In Arts + Entertainment

An Expert’s Advice For Making Smart (And Profitable) Art Investments

Purchasing the perfect piece of art can be considered an art form in itself. Picking the right piece to begin, or add to, your personal collection involves careful consideration of both the artistic and dollar value.

Whether you are a first-time buyer or a serial collector, the art of investing in art requires a bit of know-how. Ahead, we asked Linton and Kay Fine Art gallery director, Gary Kay, exactly what it takes to make smart art investments.

Learn about the landscape

When it comes to putting your dollars down on art, Kay stresses that the main thing is to educate yourself. “Go to exhibitions and become involved,” he says.

Matthew Wright ‘Un-sure’ Image: Linton and Kay Fine Art / Supplied

Saying ‘I’ll know what I like when I see it’ isn’t exactly a winning approach, so anyone serious about investing should be well versed in their personal tastes, prior to seeking a piece for purchase. Shaking the intimidation factor and visiting as many galleries as possible is a good way to help clarify what you’re drawn to.

“A lot of people find galleries intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be an elitist environment at all. Certainly, people shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. There’s no wrong and there’s no right, it’s just what you are drawn to,” says Kay.

Kay is also a big advocate of school art shows – where you can “see an eclectic mix of emerging, and established artists in the same place” – and open studio events.

“There are a lot of open studios where you can actually walk into an artist’s studio and learn about their practice. Those sorts of opportunities are fantastic. One of the biggest privileges for us is actually going into an artist’s studio, seeing a body of work and seeing how they work.”

Follow emerging artists

“If you’re a first-time collector, or if you’re a young collector, following emerging artists is a great way of starting your collections. The upside of that can be enormous,” says Kay. “Fifteen years ago, had we all bought a Ben Quilty, we’d all be sitting pretty.”

The trick is finding and following the work of the right emerging artists. Pinpointing the artists that are making waves in the industry can pay off in spades. To do so, Kay suggests visiting galleries and shows to work out which emerging artists you like and then taking a close look at their CVs.

Ken Done ‘Flat Mountain’ Image: Linton and Kay Fine Art / Supplied

“The CV of an artist is reasonably important because you know if they’re pushing themselves and putting themselves out there,” says Kay. “If they’re entering competitions, if they’re getting involved in art shows, and if they’re visibly furthering their practice, you know they’re committed to what they do.”

Looking at the finalists in the major art prizes, like the Moran and the Archibald, is another indication to which emerging artists you should be following.

“Very often you get the usual names coming up as finalists in art prizes, but once in a while, you get those artists that you think ‘Oh, who’s that? I’ve not seen that name before.’ It’s not always just the usual suspects,” says Kay.

Understand the demand for an artist’s work

“The unique factor about artwork is that they’re one-offs, and that creates a supply and demand. Artists can only produce X amount of works per year,” says Kay. It is a simple equation – the more popular the artist becomes, the harder it is to get your hands on their work, and subsequently, the value of their artworks (both old and new) increases.

“As far as following someone and having a look at that whole supply and demand scenario, if you’re looking at someone with a decent level of popularity, then you have a reasonable investment because you know there’s a demand and a market for the work,” says Kay.

Andy Quilty ‘Portrait #7’ Image: Linton and Kay Fine Art / Supplied

Even though an emerging artist might not yet have the demand of a well-established artist, investing in their earlier works can often pay off tenfold. Not only does an increase in popularity over time make their works more valuable, but their progression as an artist can make their earliest styles of work quite sought-after.

“A good example is Andy Quilty. He doesn’t do biro drawings anymore – you can’t get them. So, for the people that have got them, they’re very rare and actually quite valuable now,” says Kay.

Above all, buy pieces that you love

Everything else aside, Kay insists that you “follow your heart” when it comes to making art investments.

Art is an emotional purchase; therefore, all your pieces should mean something to you. Of course, purchasing art with your wits about its potential resell value is a smart move, but it shouldn’t be your primary focus.

art investments

Ken Done ‘Parrot Fish Moon’ Image: Linton and Kay Fine Art / Supplied

If you’re looking at something every day, it actually has to mean something as well. It really is quite important that you have that emotional connection to the piece,” says Kay.

“If you’re buying work from an artist with a fabulous CV, that’s fantastic, that’s your bonus. But, what you have in your collection reflects who you are. If someone walks into your house, that’s your personality on the wall.”

I’ll always have a connection to either the artist or the piece I’m buying. Otherwise, you may as well put your BHP share certificate on your wall – what’s the point?”

(Lead image: ipet photo / Unsplash) 

Published 19 September, 2019