Cool, calm, collecting: 3 ideas for investing in art

March 8, 2018

Artworks can change hands for eye-watering amounts, but there are ways to build a collection without breaking the bank. We put you in the picture.

In late 2017, Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of Jesus Christ, Salvator Mundi, sold for a world record $US450 million to Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism. It comfortably beat the previous record price of $US300 million paid in 2015 for Willem de Kooning’s 1955 painting Interchange.

But what about those of us with shallower pockets? Can you and I get our hands on a masterpiece – or at least our version of one? Can art still be a worthwhile investment even if the greats are out of reach?

What to look for

Toby Meagher, director at art gallery Michael Reid Sydney says “no other commodity captures hearts and minds the way art can”.

“The satisfaction can be aesthetic, intellectual, social, emotional or financial,” Meagher says. “The trick is not to equate cost with value when buying art”.

Mark Hughes, art critic and founder of Mark Hughes Art Advisory, says art is not an “ordinary investment”, but ordinary common sense still applies.

“If you want to spend your money wisely on art, then you should do what you do when you put your money elsewhere: do your homework and get good advice,” he says. “If you work a little, you might find yourself with something that gives back aesthetically and also gives back financially over the long term”.

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Where to begin
Art can be purchased through galleries, dealers, auction houses and art fairs, and over the past few years, the industry is rapidly gaining ground online, especially through social media.

A 2016 report commissioned by online auction house Invaluable found that “22.7 per cent of US consumers discover art through social media channels like Instagram and Pinterest, while 20 per cent of US adults discover art through museums and 15.9 per cent visit art galleries”.

Many Australian galleries now have a digital stock room that you can visit without making the trek to view the works in person.

“The internet helps to demystify the art world for many,” says Meagher. “Anyone can develop their tastes and find artists who make them tick without leaving the house.”

What to avoid
Like any investment, there can be pitfalls. Hughes believes the thing to avoid is overconfidence.

“To say ‘I know what I like’ isn’t enough,” he says. “You need to have the confidence to know what you don’t know and ask for guidance.”

He also says art is prone to fashion, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you should fork out for the latest trend.

“There is quite a lot of figurative art right now, and a couple of years ago there was an abundance of abstract painting,” he says. “The best thing one can do is keep an eye on as much as possible. And no one should buy art they don’t like looking at.”

Meagher agrees.

“Monetary investment should never be the first reason to buy an artwork,” he says. “There are better places to make money. The annual dividend of an artwork is the satisfaction you get from living with it.

“Art should make you happy.”

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