Do your research
Emerging collectors should become informed by utilizing museums, galleries, auction houses, artists, fellow collectors, art books, magazines and websites to assist them in acquiring art. But you don’t need a Master’s degree in art history to be a savvy art collector. Just like any investment, art collecting should be entered into with some points of reference.
A work of art has value, beyond money
You may want to get a sense of the current art scene, both nationally and locally. As you become familiar with what is our there, allow yourself to form opinions. But don’t be too quick to judge or limit yourself, particularly early on. Learn the art of discernment, which does not judge. Instead, strive to understand. Ask questions. Allow yourself to feel. The bottom line with collecting art is being open to what lights you up. You may have strong feelings about a work of art or an artist’s oeuvre. It may even upset you. That just means it is effective. Don’t worry about whether it’s real or good art. These conclusions often limit us in our quest to collect art that moves, touches and inspires us. So even if your investment doesn’t increase monetarily over the years, you still want to be happy with the work you include in your collection.
Collect with a Purpose
One important question is, are you looking to put together a cohesive collection or do you want to shoot from the hip and allow your collection to evolve organically over time, as a reflection of your eclectic and evolving tastes? Think twice about buying for a particular spot in your home or trying to match the sofa, etc. Your décor and address will change with the fashion, but the art in your collection will remain with you throughout your lifetime. That is why it is one of the most personal investments you will make.
So be careful to avoid fashion trends. Certain subjects, colors or movements will come and go. For instance, with notable exceptions, I have noticed over my 42 years in the art business that in down economies people tend to gravitate more to bright colors and fun, raw paintings, which express our longing for freedom and suggest better days. When consumer confidence is higher, people come back to more serious classical idioms. But what will survive the test of time? This is the question we need to be asking.
A word about branding
Serious collectors often gravitate to an artist’s brand. If an artist can do anything, they are often perceived as not making any significant and specific contribution to the artworld. An artist’s work must identify them with their style, their approach, which distinguishes their brand from other artists. Artists hate to hear this, of course. But as a collector, it’s important to know that what you are collecting is part of an intentional, albeit evolving, body of work. Seasoned collectors are looking for work created with authenticity and confidence, by an artist who has a specific vision of the world, reflected in their approach or mission. Art is a Con game, meaning, the job of the artist is to create confidence in the buyer that their work is the real deal.
A Collecting Strategy
If you want your collection to reflect your particular sensibility, you may want to establish some guidelines, that reflect your tastes. Do you enjoy subjective or objective (abstract) art? Is there an historical period that appeals to you, perhaps a famous artist or movement from the past or present who inspires you? Are you interested in what is being done today? Keep in mind contemporary art (living artists) are a far better value for the emerging collector. Will your collection focus on a particular region, idiom, movement, medium or subject? Do you prefer a certain idiom, i.e. impressionism, expressionism, surrealism, Flexus, realism. Are you into found-object art, outsider art or the avant-garde? Or do your tastes run more classical? Do you prefer bold, expressive strokes (The Premier Coup) or more finished work (The Concealed Brushstroke)? Do you enjoy art that tells a story or contains some deeper meaning?
There are many ways to appreciate and determine the quality of a work of fine art. Keep in mind, art only speaks to you when you are quiet. That is why art rarely sells in a nightclub. The impact of quality is often immediate. I like to think of each work of art suggesting its own universe, where certain things are true and others not. Has the artist convinced you they have authority in the universe they have created? In certain universes, some things are more important than others. So trust your instincts. If an artwork speaks to you, listen for what it is saying. Take it aside, spend some quality quiet time with it. Take action. Ask the artist or gallery to hold the work until you can make a final decision. You may live to regret not acquiring a new treasure but rarely have I heard of a person who regretted owning a work of art they really love.
What to look for in a work of art
In addition to the emotional impact, there are other factors to take into consideration. Depending on the art work in question some are more important than others. What is the aesthetic and historical relevance? Aspects such as composition, color, surface, mannerliness (touch), expressiveness are very important in an abstract piece whereas narrative, subject, paint quality, form, figuration and draftsmanship might be more important in realism. There is an archeological aspect to an original artwork, sometimes experienced in the painted surface, that is not always present in the reproduction. Original works of art possess energy; they contain the spirit and effort imbued by the artists themselves. In our image driven society, we must remind ourselves that the real thing has value.
Become acquainted with the jargon of art. Understand the difference and function of “decorative art” vs. “fine art.” Be sure you know the difference between an original and a hand-embellished reproduction. Know the difference between a limited edition and an open edition, which can be reproduced indefinitely. There are no government regulations to prevent fraud in the art world so it is up to the buyer to educate themselves. Be concerned about archival quality – will it stand up over time? Learn to recognize quality in all it’s aspects. You want to be convinced that the artist comes from a place of authority, that they have command over what they have set out to do with their art.
Value vs. Cost
The value of a work of art is not necessarily the same as it’s cost. As with any purchase the art consumer is looking for the value to be the same or greater than the cost. Prices for career artists have come down considerably from the 1980’s. Blue Chip artists (those whose names we all know) continue to rise in value. But not all Blue Chip artists retain their value over time. Art collectors are more savvy today, not as subject to hype and the empty promises of a huge return on investment. Even though art collecting is still considered one of the best long term investments one can make it is not always wise to buy art for the sole purpose of making a financial killing. The bottom line: is the personal satisfaction and value you will derive from owning the work of art worth its cost?
What makes for a good art investment?
Prices are determined by the quality of art, the stature of the artist (gallery/museum shows, notoriety, collections, name recognition, provenance of works, etc) and the Fair Market Value of the artist’s work. The FMV is simply the amount the artist has received for similar works in the past. Emerging artists are a good long term investment if their work is of consistently high quality and if the artist has proven he/she is on a solid career track over time.
Strike while the iron is hot.
The point I want to leave you with is this: if a work of art speaks to you, don’t think about it, don’t worry whether or not its good or if its considered real art. Don’t over think it; just buy it before someone else does. Strangely, whenever someone puts desire onto an artwork, it creates a force in the universe that others pickup on. The piece will almost always be gone when you come back for it.
Virtually any artwork I created is available as 1) a one-of-a-kind Original (certified authentic), 2) a hand-embellished canvas Giclee (certified authentic and limited to 5) or 3) an Artist Proof (certified authentic and limited to 5). All giclees are printed with archival inks on archival canvas and hand-embellished by the artist. All APs are printed with archival inks on archival paper. I have suggested appropriate sizes in editions of 5, but any size giclees and APs can be created ON DEMAND.
Please note: The images of my artworks are copywritten. They are not public domain. On occasion, some are made available for limited licensing, by agreement. Please contact the artist to obtain permission for use or to purchase a user license. Also, please ask Robert about NFTs (non-fungable tokens).
Try it out first! We are happy to come to your home or office, and consult with you about your collection as it relates to your environment, even hanging works of art that interest you for a 2-3 week trial.
Guaranteed Value Statement
The Maniscalco Gallery is pioneering a new concept in collecting art. As a way of standing behind our work and protecting and enhancing the value of their work to our collectors we are guaranteeing the value of each work of art sold at the Maniscalco Gallery. Within one year of purchasing a work of art at the Maniscalco Gallery you have the option to trade up, applying the original cost you paid toward the acquisition of another work of art that is at least twice the price of the original work of art you purchased. Now it is possible to upgrade or change out your collection at a later date without risking the devaluation of your current collection!