Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Art as investment

I often ask myself - is contemporary art a good investment?
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In 2006, Christie's sold $4.33 billion worth of art at auction (a 36% increase over the previous year) while Sotheby's 2006 sales total stood at $3.66 billion. While Christie's attributes it's success to forgeing long term relationships with sellers, both Christie's and Sotheby's are benefiting from the growth in wealth creation globally." This is an article taken from the website Fine Art management
Owning an original artwork can give one status. No-one can deny the thrill of investing in your first original artwork and receiving admiring praise from friends and family alike as you sit around your dining room table and gaze at the wonderful portrait glimmering in the romantic candlelight.
Apart from the aesthetic beauty it adds, who knows what that painting you bought from a little -known artist in the 80's is worth today? Equally, there is also increasing interest in art as an investment class including how it behaves compared with financial assets, and what qualities in a work of art are likely to make an emerging artist stand the test of time. Of course, taste in art is personal - one man's meat is another's poison, and how is one to know that the work you have purchased will stand that test.
As a test I have conducted a little research of my own on an artist who was extremely popular in the 70's - Sara Moon. Every second person ( certainly the students I knew) had a Sara Moon poster hanging in their digs. I was not a fan - I thought it was "kitsch" art with little value or appeal but I cannot deny that she was hugely popular. Though I was young then my instincts told me this was not "Art".Some thirty years later, it seems my instincts were correct.
My search today revealed surprising results. First off, Sarah Moon turned out not be a female artist, but a publishing house under the name of Red Baron and then later, Verkerk/Scandecor, a poster and print house. When this house went up in flames most of the posters were destroyed. It seems that no -one has ever come up with an original work because of this and the general opinion is that any prints are only as valuable if they are framed and with the original reference number and date on the back. The opinion seems to be that you may get the value of the frame and not much more!
That said, if you are thinking of investing, you would be wise to invest in an oil painting, acrylic or maybe even a water-color or pastel. There is no doubt as to its originality in this case and it is bound to increase in value over time if it is well- looked after and behind glass if it a water-color.
As always, the question to ask yourself is not "Is this painting a good investment" but "Do I like this painting" or "Do I want to look at this painting more than watch TV " -or- "Do I get a good feeling when I look at this painting?" Like a piece of music, a painting can touch your soul, make your heart sing, your eyes water, take you back to a place you once loved, or forward to one where you would like to be. For these reasons, or any other good ones you can think of - " that portrait reminds me of my beloved friend" - whatever. These are the real reasons for buying art, not some silly popular reasons. Just because everybody else likes that artist and has him/her on their walls is no reason to rush out and buy a poster yourself.
Art is meant to be looked at, not locked away in some bank vault. Buy what you like - there is no better reason than that.

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