Investing in Art for Beginners

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

When you consider the word, “investment,” you probably think of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and your 401(k). Maybe you even include physical collectables like precious metals, coins, wine, baseball cards, records, books or rare memorabilia as investments. The average person, however, probably doesn’t think of art when they think of personal investing.

Art was once thought to be an investment exclusively for the mega-wealthy who could afford to plunk down many thousands of dollars on the works of famous masters that caught their eye. Today, art is much more accessible an investment to those of more modest means.

Pros and cons of investing in art

There are a number of reasons that investing in a luxury item like art is a sound idea for many people, especially when the economic climate is labile:

  • Scarcity – The value of any piece of art is based upon it being “one of a kind,” so it retains value (and sometimes appreciates in value) rather than simply becoming run-of-the-mill or obsolete over time.
  • Stability – Artwork remains valuable and desirable indefinitely. It’s intrinsic value is independent of external factors, such as the stock market.
  • Personal control – Because you physically own the work of art, you have all the control over the investment, instead of giving it over to an outside party, like a broker.

Of course, like any investment, there’s no guarantee you’ll earn a substantial – or any – profit. Investing in art has its downsides as well, including:

  • Time/effort requirement – Finding art in which to invest will be solely upon your shoulders. That means educating yourself about the art world, art values and the probability of your investment accruing value, seeking out artists and their works and making the deal to procure the art.
  • Responsibility – Procuring the art is only the beginning. Once you own a valuable piece of art, you need to store, care for and insure it to protect it – and yourself – from loss.
  • Lack of liquidity – A considerable sum will be tied up in your art investment; selling your art to realize a financial gain will take time and effort. It’s certainly not as simple as cashing out your 401(k) when you need quick money.

General tips for the beginning art investor

  • Educate yourself about art and artists – Familiarize yourself with the art world by attending galleries, striking up conversations with artists themselves and others in the know and research online at sites like 20×200, Artspace, Red Bubble and even Etsy. This will give you solid intel about appropriate pricing as well as potential future value. Buying directly from the artist when possible will allow you to avoid paying any “matchmaking” fees you’d incur by purchasing from a gallery.
  • Start collecting works from new, “emerging” artists – Getting in on the “ground floor” by purchasing art from those who have yet to make it big is a good strategy for finding affordable pieces. Although the artist may be currently unknown, find out as much as you can about him or her and the piece; this historical information will prove valuable to potential buyers when and if the artist gains notoriety.
  • Buy what you love – On the chance that the art you buy as an investment does not appreciate in value, if you’ve purchased art you love, at least you get enjoyment from the owning of it – possibly for a long time.

Investing in art may not be an obvious choice but it is an alternative strategy worth considering. Diversify your portfolio with an investment in art and you could end up with more than something pretty to look at.

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