It’s still October, temperatures are still (increasingly) freezing, and it is still a Frieze Frenzy out there. Frieze London and Frieze Masters have taken over the art world over the course of a week long art fair displaying works by contemporary and living artists. Frieze is but a slice of the overall art fair phenomenon which has flooded the art industry over the past 2 decades, ever since the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City held its first art fair in 1994. Currently, there are now so many art fairs that even critics and journalists struggle to keep count.
Our last article focused on how artists can get in on the art fair action. Yes, buyers, it’s now your turn. Now we move the spotlight to how buyers can take advantage of the art fair phenomenon and saddle up before you’re left like the last kid to be picked in PE class team dibs.
Whether you’re a collector or investor, the key to starting your own art collection is research. Research and networking. The price of art has risen more than 1000% over the last 4 decades, and with so many different types of art to specialise in (drawings, paintings, photography, mixed media, sculpture, digital, prints and even video), how on earth do you begin? Add to that the huge disparity of prices ranging from reproductions (copies without a limited run of printing) on the budget end, slowly increasing at giclées (often classified as ‘museum quality’ due to their superior print), further increasing at prints (a copy although often in limited print and good for investors with limited funds to begin their collections), and ending at the high end with originals (one of a kind rarities with heavy price tags). An added difficulty (which luckily doesn’t apply at Frieze) is confirming authenticity if an artist is deceased. Have you obtained a thorough appraisal of the piece and received a certificate of authenticity from an expert?
Art fairs remain one of the best places for novices to develop an eye for art, ask questions, research and mingle with the art industry. Unlike auction houses, where marketing hypes, buyer’s premium (around 10% – 20% added to your final bid), cowboy dealers and the pressurised environment all add to an almost war-like experience, art fairs provide a more relaxed environment for evaluating and learning. And, as most private investors commonly start out as private collectors, the art fair is the perfect place to peruse. For most investors, apart from the obvious point of art being of enjoyment value, art is also a physical asset (controlled by you), appreciates over time (unlike e.g. stocks) and rarely encounters market fluctuations (unlike financial markets which are a volatile rollercoaster in comparison).
Conversely, getting to the stage of being able to see you art appreciate over time takes a. very. long. time. And research. Whereas investment in the stock market would be a straightforward matter of researching the relevant company, reviewing their earnings report and doing your due diligence on the fundamentals, comparative information for art does not come in a similar clean, straight forward package, and often requires much research and familiarization with the industry as a whole. Additionally, art is not a liquid asset, and whereas selling other investment vehicles are as simple as picking up the phone or clicking on your computer, selling your art will take time, planning and effort, including knowing the right dealers and galleries, as some may facilitate a direct sale. During the time you have your art, you will also need to factor in expenditure for displaying, storing and caring for your art. Damaged art will lose value, so you will need to have it insured. Finally, what if you do all of the above but your art doesn’t appreciate over time? The art world has often been labelled fickle, and this is true. You have to be willing to take a certain amount of risk that an established artist may be toast of the town one day, but fall out of favour just as quickly.
So, take a deep breath, get your notepad ready, put your curiousity cap on, switch on your networking brain, and get out there!