Art Smart Investing in Art

Getting Initiated into Art

The working mantra for all those art enthusiasts aspiring to invade into the world of art appreciation consists - Instinct and Interest. While your instinct would drive you to what you like and develop your taste in art, the interest would make you discover and learn more about the world of art.

Start Looking As a first step into the world for art, you have to make sure you start seeing a lot of works of art. Visit a lot of art galleries and exhibitions to expose yourself to all sorts of styles and medium. Make an attempt to understand the techniques, strokes, textures and colours in all works of art - be it paintings, photographs or sculptures. Take interest in what strikes your fancy and then try to figure out why. Was it the contrast in colours or was it the brush strokes? Was it the impressionist character or the abstract depiction that you liked? Identifying this will roughly outline your taste in art.

Get Acquainted To further develop your taste, you have to start reading a lot of art related books and magazines. Get into the habit of following art columns in the newspapers and comments from the critics on the various exhibitions you visit. Always as a rule pick up biographies, booklets and brochures of the artists whose works you view to know more about him, his works, his influences and his style. This will help you establish the relationship between the artist and his work. The themes they work on, the medium they use and their imagination as depicted in their artwork - all this can be easily and clearly understood from the life and works of an artist.

Talk to the Experts It is also important to share your thoughts and views with other art enthusiasts. Create your own art community and discuss various artists and their works. Talking to the owner and manager of the galleries always helps in enhancing your insight since they have a wider knowledge of the art world and the market. Private curators have a good knowledge of different styles and forms as well and they usually love to advise potential investors on art.

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Investing in Art

A Good Taste and a Fair business sense - that is all that takes to make a smart investment in art. It is a myth that as a pre-requisite for buying art, one has to have a great art vocabulary, with the history of the evolution of art on the fingertips and a knowledge bank to distinguish one art form from another. It is instead a simpler theory.

Investing in art is like investing in your own sense of aesthetics. It is a possession, that apart from being appreciated for owning, you will also derive personal pleasure from. And while being a lifetime of visual delight, it can be a valuable article of trade.

Collecting art can be one of the most enjoyable investments. However, similar to trade of other commodities, trading in art is also subject to market pressures and unpredictability of its value. It is as easy for an art to lose value, as is for it to gain profit. So if you are planning to make an investment in a piece of art it is important to gauge the fluctuation in its market value. Keep in mind these few factors when you begin looking for an art work to invest in

  • The Aesthetical Content - What may aesthetically appeal a lot to you, may not be the most marketable piece of art. It is therefore necessary, especially if you plan to resell a work of art, to develop a certain basic popular taste before you think of investing. Visit as many art galleries and Exhibitions as you can, to make sure you have seen enough art forms and styles to gauge what you like and what you don't. Zero on something, which has a generic aesthetical content but at the same time fits your fancy.
  • Do not indulge in impulsive buying. Buy something you really like - a piece of art you can think of living with for a lifetime. Your attraction to the piece should not short-lived. It is important for a piece of art to grow on you as much it is necessary for it to grow in value. Only that, in real sense of the word, would be a smart investment.
  • The Artist - The most profitable of deals, according to art experts, are made with lesser-known artists. Their works to begin with cost less as compared to the works of celebrated artists and have a good shot of rising in value later. For beginners, however, it is important to learn more about the artist and his art before you pick up his works. Also it is important to consider his reputation and status in the media and art community. Usually artists represented by art galleries are more sought after.
  • Authenticity of a piece - It goes without saying that an original piece of work is the only way to smart investment in art. It is a misconception that good reproductions and reprints have a resale value. Reproductions and reprints serve purely decorative purposes. On rare occasions reprints may make profit on resale but provided the artist's signature are original. Reproductions of old master pieces, however well they may be done, are therefore non-profit investments.
  • While buying an original piece of work, insist on some form of a document from the gallery or the artist himself that establishes you as the owner of the original piece. This is necessary to ensure that the value of the piece grows proportionally with the increasing value of the artist. Also this would avoid any scams and fake reprints of the piece, which may result in devaluing its worth.
  • Availability of a piece - A simple rule applies here - what is rare, is also more expensive. Original Old master artworks are definitely highest in the cost bracket but they are usually very expensive unaffordable by most young art enthusiasts. Go for Limited edition prints. These are likely to cost you less yet would increase in value after the last piece is sold. Works available in unlimited editions can cost even lesser but are unlikely to grow in their value due to easy availability.

