Advice for Investing in Art


Consider if you will the story of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel. Living for more than fifty years in a tiny one-bedroom flat in New York, he was a postal worker and she a librarian. Herbert never earned more than $23,000 a year. They were an ordinary couple, living a frugal life. Except for the fact that over the course of 45 years they managed to amass one of the most important art collections in the world, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Of course, not everybody is in a position to share a home measuring just 450 square feet with nearly 5,000 artworks. We can’t all have the good fortune to live at the epicentre of the art world at precisely the right moment in history to take advantage. The story of the Vogels is in many ways exceptional; but it does go to show what can be achieved with discipline, strategy and just a little bit of luck. The first thing to stress is that the Vogels did not set out to make a fortune from their collection; they simply bought what they enjoyed having on the wall. This should always be the biggest motivation for buying art. If you are thinking about buying art for investment purposes though, there are a few useful guidelines that ought to hold you in good stead:

1) Do your homework. There are over a million artists working in the UK today; get to know who is in the ascendant. Artists in the earlier stages of their careers will have lower prices than those who are already well established. An artist will usually be in at least their forties before they begin to command higher prices with opportunities for resale.

2) Buy the best you can afford. As previously mentioned in the FRESH: guide to buying art, it’s important to collect the very best examples of an artist’s output that you can manage. Any artwork bought for investment should be instantly recognisable as the maker’s work. While logic might suggest that something quirky and unusual would be more interesting to buyers, you’ll find that the market prefers something “on-brand” and familiar. Fresh is delighted to be working with Own Art* at Fresh:Art Fairs.

3) Be ready for the long haul. Art as an investment will not generate quick returns overnight. You’ll most likely need to wait years to make a profit, so make sure you’re prepared to make the commitment.

4) Plan ahead. Make sure that you keep adequate documentation and letters of authenticity. Leaving a paper trail will assist any future resale of the artwork.

5) Store the work properly. Condition obviously affects value. Hang artworks away from direct sunlight and try to avoid dramatic swings in temperature. Keep pictures away from damp!

6) Remember that there are no guarantees. Even if you do everything right, it’s not inevitable that an artwork will be worth several times what you paid for it years down the line. The art world is notoriously fickle and prices can go down as well as up.

The essential principle of buying art for investment is that it is a risk but one that can be minimised by taking a few sensible measures. If you choose well you will hopefully be able to turn a profit years down the line…but if you’ve chosen very well you won’t want to!

Book now. Tickets for Fresh: Ascot 20-22nd September are on sale now, with tickets to the Private View on Thursday 19th September - where you will have the very first pick of the art on sale too!.

*Please note: We are delighted to be able to offer Own Art to visitors at Fresh:Ascot. Own Art is a national initiative that makes buying contemporary art and craft affordable by providing interest-free loans for the purchase of original work. Own Art loans allow you to borrow from as little as £100 up to £25,000 and pay it back over 10 or 20 months, completely interest-free. Follow this link for more information.

Love this? Read more….Fresh: Top 5 Tips for Collecting Art

Eleanor Wardle