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17th Sep 2008

Invest Safely in Fine Art

Events of the 20th Century proved that over time three items remain the best investments. Whatever the markets, discoveries or inventions produce, through the ups and downs of inflations, recessions and even depressions, fine art, precious metals and precious gems stand out as on-going excellent investments.

These three investments cross borders of culture, language and time. Gold has been revered throughout history by just about every society where it was known. The same can be said for diamonds, rubies, emeralds, etc. Rembrandts, van Goghs, Picassos are also highly prized by collectors and museums of all countries that can afford them. The biggest difference is that thieves can melt down jewelry, and basically melted gold and unset gems are almost impossible to identify. Art depends on being identified to hold its value.

Smaller works, such as Faberge eggs, works on paper and paintings that can fit into the back seat of a sedan or at least a mini van can be better investments as they are more portable and easier to move and keep safe. For instance, if a collector protect a work from an encroaching natural disaster such as a fire or flood, a smaller work is easy to quickly move. While huge paintings of over six feet in width and/or height continue to capture mention as their auctions break artists’ records of sale, the same artists’ equally good smaller works from the same period are proportionately rising in value, too.

Smaller works and larger works that are comprised of several panels or components that are smaller and thus more portable are also easier for secondary dealers to transport to and from their galleries, to collectors, museums, traveling exhibits and fairs. They can also be easier to sell as more collectors have actual space for them on the walls and pedestals in their homes. At the recent ArtHamptons fair, the top prices earned were for smaller works by John Chamberlain and Andrew Wyeth.

The news stories of the reparations of art that was looted by the Nazis and/or was sold at a loss as owners fled Europe continue to grab headlines. While proving ownership through provenance records before the information age can be difficult, today’s work by Contemporary artists is well documented and provenance records are easily available. This makes collecting Contemporary art, and works of art that also have clear and undisputed provenance records more attractive than ever.

Fine art, like other investment properties offer a range of investment opportunities. Works of established masters are more blue chip and likely to hold and increase in value, while the work of an emerging or Contemporary artist is a more risky investment but may skyrocket in price bringing greater rewards.

For a new investor with limited funds to risk, creating a collection of prints and drawings by well established and emerging artists, plus and smaller paintings by contemporary artists can be a workable strategy.

The old adage of buy low and sell high is also useful when buying art, especially in times when the markets are in turmoil or money is tight. In the eighties the prices for many artists’ work fell due to the overall economic conditions. The perception seemed to be then that those artists were not as successful and possibly not as good as an investment. This perception continued even after the economy picked up and newer artists, whose prices had never fallen found their works more in demand and selling at higher and higher prices. Collectors who held onto the work of the older artists or bought in at reduced prices reaped the benefits over time as their prices regained and then soared.

Some of the risk of collecting works by newer, emerging artists can be mitigated by knowing art, especially Modern and Contemporary art history and checking out the works of artists shown in contemporary galleries both in brick and mortar galleries and online. When an artist’s work is selling some other artists will tend to copy it. It is of paramount importance to only collect artists who have their own unique style. There is only one Monet, van Gogh, Warhol, etc., but the market abounds with good works that are bad investments by artists who were obviously far too influenced by them. Find an emerging artist with a unique style and ideas about creating art.

There are many online resources that can help a collector discover artists and galleries, as well as providing information about the art world. Artnet.com provides excellent information, including a data base that includes recent pricing for artists’ works. Going to the “Artists” section on the menu tab, type in the name of an artist, and much information will appear, including works by those artists currently available at galleries listed with artnet, and the preponderance of good galleries in the world are listed there. For ongoing news of the art world on the Internet artnet has a magazine, plus check out artinfo.com, Artdaily, ARTFORUM and ArtReview.

Art is much more than an investment. However, all investments require that one does some homework and has some knowledge about the property. Obviously authenticity and provenance need to be known and verifiable. The condition of the piece is important. There is an ongoing seesaw between discovering works of artists one might collect and doing homework about those artists, their work and their historical context. Collectors should only buy art that they truly appreciate for its aesthetic value. Only buy works you really look forward to seeing frequently, works that are inspirational and move you to see the world in a new way.

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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art. Download a free copy click: Manifesto of Post Conceptual Art– A Painting’s Meaning is Inherent in its Stroke.

Check out the limited and open edition prints in the estore.
Follow her on Twitter at @judyrey .]

2 Responses to “Invest Safely in Fine Art”

  1. Dan Says:

    I am available to help. I have been helping collectors for many years and I am a volunteer art expert on more than one website. I do not charge fees for simple questions. There are some simple rules that will help the collector get the most for their money.

  2. admin Says:

    Dan’s site listed in the comment is about Dali and he can answer your questions also about collecting this artist. Personally, Dali’s work has influenced my own and he is one of my favorite artists of the 20th Century. The works of artists like Dali, Warhol and Picasso who have influenced other artists, such as myself, who found new theories and have unique styles that grew out of the influences but are not copy-cat, will continue to be revered and collected. Dali prints in general are still a bargain as I believe their price generally has to continue to rise. Contact Dan if you have questions re Dali or are interested in collecting prints or other work.

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