Rarely does a week go past without one of my customers commenting about the value of their paintings and often they joke about their “Alan Reed” original being worth a fortune once I’m dead! Joking aside, it does raise the question, should one invest in art, and if so, whose art should one buy?
The truth is, not every artist’s work will be worth more money once they are dead, after all, what one generation finds appealing and popular, the next generation may find it ghastly. Conversely, paintings by artists like Van Gogh who hardly had any success when they were alive, are now way beyond the reach of the average collector.
It is also possible to buy art from a living artist at the start of their career and see it soar in value, even during their own lifetime. A good example of this is Jack Vettriano. One of my clients bought two of Jack’s paintings when he first started off for only a few thousand pounds. He later auctioned them several years ago for over a hundred thousand pounds!
Buying paintings by artists who are dead can often be a sound investment. I recall seeing a delightful watercolour of Venice by Edward Seago at a gallery in London for around £8,000 back in 1994. I had only been married for a year and it was just a little out of my reach at the time. A similar Edward Seago watercolour of Venice would now set you back £20-30,000 and I suspect that his prices will continue to rise.
However, the value of art is effected by a multitude of varying factors, so investing, like most investments, can never be an exact science. Buying from a reputable dealer and seeking expert professional advice is usually a safe guard from making a bad purchase, but even then, I’ve seen forgeries that have deceived the dealers expert eye. One of my clients bought an original watercolour signed W. Russell Flint from an auctioneer that was never in a million years painted by Sir William Russell Flint who died in 1969. I’ve also seen paintings being passed off as an “Edward Seago” that were clearly not painted by the great British artist who died in 1974.
The upside is that investing in art, particularly modern art, has been a huge success in the last couple of decades according to experts. Buying from a living artist means that you know the art is likely to be genuine. Finding an artist to invest in is just the first part of the challenge. Investors and collectors need to know that the artist has talent and staying power. The artist’s commitment to their practise is of paramount importance. I’ve seen a number of artists burst onto the scene only to disappear after a few years, unable to make a living. You need to ask questions about their background, training and how they are progressing in terms of their ability, creativity and success before purchasing for investment purposes. Also look for an artist that has an identifiable style that is developing and improving.
Over the last few years I’ve made my own modest acquisitions using some of the criteria mentioned above but with one underlying philosophy. I like to buy a painting that looks good on my wall which I can enjoy every time I look at it. If it goes up in value, then that is an added bonus.