, picking out five artists from this year’s fair that he believes all show enough talent to be part of the next generation in Scotland to bloom on the international stage. ‘It is always difficult to predict which artists are going to have lasting value,’ he says.

But he does have a couple of pointers for the novice. ‘Look for someone who has something original to say, both in a national and international context. Throughout the world there is a climate of creativity that some artists manage to tune into.

‘What separates these artists as quite different is that they have found a level of maturity in their work, and understand which direction they really want to take. They are not scrabbling around to find a voice. They have found a voice and are building on it to express it coherently. This shines through whether they are video, performance or conceptual artists.’

So how much should we invest in the stars of the future? Gale’s advice is astute. ‘There is an old gambling adage: never bet more then you can afford. The fun is not accruing the money, it is seeing whether your hunch is right.’

Andrew Brown is the artistic consultant at Edinburgh’s Phoenix 369 gallery, and over the course of his 30-year career he has spotted a great deal of Scottish talent. He says there is just one golden rule for the talent-spotter: always buy something you actually like. ‘I bought paintings in the early 1980s, and not one of them has not increased significantly in value,’ he says. ‘My advice would be always to buy what you like, because at the end of the day you are going to have to live with it.’

He is scathing about collectors who buy blue-chip in an attempt to guarantee their investment. ‘That is boring and cowardly. Trust your eye.’

He does concede, however, that collectors are not born with the ability to spot talent – that’s something that is learned through experience. ‘I recently visited a very prominent Scottish collector, who owns an enormously sophisticated collection. He showed me the first picture he’s ever bought – it was a safe watercolor. I couldn’t believe he had started with such an unoriginal work of art. This is a man who now has one of the most exciting collections in Scotland.’

Michael Stumpf

As well as holding exhibitions in London, Germany and Edinburgh, German-born Michael Stumpf (36) who gained an MA in fine art at Glasgow Art School, is also a committee member of Glasgow’s Transmission Gallery. His lovingly made mixed-media objects, installations and text-based works possess an engagingly cryptic quality – an aspect of the power of visual art to assert its resemblance to linguistic form. During the festival he will present a series of new sculptural and printed works. He lives and works in Glasgow.