You can hardly open a newspaper or magazine nowadays without coming across a headline that proclaims a new record price being achieved for a painting sold at auction. Nor are the headlines restricted to paintings. Watches, jewellery, furniture, artefacts .... all seem to be heading for stratospheric returns for their owners. But is art truly an investment in the same way as a portfolio of shares is an investment? In reality, there are many parallels, including the timeworn tenet that "the harder you work, the luckier you get". Roughly translated, this would mean that the more you study the market, the more you learn about the artists and their histories, the more you deal with specialised individuals and companies, the more you can minimise the risk and maximise the growth potential of your purchase.
Going through the 2nd Quarter 2008 edition of "Personal Finance" a couple of detailed and fascinating articles by Jo-Marie Rabe contained some particularly pertinent pointers.
In one case she questions "as to the question of what to buy - the old masters or young, living, contemporary artists? Buy your old masters by all means, but also invest some of your time and money on the living. By buying the work of a young artist you give him or her the mandate to keep creating. With your financial support, you might be nurturing the next Cezanne, Pollock, Stern or Dumas." In a separate article, she develops the thought process. "Are you lamenting the fact that you did not live in the time of Van Gogh, Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso? Are you sure that you would have bought their work if only you were alive then? Think again. These works - today such an accessible, pleasurable and popular part of the artistic landscape - were shocking at the time. Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime!"
Jo-Marie Rabe's coverage of the "art as an investment" theme makes excellent reading and we recommend it to anyone with a more than passing interest in the concept. From our commercial standpoint, Stephan Welz & Co., in association with Sotheby's, also looks to the work of contemporary artists as well as that of "old masters". In September this year, a specialised auction will reflect that focus, while in August the company will present a three-day auction of Decorative & Fine Arts, Jewellery, Furniture and Ceramics which will reflect a breadth of choice to satisfy all tastes.
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