Resources for Art Collectors

Not an impulse buyer?  You’re not alone.

So, how do you to discern the approximate value of an artwork and gain insight into its potential increase in value over time?  And more, how do you tell if the purchase price is under or over the relative current market value?

When investing in art, knowing some facts about the work to be purchased along with the career arc of the artist can guide choices that hopefully can lead to a substantial return on investment if there is an eventual desire to liquidate.

Many guides stress the importance of simply being head over heels regarding any piece.  At least you can assume that if the work affects you in that manner, you can anticipate it would impact another in a similar way.  Some go so far as to downplay any as a great enough return to justify the investment. While clearly this perspective serves the interest of the artist, collectors are not wrong to consider how a purchasing strategy can not only improve one’s enjoyment of life, but can eventually lead to gains through an increased value of ones collection on the open art market.

After finding an image that you are in love with, there are few things you can consider from the investment angle that can help ensure quality returns.

The Material Quality of the Work

Artists have a wide variety of choices in materials that are available to them when it comes to creating work.  A walk through the aisles of a art supply store demonstrate this clearly.  What is not recognized by those who do not spend time surveying art material options, is that the a wide spectrum of quality, from student grade to professional grade materials exist, and art assessors are tuned into the raw materials of a work as they do their work of ascertaining the value of any piece.  Hence, looking at the back of a canvas will disclose if a work is panted on lines or canvas.   And are plastic grounds underlying an oil painting, or traditional gesso materials?  An artist has the ability today to paint an 20″ x 30″ inch oil painting with under $20 of materials or over $200. Similar analogies can be found in all the visual arts.

Purchase Price Relative to the Career Stage of the Artist

Emerging, mid-career and established artist are the three common categories for an artists career stage. Pricing can vary wildly for each of these stages in any given market.  While each markets seems to calibrate asking price, every market demonstrates wild outliers.

The exciting risk in the emerging artist market is based on fact that the majority of these artists will not see it to a later stage.  As with all the arts, performing and visual, the majority of the emerging field dwindles through attrition.  The established market presents a challenge as the price points of most works remains beyond the financial capacity of most collectors.

What mid-career artists offer the collector is the persistence to stay relevant over decades and a maturity of visual statements on par with those who have crossed into the established category.  Mid-career artists have also amassed a significant body of work which in most cases includes hundreds if not thousands of works residing in public and private collections.  While somewhat higher in pricing than the emerging group, the mid-career artists price points tend to remain accessible.

Final Thoughts and Further Resources

When you are seriously considering a purchase, force yourself to ask questions.  Sometimes galleries feel a bit standoffish as the art world is well know for promoting a elitist “in the know” attitude, which can be intimidating.  Do not let that prevent you from getting the answers you need to be comfortable with the purchase you are considering making.

Other resources for collectors:

Collecting Like a Pro

How to Collect and Buy Art: the Basics

Art Collecting