Investing in art can be a crap shoot. Or, it can be a rewarding and profitable investment. Of course, the best advice is, first and foremost, buy art that you like, for the real value in art is how it makes you 'feel'. That said, art can and may certainly appreciate in value. Here are some tips to keep in mind, which may help you to make a good decision. The keyword is 'research'.
1. Research the Artist
In many ways, the art market is similar to the real estate or stock market. That is to say, like real estate and stocks, an artwork is worth whatever the buyer is willing to pay for it. And the purchase price will then certainly affect the 'going rate' for the other houses in the neighborhood, or, in this case, the artist's other artworks. Learning as much as you can about the artist's history, including past sales, exhibitions, awards, reviews, etc., will help you determine the potential 'value' of the artwork. Also, the identity of the previous owners can be of major importance in determining the market value for art investments. Just as in real estate, if a celebrity has owned a particular artwork, it's value as an investment, as well as the artist's reputation, will certainly increase.
Generally, an art gallery will offer a short biography for the artists they represent. For more in-depth information, an online search will turn up quite a bit more. Here's a short bio about Sam, for example. On the other hand, though, keep in mind that Vincent Van Gogh reportedly only sold one painting during his lifetime. It goes to show... sometimes an artist might be 'years' ahead of his (or her) time. So again, the most important consideration when investing in art is, do you like it!
2. Research the Artwork
Certainly, if considering 'pricy' art, the question of its authenticity is foremost. If the artist is still alive, it's generally not a problem. However, if the artist is deceased, it can be tricky, as fraud is not uncommon in the art world. If possible, before you purchase, get a professional appraisal of the piece in question. Of course, if the art shows signs of damage, or has been substantially restored, it can affect its value greatly. And be sure to obtain a certificate of authenticity from the seller, or preferably, from a reputable authority on the artist.
3. Research the Dealer
The confidentiality of the art market can make it very difficult to assess the reputation of particular dealers and brokers. Researching the reputability of a particular art gallery is much easier. Galleries will feature their top artists. You should acquaint yourself with how long a gallery has been in business, and the caliber of artists they have represented. Information regarding a gallery's history and past exhibits can often be found on their website. You should have confidence in the reliability of the gallery before you decide to invest in any of the artwork.
Where to Buy Original Art
Of course, you can find art for sale at various outlets such as furniture stores, department stores, and 'big box' stores like Walmart and Ikea. But they generally sell mostly 'decorative', consumer art, or low-quality reproductions, rather than original artworks suitable for investment.
Generally speaking, there are four places from which you can purchase 'investment caliber' art: a professional art gallery, an auction house, an art fair, or an 'online' art gallery.
The advantage of an auction is, you can get an idea of the value of an artwork simply by paying attention to the range and 'fervor' of the bidding activity. The disadvantage, of course, is that the competition at an auction is designed to drive the price up. An auction is an exciting place to be, kind of like a horse race – but make sure not to get caught up in the moment. If you truly love the artwork, a higher price may be justified. But in the fervor of bidding, the going price can easily surpass the value of the piece. Know when to 'fold'. Also, keep in mind that when you purchase art at an auction, the “hammer” price is not the full price you pay. The 'Buyer's Premium' will add anywhere between 10% and 30% to your final bid, and will be in addition to the hammer price and auction house commission fees .
Compared to an auction, a gallery is a much more relaxed environment to view, evaluate, and decide on your purchases. Art galleries are unique in that they frequently work with artists, helping them grow, building up an inventory of their work, and assisting them as they try to realize their potential. The difference is, what you will have to pay is already established up front, instead of the price moving upwards from a 'below value' starting point. And if you are satisfied with the gallery's asking price, you can purchase the piece right off, with no haggling or competition.
An 'art fair' can be a good place for the novice to develop an eye for art. Usually comprised of both amateur and professional artists, there is something for everyone, no matter their level of expertise. At art fairs you can browse at a leisurely pace, and mingle with other art lovers. Often, you can ask questions and deal directly with the artists themselves, who are always anxious to 'make a sale'. It's fairly easy to find upcoming fairs in your area, via your local news outlets and online sources.
Online Art Galleries
In recent years, the internet has changed the marketing dynamic for every sort of merchandise, and especially original artworks. Artwork is being bought and sold on the Internet in astounding numbers these days. And buying art 'online' offers a huge advantage to prospective buyers. Never before has such a variety and plethora of choices been available to the consumer. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of online art galleries and artist's web sites, all offering original artworks for sale. You can find a piece you like, click a few buttons, and then simply wait for it to arrive by delivery. Online buying offers you far more choices than any other venue, all from the convenience of your home or even your cel phone. Of course, you should read the publicized terms and conditions, and use your due diligence to make sure the site you purchase from is reputable and reliable.
Investing in art can be a rewarding experience that offers important advantages over other kinds of investments. Artworks can sometimes increase in value by leaps and bounds over other investments. But the emotional pleasure you can derive from your art investment is equaled by few other investment opportunities. Investing in art can also offer you an unparalleled degree of 'spiritual' satisfaction. Visit my gallery and see what I mean!