Art collecting is one of the oldest types of leisure activities humans have practiced. The House of Medici is a clear example of this, as it became one of the most powerful Florence families in the Renaissance era because of its enormous art collection. For anyone who aspired to be an established artist, it was a sine qua non to visit -and study- the Medici’s private galleries, but few were the lucky ones. Back to the present, the art industry has changed dramatically during the XX century, although there is something in its original essence that remains.
For years, only the elites could afford to purchase artwork. They had the education to identify a masterpiece and the money to pay for it, art was considered one of the status indicators. In modern times, possessing a work of art is still a sign of influence, but not in the same way as it was in the past. Nowadays, it is not necessary to be extremely rich to be an art collector. So, what pushes someone to start an art collection? Some people -mainly inexperienced- do not want to invest their savings in art, as they have no insight on how to navigate the market. Just like on the equities market, once an art investor purchases a work, there is no guarantee of future profitability. Ultimately, the volatility of the artwork’s value depends on the demand: it is most clearly illustrated in auctions, where participants place bids and the higher one wins setting the bar for an artist’s future evaluations.
Throughout art history, daring -or not that much- art investors have bet on emerging artists, getting surprising results. Is Jean-Michel Basquiat’s (American, 1960–1988) case one of many: before being recognized as a renowned artist, some of his works were sold at comparably low prices. People who bought these pieces were not probably aware of their value, and have later sold them at dozens, and in some cases hundreds of millions. So why not go and discover the next Basquiat?
Not everyone could be a Medici, but let us try. A good art investor should find the balance between business and passion: without enthusiasm for the art world, there is no chance of success. It is understandable that someone who wants to start a collection is not willing to take huge risks. For this reason, investing in emerging creators is one of the wisest decisions a novice collector could make, as the investment is lower, so the ROI is higher. Where to start this adventure?
Depending on the purpose, the art investor should choose among auction houses, art galleries, art fairs, and the Internet platforms. The best spaces to find undiscovered creators are the last three. Firstly, art galleries are often interested in supporting emerging artists besides providing a relaxing atmosphere to observe and appraise possible next purchases. Secondly, art fairs are spacious locations to amble and discuss with amateur and art experts. Finally, it is on the Internet where opportunities multiply: it is the perfect site to get informed about lots of artists and -buy ”smart” on platforms such as Artsted where artists are attributed with indices and analytics regarding their career and market performance.
To avoid being ripped off, the first step the art investor has to take is researching. It is convenient to learn about the artist before making a decision. Artist data such as education, past achievements, exhibitions and works, popularity on social media, and references are relevant to continue with the process. The last step is a definitive evaluation based on the previous information combined with the collector’s intuition and a little bit of luck.
Art investment is a challenging and time-consuming activity, primarily for these new generations of collectors who do not know yet how the art industry operates, so there is no better start than investing in emerging artists. Though they are not yet recognized, nobody talks about the present as they do and has a sensitivity for the “here and now” as well as direct cultural agency.
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