For young women entering the workforce or moving into their first “adult” apartment, finding sophisticated artwork can be an intimidating and expensive endeavor. As an art advisor for primarily new collectors and young professionals looking to become more involved in the arts, I’m often asked how to assess if a work of art is a good investment.
The main piece of advice to keep in mind is that art has an aesthetic value, as well as a monetary value. Unless you have spare rooms for art storage, you’ll be living with the artwork you collect–so in addition to considering an artwork’s investment potential in the future, make sure you absolutely love it now, and can see yourself engaging with the work on a deeper level over time.
Here are a few practical tips for starting your art collection:
Research Your Art Investment
Before purchasing any work of art, research the artist and find out how the piece you’re interested in fits into his or her larger body of work. On the macro level, you may also want to see how the artist, the piece, the medium, and the subject fit within secondary market indices, art world trends, and artistic movements. Art tells a story, and while art you love will always have a personal story for you, learning about the artist’s story–what the artist is referencing in the work or what has inspired the piece–will deepen your connection to the work. My gallery, Uprise Art, regularly hosts artist studio visits specifically for this purpose so that collectors can build relationships with the artists they are supporting and gain an understanding of the stories they tell through their work.
Think About the Context of Your Art Investment
If an artist works primarily in one kind of medium, collect artwork made with that medium (e.g. buying the one sculpture by a photographer is usually not a wise investment). When looking at a series of works by an artist, select the pieces that are most emblematic of the themes of that series.
Where to Find Affordable Art
The term “Affordable Art” usually refers to art priced under $10,000. That’s not always everyone’s definition of affordable. A good place to start is by purchasing prints and photographs–since they often come in editions, they can be less expensive than a unique work. Today, many companies are providing new ways to find and purchase affordable artwork online, without breaking a sweat. Websites like ArtStar offer beautiful prints in larger edition sizes for prices that range from as low as $25. BuySomeDamnArt offers beautiful original paintings and one-of-a-kind works by up-and-coming artists that typically go for less than $500.
You might not have a lot of galleries in your area, or feel comfortable navigating them even if you do. Scouting at MFA shows for emerging artists is a great place to start. This can often give you the opportunity to get into direct contact with artists. Shows generally occur at the end of the academic semester, so keep an eye out for dates and locations in your area.
If you live in the New York City or Boston areas, my gallery, Uprise Art, allows young professionals to take home original artwork and pay $50 each month towards the purchase price, so they can enjoy the work while investing over time.
Art Is Becoming An Alternative Investment
Art is quickly gaining mainstream traction as an alternative investment, with people looking to diversify their portfolios and banks taking note of the large swings and opportunities in the secondary (auction house) market. Regardless of how your collection appreciates, art is undoubtedly one of the most satisfying and fun ways to invest your money. As a talking point at a dinner party, a way to brighten up that big empty wall, or simply something to smile about when you’re sipping your morning coffee, art is an investment you just can’t beat.