In the eighties a large British pension fund started investing a part of its money in art. Several years later the idea was abandoned for obvious financial reasons. Although it is possible to achieve an increase in value with a collection of art, on an average it is not a preferable form of financial investment.
Here are a few simple rules for buying art. My recommendations are based on an experience in buying and selling Japanese prints and modern Chinese art prints. Therefore the focus of this article (and the decoration of this page) is on them.
Buy only art prints that you personally like and not out of financial speculation. A work of art should in first place reflect your personal taste.
If you want to preserve or increase the value of your portfolio, buy only top quality print art by undisputed artists. (But do not forget rule number one!)
Do not forget that retail sales prices and purchase prices are two rather different things. The commissions you pay directly or indirectly when you buy or sell art, are much higher than those of your bank for most financial assets.
Be aware that a modern reproduction for sale has a price tag. But at the moment you buy it, it has no or little value. If you buy reproductions, then do it for decorative purposes. This is what many experienced collectors do. They decorate their homes with cheap reproductions and keep their valuable collector prints well-protected from light in folders and cabinets.
At real world auctions you may have experienced that prints in poor condition were sold rather easily. You can bet that the buyers were professional dealers. They restore such prints before they resell them. For a private collector it is no good advice. The price you would have to pay for a professional restoration is too high.
The condition of margins are - as mentioned above - too important to ignore them. Prints in galleries or auction houses are often framed. Ask the gallery owner to take the print out of the frame. How else will you recognize for instance a discoloration from sunshine?
The gallery owner may not do it because he knows that a print that has been framed, hung on the wall and exposed to light, does nearly always have condition problems. Do not purchase a print of which you have not seen the margins,
There is a lot of fraud in the art market - both on the Internet and in conventional markets. The damage potential is buying either a fake print or paying considerably too much or losing your money all over.
How to recognize a crook? Well, easier said than done. The only rule you should be aware of: there is none. Crooks can be found in fancy galleries, in auction houses, on fairs or in the Internet. Keep your common sense and when a bargain seems to be too good to be true, it is probably not.
The best way to avoid pitfalls is knowledge and again knowledge. Knowledge is what makes the difference between an experienced dealer and a novice collector. Learn about your collecting field!
The best sources are still books and in second place the Internet. A print is not a unique object and therefore you can often find the same print design in a reference book.
There are books that contain the complete works of an artist - meticulously listed with sizes, edition size, type of paper, publishing date, an image and more. These books are called catalog raisonne.
They are not always complete and there may be errors but they are the best sources to evaluate a print. The only disadvantage of these catalogs is their price. They are usually expensive because of their small edition size. Look out for used catalog raisonne at antiquarian book shops or at auctions!
Gaining good knowledge in all field of art is not easy. Many collectors - and dealers as well - specialize in a certain genre in order to gain solid expertise.
Author: Dieter Wanczura