It is true that investing in art, like all other investments, has its own share of unpredictability and risk factors but one thing that sets it apart as a trade is the intrinsic value that any work of art possesses. Art can be a lifetime of a treasure. It may devalue in price however it will never lose its worth as a creation of an artist's imagination and its merit as an appreciation of a buyer's taste. Develop a taste in art, be aware of the market and rest assured, you can be a proud owner of an artwork which would not only fish you compliments for your taste but also fetch you huge profits when you pass it on to other art enthusiasts.

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How to Start Investing in Art

If you want an investment advice, people usually tell you to invest in stocks, real estate or other fixed deposit schemes. Very few talk about art whereas collecting art is one of the most unique and enjoyable investments.

At present, art is as hot an investment as real estate due to the vibrant art scene and increasing profile of Indian art in the international market. The returns are as good if not better, provided one invests in the right artists at the right price. It is much easier to invest in art, one can invest in small or big amounts suiting one's investible surplus. Good aesthetics and some business sense - that is all that takes to make a smart investment in art. You can start at as low as Rs. 25,000 and go up to any amount that suits you.

To start, one should invest in large works of younger artists or buy drawings or small works of established artists that suit small budgets. Here are some investment options for a new investor in art at different levels up to Rs. 2 lakhs:

Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 50,000 - buy a work of Pooja Iranna, Mohan Malviya, Apurva Desai, Manish Modi, Mithu Sen

Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 100,000 - buy Nupur Kundu, Somenath Maity, Partha Shaw, T.M. Aziz, Ravi Kumar Kashi, Sanjiv Sonpimpare

Rs. 100,000 to Rs. 200,000 - Harshvardhana, Prasant Sahu, Chandra Bhattacharya, Sujata Bajaj, Veer Munshi, Akhitam Narayanan, Manisha Ghera Baswani

If one wants to invest in big names, drawings of Anjolie Ela Menon, Laxma Goud, Vaikuntam, Yusuf Arakkal , Lallu Prasad Shaw, Paritosh Sen, Sakti Burman, Shuvaprasanna etc. are the best options.

Buying works of young talented artists is the best way to get good long-term returns. Look for an artist who is represented by a good gallery, has got good reviews, has registered good sales in his first few shows. For short-term returns go for the works of the established artists which will fetch you a 100% increase in two to three years time frame. Make sure that the work appeals to you. So that even if the price remains static, you have a work which you'll enjoy.

Always keep abreast of the trends of the art market. Go through articles on art in newspapers and magazines, surf sites of good galleries and auction houses. The auction results are good indications of the price trends and indicative of good investment bets for the future. Visit art shows, art galleries, interact with artists art critics and gallerists and keep a watch on how the artists whose works you have invested in are performing, which exhibitions they are participating. If they continue to make good works and are shown in good exhibitions, your investment value is bound to increase. Since the art world is not regulated as equities, the investor has to be cautious in buying and beware of unknown antique/art dealers, prices temporarily inflated by hype or in auctions and fakes floating in the market.

One should buy the works from a good gallery or from the artist directly and insist on an authenticity certificate. It would be difficult to sell the work in absence of its provenance. If one keeps the above few points in mind, one has to be very unlucky to loose money in art. There is only one way your investment will move. Upwards, besides providing you a lifetime of visual delight.

Investment in art in not only people with high-networth. Nowadays, I come across middle-level salaried people buying art. I know of a couple, who pay by post-dated cheques and take delivery of the work after the full payment is made. In the last few years, they have made a sizeable portfolio of investments.

The profile of the art buyer is changing over the years. Earlier investors were rich industrialists, corporate houses and institutions. Now apart from the NRIs, one comes across many young buyers from the middle-class are showing interest in buying art. From the earlier refrain, 'we do not understand modern art' to the new generation of art afficinados, the profile of the art buyer is changing and art buying is becoming more broad based. Is it something to do with news about Husain's or Tyeb Mehtas's prices reaching a peak at the Sotheby's or a Christies' auction or the aesthetic sensibilities of the younger generation are getting more refined. I see it as a mix of both and it is indicative of art entering the mainstream although there is a long way to go. However, the scene is fast changing and a new buying class in emerging.

You too can profit from art. Compared to real estate, it is much easier to invest in, you can invest in small amounts, it is a liquid investment and gives you the same rate of returns, besides it will give you visual pleasure and pride of ownership. What more you can ask for.

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