The home is one of the biggest investments you’re likely to make in your life. The things that go in it? Not so much. With the exception of antiques, anything you’re likely to put in your home will depreciate quickly. That giant TV? Outdated in 12 months. The super expensive leather Chesterfield couch? It may become more comfortable, but not more valuable.
There another exception to this rule—one that looks more in place in a modern home than great-grandma’s tea chest. Art.
Not only is art a potentially profitable long-term investment, but collecting is a lifestyle that can be a lot of fun. And as the gorgeous photos at Hannas Room show, it can make an incredible difference to the livability of your new place. While the perception of the art collector is one with grey hair, plenty of expendable funds and time on their hands, the modern collector is often a young professional or couple looking to move away from the band posters and Kmart prints that covered their walls during their uni days. Lifestyle magazines like GQ regularly feature art updates in their culture sections. And with recent changes to how art is valued in self-managed super funds, art has become a buyer’s market. There has never been a better (or cheaper) time to start investing.
Buy what you love
The biggest mistake new collectors make is giving more weight to an art work’s potential future monetary value, than to the collector’s personal connection to the work. This is a long term investment. This painting/photo/lithograph is going to be on your wall for years to come, and like all investments there is no guarantee it will make you a fortune. So buy something that you want to look at every day.
Use your feet
Make collecting a lifestyle. Visit as many galleries as you can to get a sense of what is out there, and what you like well before you open your wallet. In Canberra there are a number of different options, from the Old Bus Depot markets, to the National Gallery of Australia, to the smaller contemporary art galleries.
Director of Canberra’s M16 Artspace Jas Hugonnet says “Nothing beats going to a gallery, seeing the work, enjoying the space. The relationship between young collectors and emerging artists/galleries is an important one. Our shows are an opportunity for new collectors to experience artists at all career stages. We show both emerging and established artists, as well as artists that are local, national and international.”
The easiest way to get involved in the Canberra art scene is to sign up for local gallery newsletters. M16 Artspace has a new exhibition every three weeks, and the opening night event is open to the public. Great bar, great atmosphere, great art—it’s an excellent way to spend a Thursday evening. If you’re keen to support up-and-coming artists, there’s the ANU Art School graduate show every year, which features the next generation of Australian artists.
Make use of the net
On a cold and rainy winter’s evening, leaving the house can be the last thing you want to do. Even if there is a new exhibition opening. Thankfully the internet not only lets us collect art in our pyjamas, it allows us access to new and exciting works from across the world.
Jonas Almgren, entrepreneur and CEO of Artfinder says, “The art world is moving towards an artist-led model…It looks like the birth of a new art world that has freed itself of the constraints inherent of a traditional, hierarchical, and exclusive art world. The art market is being disrupted, just like Uber disrupted the taxi business.”
Pintrest is a great place to start to get an idea of what you like, but you can’t go past a website like Art Finder. It functions like an online gallery—artists list their works for sale and the website gets a commission. The beauty of Art Finder is that it has a fantastic blog that gives hints for getting started, discusses trends in the art world and introduces new artists.
Entering on a low budget
There are three key ways of entering the art market when funds are minimal.
- Buy small—larger works are more costly to produce, hence more costly to sell.
- Buy limited edition prints—these should be signed by the artist and be part of a run of no more than 100.
- Buy emerging artists—this is riskier because many of these artists won’t become big, but the reward is higher if they do. And it’s a cheap way to enter the market. Dorothy and Herb Vogel saved every penny to buy art from emerging artists during the 1960s and 70s for only a few hundred per piece. Their collection is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and much of it is housed in major art galleries.
Educate yourself about the artist
As a new collector with a plethora of opportunities around you, how do you know if the artwork you’re buying at the local craft market is worth to $50 – $500 you’re spending on it?
There are a few questions you could ask.
- What are your qualifications? University Fine Art programs give students a theoretical background on which to build their practice, as well as mentoring and feedback to improve their skill. Don’t completely discount an outsider artist with no qualification though. Plenty of exceptional artists don’t have a degree.
- How often do you exhibit? This gives you an indication of how seriously they take their work and whether or not it is career path or hobby for them. As an investor you want someone who will stick around in the industry long enough to build a name. Someone who exhibited every year for the past five years is demonstrating the grit needed to make it as an artist. That said, every major artist has only had one show at some point in their lives.
- What materials do you use? An artwork painted with the cheapest oils will not have the lasting power of artworks painted with artist quality paints. Cheap paints will discolour or fade. An artist taking his work seriously will use quality materials.
- What underpins your work? An artist that can discuss the thought process behind their work—both the individual piece and the collection—is a good sign. Investment-wise, steer clear of artists that are painting for the market.
- Is this a unique piece? If an artwork is mass produced it is unlikely to greatly appreciate in value. If it is not a unique piece (say a photograph) find out: How many prints? Are they signed?
But ultimately the most important part of buying art is choose something that resonates with you. You have to love a piece, and if you happen to love one that makes no sense as an investment, buy it anyway. You’re looking to create a home that sparks joy, and reflects your tastes.
If you’re mad keen to start collecting, M16 Artspace has an art fair and open day next Saturday 6th August where you can chat with local artists, see their studios, visit the current exhibitions and chat to Director Jas Hugonnet for more advice on how to get started.