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Investing in Contemporary Art for First-Time Buyers

August 26, 2019

I recently caught up with an old friend after several months of being unable to meet in person due to the banes of life. Chiefly, our professional careers and various business ventures making a social life near impossible.  Like me, my friend meditates by indulging in a good, hour-long cigar. So, for once, we agreed to catch up at our usual drinking hole at the Mayfair Hotel cigar terrace and unwind. 


After cutting and lighting my private blend Madamfo Club cigar, we both felt the weight of the world lift from our shoulders as we eased into a conversation about everything from the plummeting pound sterling to potential investments in Africa. 


Our discussion soon broached on the topic of investing in art as my friend revealed his intention to purchase a second property in London, only this time to let. However, he felt that his own house did not feel like a home as it was bare of any artwork, and while he felt confident when buying property, he felt less so as far as investing in art was concerned.


“It’s just foreign territory to me,” he expressed between thick puffs of smoke. “There are so many artists out there, but I don’t know who to buy, and who to avoid, and the artists I do know about and like sell for six figures.”


I laughed knowingly, as he vented about the precariousness of the art market. He isn’t the first person to raise the same topic with me, and I imagine that he will not be the last. 


As a collector and budding gallerist, the following are just a few tips for would-be, first-time collectors who do not want to break the bank buying art or are not sure who they should collect for that matter.


Art is personal. 
If you are buying art for your home, you should be able to live harmoniously with the piece, and it should bring you a sense of joy, stimulation and satisfaction. One of the first pieces of art I collected was by Kingsley Nebechi, a young, emerging artist of Nigerian-Italian heritage based in London. His work spoke to the subject of urban materialism, and the duality of happiness and misery that consumerism evokes. I found his art profound, yet relatable, and it was of great personal satisfaction that I could be an early collector and supporter of an artist who I had followed closely and watched rise. 


My advice in this respect, is to reflect on some issues and subject matters that you are interested in and identify artists who express or are inspired by these topics in their work. Follow their journey and curate a collection around their pieces. You will find that you’ll enjoy their company in your home and that they make for fantastic conversational pieces when you have guests in your house intrigued by the art and the artists behind them.


Limited edition prints. 
Once upon a time, prints were regarded as lowbrow as far as investing in art was concerned. While it is great if you can buy an original painting; this is not always the most feasible option for a first-time buyer dipping their toes in the art market. Signed limited edition prints are not only more affordable but can also later be sold for a higher value on the secondary market depending on who the artist is. It is not unheard of for an Andy Warhol limited edition print, for example, to sell for six and seven figure sums. The key to buying limited edition prints is to ensure that you are given a certificate of authenticity, and when possible, has been signed by the artist. 


Finally, do not shy away from unknown or emerging artists, especially those who may not live in the same country as you. One of the greatest benefits of social media is its ability to bridge the gap between people, and in this instance, artists, and potential collectors. Some of the most gifted artists I’ve come across have been through social media and has resulted in me collecting or promoting their work despite the relative obscurity of the artists. 


When you come across work that speaks to you, and shows strong potential, how well-known the artist is should not be an obstacle. After all, even Jean Michel Basquiat came from humble beginnings as the unseen, and unheard-of street artist collective, SAMO.
 

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