Investing in small works of art

The global art market has stepped up the pace this year, resulting in two blockbuster auctions. Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucien Freud and Andy Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) went under the hammer for a colossal amount of cash, against a backdrop of total sales that went well over a billion pounds.

It’s a world few will get to experience personally, as not many people have access to that amount of cash and be so forthcoming in parting with it to pay for a single work of art. Yes indeed, that is correct: millions and millions of pounds on one exclusive piece.

Whatever sentiments you may have – it is reflective of the brilliance of art, which is worth investing in or it is a sign of superfluous spend at its most egregious – it makes for fascinating reading and, if you will, entertainment. After every sale, the chapter doesn’t end with a conclusion but a cliffhanger. Whatever else is next?

Such lofty sales needn’t put of those looking to start up a collection, be it for personal reasons or as a creative way of building up an investment. You have to accept that for now, the ability to compete for an own a work by a seminal artist – historical (Salvador Dali); present (Gerhard Richter) – is out of your sphere of influence.

You have to think small, which is a concept that can be misunderstood. Though an artist may not be that well-known, his work may well be important in years to come, either because he or she becomes a big name, the movement they are part develops into something important and/or the work is seen as being part of the conversation of the time.

“It has never been easier for first time buyers to discover art they can hang proudly on their walls and cherish for years to come,” Romy Westwood, director of the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead, told the Telegraph earlier this year. “Many of the galleries at the Affordable Art Fair are very accommodating and some are part of the Own Art Scheme which allows you to pay in instalments.”

It is important to be aware that these purchases come with a risk insofar as they do not offer a guarantee of financial success – they will not magically increase in value. Again, this does not denote that they are substandard by any means, they could well be anachronistic. Art investment, if that’s your focus, is about the long game. Instant monetary accomplishments are going to be rare.

That said, if you do your research, you are likely to come across artists that people are talking about, whose work, for now, is very affordable. Investigate further, immerse yourself in the art world and talk to people. The more you learn, the more you know, and the more likely you are to make good decisions.

““If I was starting an art collection on a budget tomorrow, my first stop would be the nearest major state art gallery or their online catalogue,” Bonhams’ chairman Mark Fraser told the Guardian in October. “[There] I would look for works that appealed to me; then I would research prices by the artists I most liked.”

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