The oil-rich country of Qatar recently paid $250 million for Cézanne’s painting The Card Players—making it the highest price ever for a work of art.
Obviously, Qatar thought it was a good investment. Art can boost anyone’s investment portfolio, but you don’t need to spend nearly as much.
“One doesn't need a great deal of money to collect art. There is great art at both ends of the economic spectrum,” explains artist Danny Simmons, chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts. “Many collectors start off by collecting limited edition signed prints for a few hundred dollars. You also can get great art from students in art schools who are just embarking on a career in the arts for great bargains. Many will go on to have important and lasting careers.”
First, do some research. Go to galleries, museums and exhibitions. “To begin, visit galleries and museums and immerse yourself in the world of art,” explains Simmons, who also founded Rush Arts Gallery in New York and the Corridor Gallery in Brooklyn. “At the end of the school year most art schools have open studios to visit and that's always fun to do. Talk with artists and other collectors and find out what's doing. It's a wonderful world to begin to navigate and it's richly rewarding.”
“Find auctions or small show/exhibitions,” suggests New York-based artist Robert Daniels, director of Nappy Head Art and member of the Weusi Artist Collective, the National Conference of Artist and the Bed-Sty Artist Association.
The Discerning Eye
Decide what type of art you want to invest in. It can range from paintings and photography to sculpture to carpentry. What styles of art do you like? Again, the styles can include a broad range--from abstract to expressionism to pop art to realism. “Deciding the type of art to collect is strictly personal. You have to collect what you like and what you have space for,” says Simmons. “I myself collect African and contemporary art because they are my interests. But do some research and see what moves you.”
Going, Going, Gone
With art, the asking price isn’t necessarily the price. At an art auction, you will have to bid. At a gallery or a private showing with an artist, you can negotiate the price. “Sometimes you can work out the money with the artist, explains Daniels. “Go in with the notice that you are there to enjoy the artwork. Be prepared to bargain if it seems out of your price range.”
“There are many things that constitute a good investment. If you’re speaking strictly about market value, then an artist who has an auction record is a good investment. Here you know that the money is somewhat secure because there is a documented history of what the work by a particular artist is worth on the commercial market,” adds Simmons. “You can't go wrong buying works by Romare Bearden, for example. But there are other indicators--longevity of career; number of important shows in galleries and museums; whether the artist is being talked about in the art world? Some of the wisest investments are finding out who are the hot young artists that are being talked about and sought after and investing in those artists. It’s a bit of a gamble with this approach to investing in art, but you will have the highest rate of return if you choose right.”
For Money or Pleasure
While you are looking at art as an investment, should you collect it merely for financial gain? “There is lots of art to choice from, but look for work that strikes your fancy. What is it that moves you? Talk to the artist. Get the real story,” offers Daniels. “I collect mostly art that moves me and has an edge to it but there are times where I'll collect something strictly for its investment value,” says Simmons. “I've taken risks on younger artists whose work didn't appeal to me as much but I knew from the attention they were getting that at some point the value of their work would soar. In some instances, I was right and in other instances, not so right. You can't go wrong if you buy the art that brings you joy.”