Whether you are looking to purchase something by one of the French masters, a contemporary sculptor or just looking for something bright and colorful to dress up that drab corner in the hall, investing in art makes good sense because anyone can do it and you can’t really go wrong if you follow one very simple rule: Buy what you like. Buying what you like and displaying it prominently will allow you enjoy your investment while it quietly appreciates in value.
If you are uncertain about investing in art, you may have seen the financial media suggesting that the art asset market’s bubble is becoming increasingly volatile with some reports even suggest that this bubble is about to ‘pop’ don’t fret. On the basis of these reports, if you are an investment banker you might well be rethinking your investment strategies and seeking out alternatives to contemporary art futures, these reports don’t need to infer that investing in art doesn’t make good sense to you and me, the smaller investor and art appreciator. Investment bankers purchase art that runs to the tens, even hundreds, of millions of dollars, this is a far cry from the market the smaller private art investor who tends to be looking to purchase artworks in.
Where some might liken investing in art to buying a lottery ticket, a gamble at best and a poor option if you are looking for guaranteed capital gain, others might point to a lucky few investors who have become rich and famous from investing in art. There really are as many reasons people might buy works of art, as there are types of art a person can buy and getting started can be a very confusing experience.
A good place to start your art collection would be a local art gallery that specializes in both original and limited edition art and sculpture by recent artists. Local galleries will sometimes have featured local and international artists showing several pieces in one section of the gallery. Two good examples of where you could start your search would be The Greenwich Workshop (www.greenwichworkshop.com) which has been selling works by numerous contemporary artists for many years, and American Visions Art Gallery (www.avartgallery.com) which deals in works by Delazareff, Bull and Carey to name just a couple of exciting new artists.
Naturally, the earlier you begin the greater the potential for financial rewards. Though, admittedly it is a rare teenager that would choose to spend grandma’s inheritance on art instead of a pair of designer jeans or the latest technological gizmo. I remember when I was just 18 years old, I inherited a small sum of money, not enough to go mad with mind you but enough to make a major shopping spree a real possibility. My girlfriend at the time was keen to help me into designer label fashions, pushed for a trip to the boutiques. My flatmate was just as keen for me to buy a second-hand car and another friend was hankering for a companion on a backpacking trek through Europe. My heart was torn. Each option was very tempting, chic style, cheap transport or an adventure of a lifetime. Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, I didn’t have enough cash at my disposal to indulge all of them.
Saturday afternoons for me meant wandering through the local galleries. I’ve always loved looking at the interesting curiosities each gallery displayed, but actually purchasing a piece of art had never crossed my mind. Yet one day I fell in love with a particular sculpture. I hadn’t entered the gallery with the intention of purchasing anything, but this one sculpture was so lovely, I just had to have it. I hadn’t heard of the artist, but I liked what he did and I knew exactly where I would put the sculpture when I owned it. I purchased the sculpture for $2000, a princely sum to be sure. No designer boots, no car, no trip to Europe, just a sculpture, you should have seen the looks on my friend’s faces when they found out what I’d done with my money! That alone was probably worth the investment!
While at the time my friends certainly didn’t think I had made a particularly wise decision, with the benefit of hindsight, did this investment in art actually make good sense? The fashions of the 80s, even the designer ones, are at best laughable today and even if they weren’t, after bearing several children, I no longer squeeze into a size 2. Had I invested instead in the car, by now it would be a rust bucket which would be costing me more than it was worth and that holiday, well the trip of a lifetime would now be reduced to a series of photos and memories, and it is pretty hard to cash in on memories. But my sculpture, I still love it, perhaps even more than I first did and it is more valuable today than it ever was.It enriches my life. I look at it and I am reminded of the wonderful woman who’s generosity allowed me to afford it, and the looks on my friends faces when they first saw it. My original ‘are you mad?! What on earth were you thinking!’ sculpture is now valued at over $20k. Admittedly it’s not in the million dollar league of a Hirst or a Koon original, and probably never will be, but there has been a consistent 10% appreciation in its value every year over the past thirty years. Not bad for a spur of the moment purchase!
If you are on a tight budget but keen to start investing and can’t afford a one off original, don’t overlook limited edition art work, these can appreciate quite nicely over quite a short time especially if they are by talented artists. For example, a limited edition work by June Carey that sold for $750 some five years ago can sell for over $2500 now.
Since that first purchase I have bought numerous paintings, sculptures by various wonderfully talented artists. Though I have also invested in property and shares, because, the many artworks that fill my home I value the more because each piece reminds me of a place and time in my own history and each piece is a joy to behold and brings a smile to my face (something shares and property will never be for me), and each piece positively impacts on anyone who enters this space, in ways only truly beautiful and valuable things things can do.
That first art purchase I made nearly thirty years ago. Though I have never set out to buy ‘investment’ pieces and only bought pieces I absolutely loved, the value of my art collection has increased substantially, to more than ten-fold their original purchase price in many cases. True my shares and property investments have also appreciated, but not by such a substantial percentage nor as consistently and you will never convince me that a file of papers locked away in a bank vault could ever bring me as much joy and satisfaction as my artworks do, irrespective of their financial value, and that is why investing in art makes very good sense to me.