Knowing where to start investing in art is like staring at a blank canvas. where to start What colors, compositions, themes? After all, the world of creative investing is an incredibly subjective one; a market driven by value judgements. Here you will benefit from matters of the heart as well as art.
But the art world is also evolving. Alongside the boom of online marketplaces and the rise of social media as a vehicle to lift an artist from obscurity to fame, we are also seeing the rise of NFTs. Digital art operates in a whole new ecosystem that could both expand and completely revolutionize the existing art world — not to mention transportation.
How to cut through all the noise and make the wisest decisions? We asked a range of experts to delve into the intricacies of buying and investing in art in a rapidly changing landscape.
1/ Always know why…
An excellent starting point is simply this: why Would you like to invest in art or collect art? Making your personal motivation your starting point may seem obvious, but it should definitely be the cornerstone of your process.
“You always have to know your why,” says Natasha Arselan, who is not only an art collector but also the founder of the Natasha Arselan Gallery and of AucArt, an online art platform specializing in emerging artists. “How to approach your collecting and investing journey – what you collect, how much you spend. It all depends on your reasoning.”
There is no wrong or right “why”. Many collect based on artistic interests or a passion for a particular artist. “When building a collection, it can be interesting when you find a specific subject or type of artist that is closely related to your personal history,” says Arselan. “There are a lot of women collectors now who collect women painters, which is very refreshing. There is also an interest in queer identity and marginalized artists. It’s amazing to see that a lot of black artists are being collected right now as well.”
Of course, some collectors will be drawn to what a piece says about them, because a work of art serves the same purpose as a designer clothing label. “Some only buy the most expensive art to prove their value,” says Arselan. “To be honest, there is nothing wrong with that. If that’s important to you, then that’s your “why.”
2/ Consider supporting emerging young artists
For Arselan, a lifelong art fan, her “why” was an opportunity to work on the ground floor with an exciting young artist – an art college graduate who invited her to purchase a piece from his studio. It was an investment that eventually inspired her creation of AucArt: “To be honest, I wasn’t focused on investments at the time. I went in with a purely holistic, human perspective. When I looked at this work, I knew I had helped someone’s career.”
For the collector and patron Valeria Napoleone, who on her own initiative is particularly committed to female and underrepresented artists, this encouragement is of the utmost importance and goes beyond acquisitions. “I am very excited to make a difference. I support young, talented artists because I know it will mean a lot to them at a time when no one else is looking,” she explains. “You can support them in a number of ways – it’s not just about buying the art. Through my initiative, I host dinners for artists, have conversations, support publications, connect people. Small gestures make a big difference. It’s not always about how much money you have.”
3/ Know where to look
Once you’ve decided why you want to invest, the next step is figuring out where to look. Lisa Schiff, the Leonardo Di Caprio Foundation’s art advisor, recommends getting involved with a nonprofit organization. “It’s a great way to break into the art world. Studio Voltaire is a fantastic example,” she says, while also suggesting reputable galleries; “Stuart Shave and Sadie Coles are always my favorites.”
“Never underestimate the power of art exhibited for free. If you take the time to walk through public and commercial spaces, you can see so much art – good and bad,” says Martina Batovic, UK director and contemporary specialist at Dorotheum auction house. “It’s equally important to see both good and bad art, because the more you look, the more you can tell the difference and the more you can see what appeals to you.”
Arselan naturally recommends AucArt as a first port of call with immaculate provenances for all of his artworks. But online marketplaces are increasingly an excellent place to buy art. “The beauty of browsing art online is that you can see 100 times more than you would in a gallery and your legs get a lot less tired than you would after a visit to an art fair,” says Angie Davey, former creative director of EyeStorm. “The more you look, the more likely you are to see what you like, define your tastes, and determine the piece that catches your eye.”
4/ Do your research… but trust your gut
“If you like a piece, look at the artist,” advises Arselan. “Things that add value to the work is what the artist produces or if you know someone who collects that artist because the art world is also about social capital. How strong is the artist’s network? Has your work been covered in the press?” It also matters whether an artist is alive or dead. “The people who run the estates have a pretty big monopoly on the art market, but dead artists can also have immovable inheritances,” she says. “However, for living artists, the levels at which the work escalates are much higher. Their markets are much more dynamic.”
But what to avoid? What would devalue a work? “Check if the artist’s work is being flipped — if it’s increasing in value too quickly. That’s a bad sign because that’s not generally sustainable and you can check this with the auction house results or check Artsy to see the prices,” Arselan continues. “Other red flags are when an artist is auctioned too young because they often lose control of their market.”
Immerse yourself in the art world – from vernissages and small shows to magazines (like ArtForum and the FT weekend art department or natural bazaar‘s cultural departments and annually bazaar art Magazine) – is a great way to keep up with developments and understand where a given work may sit in an existing ecosystem. “The more you delve into it, the more you’ll learn how it works, and you’ll get to know, almost by osmosis, the best artists to invest in or what you feel most connected to,” says Arselan.
Ultimately, though, it’s important to listen to your gut. “My very first purchase was in London, a small print from Bedford Square. It was a reminder of the time I had there and the trip I had to London,” says Batovic. “I’m sure it’s completely worthless, but to me it’s very valuable. It was the beginning of something that foreshadowed a journey and the career to come.”
5/ Explore NFTs
The biggest development in the art world, of course, is the arrival of NFTs – an often confusing and strange newcomer. Jonathan Bixby, Executive Chairman of NFT Investments, was initially stunned by her arrival. He describes them as similar to Pokemon cards and Beanie Babies – you may not see the appeal, but the market is still burning for them. “If enough people believe in something, it’s real. It’s no different than the pound sterling or the value of the Mona Lisa,” he says. “The revolution of NFTs is just this belief in going digital and going global.”
Bixby believes that anyone approaching NFT collecting needs to differentiate between what he sees as two camps of the phenomenon: collectibles and digital art. “It’s like owning an original war of stars Memorabilia and a Basquiat,” he says. “Both can be worth a hell of a lot of money…”
“There’s a billion people on the planet who spend about 20 hours a week playing games, on their phones, on their Playstations, in their VR headsets or – soon – in the Metaverse,” says Bixby. “This group of people is young and growing exponentially. So we ask ourselves, does this market prefer physical art or digital art? The answer is digital.”
But beyond the potential lucrative benefits of NFTs, Bixby is quick to point out how they can transform the art world in positive ways — by empowering artists. “It’s incredibly democratic,” he says. “The artist no longer needs an intermediary. The code in an NFT gives you full transparency so you can see exactly who owns your art and what is being paid for it. It’s pretty groundbreaking for artists.”
6/ Remember… it should be fun
There are obviously practical considerations to collecting and investing in art, from preservation to insurance. You should also make sure you set a budget – one that makes sense for you – and try to stick to it. If you intend to build a collection, also think about how often you want to add to it—monthly, yearly? But ultimately, remember that art should be about the emotional side as much as it is about the fiscal.
“Always remember, it’s fun,” says Arselan. “Art has an emotional and social side. Also, when you collect something from an artist at the very beginning of his career and then you see that he’s doing well, that’s amazing. It’s an exciting journey.”
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