THE ART OF BUYING ART
by Roy Mackey
GOLD, SILVER, ART AND ANTIQUES
OR… WHY AND HOW TO INVEST IN ART
You got to admit that the last few years have been pretty fascinating as far as property investment goes. People have been getting rich overnight just buying a selling a few homes! It has been so crazy that any house with a broken fence and in need of a paint job probably gets hundreds of anxious buyers trying to buy the place. Those are the best ones to buy for quick turnover since you can make the improvements yourself and then not feel as guilty jacking up the price for quick and huge profit. Housing prices have been skyrocketing and likely more because of this than anything. Of course all the smart buyers I know said they were going to get out just after the Olympics when the prices were supposed to crash. Dang! That prediction is starting to look like it may be coming sooner! Let’s cross our fingers that this is not the case for their sake. That way they still have a chance to dump their bum deals onto someone else.
Just the same though I often wonder how high can the prices go? As it is now in Vancouver most people are known to be “house poor” If everyone is spending everything they have on housing and don’t have enough left for new cars and other stuff it could get complicated. Car dealer would lay off all their salesmen and who would then buy all those new houses? I read somewhere online or maybe in the National Enquirer that most housing/condo sales were due to speculators trying to get in on the gravy train of profit. Can’t blame them as I would have done the same had I been a little smarter. This of course created a false sense of demand. But like most things in life there seems to be a cycle and the hints are here that the down part is coming fast.
Is this a big surprise? Not really if you have ever read any good investment books written by the rich. I have read quite a few and one thing I noticed is the common saying that “when everyone is running up the street you should be walking down it” This always seemed to be true to me since what better time to sell than when you have hundreds of eager buyers at the door. Maybe not so much right now but a few months ago it was definitely the case with real estate. Someone would put a house for sale and it would always end up selling for more than the asking price! How could it get any better! Those sellers had good timing since now everywhere you look you see “Price Reduced”
I remember reading awhile ago that Warren Buffet, against the advice of most newspaper financial advisers, bought up all the silver he could. The idiot! Everyone was selling it and he comes along and buys! What a fool since it had already gone down to $5. give or take. Now that I think about it though it seems he may have been onto something. In fact he may have read that same book that said walk when everyone’s running!
Well all of this is leading up to my point that it is time to buy all the good art you can. Why? because another thing it said in that book was that in tough times the very rich buy gold, silver, art and antiques! They do this because like land they always go up in value, are limited in supply and unlike land can easily be taken with them if the need arises.
To those who may have not noticed America the last few years has seemed anxious to build walls around the country which some believe is to “Keep The Poor People Out” Honestly though I am not sure how many Americans are concerned about Mexicans grabbin up all those five dollar an hour fruit pickin jobs. I have heard from some others that the walls are more to keep the people in! You rarely have to fight to keep people in a country that is thriving unless of course someone knows the thriving aint going to last. Hmmm... If I remember right from high school there were some Germans that built walls around their country. I guess it was quite a job and kept a lot of people working. If I also remember correctly they shot a lot of people trying to get through that wall. Apparently though not many of the people who were shot were trying to get in. I just figured they got into the habit of containing people in big pens and had taken a shine to that kind of activity. Who knows but there have been some record art sales broken this last while. Kind of strange in hard times you would think...
Just an added update here. Apparently the number of US citizens giving up there citizenship averaged about 150-200 a year for years. Over the last three years it has suddenly gone up to 2000 !!! Now my guess is most of those are on the richer side of life and thus may know more than the average person does.
Anyway to confirm this “buy art” theory I was recently talking to a gallery from New York State that was very interested in my art. They said they are selling artwork like no tomorrow! He asked me if I knew why and sure enough it was the same theory. I guess he read that same book also.
INVEST IN ART!!
Now if you have enough money I would highly recommend buying a Van Gogh or Picasso. At the same time though if you don’t have fifty million to invest then you may have to look a little lower on the scale. Doing this in fact it could be even more exciting since you have a chance to discover an unknown artist and get in before the prices skyrocket. If you are not sure where to begin I will give you a few pointers below.
First off if you are intending to invest in art do yourself a favor and bypass the “Prints Charming” option. Sure there all sorts of tales out there about their skyrocketing values but why buy a copy when you can get an original, it may be from a different artist but just the same. I know I would rather own one pound of real silver any day over a half pound of fake gold. To hear more on this check out my “Printz Charming” post:
The next thing I recommend is deciding what kind of work you want to invest in. If you don’t care then you can skip this step and go straight to THE GALLERY OPTION below.
From my limited and naive perspective I think there are some artists who are selling well and then those who are more historical that may not be selling well. Usually if you have cutting edge tastes you will attract to the latter. This option is a bigger gamble as far as investment goes but then the payoff is often far more long term. IE: you may have heard of Van Gogh’s brother who bought some of ole Van’s work to keep him alive. My guess though is you never did hear much about his second cousin Eddy who died of sunstroke while out cutting hay. (whom I might add didn’t buy art)
Now this is not to say that all artists that are selling work are not doing historical work but you have to remember that selling does not mean it is historical either. One thing you can trust is the fact that rarely is historical work recognized by the galleries of the time. Mind you if you are looking just for investment then who cares about historical an artist’s sales are number one.
When it comes to buying art I myself am a fan of buying pre-gallery artists. I have a few reasons for this but the biggest is the price. Most pre-gallery artists sell for a fraction of what they would with a gallery. Once the gallery has scooped them then the prices often jump substantially. This means you have already missed a big chunk of the easy money. I have heard it said that a lot of galleries are more keen to pick up and artist that is selling work than one who is not! This is a double bonus since the more work I buy from an artist then the more likely a gallery will pick that artist up!! Hopefully though not before I have picked and paid for all the good pieces I want!! I have a few artists on my “Secret list” , aside from me, who fit this bill perfectly. I plan to buy as much of their work as I can as soon as I can!
What I often look for in an artist first off is someone who is committed to their work, doing their work and has proven it with years of productivity. Fresh out of art school graduates may be doing great work but two years later, when the real world sucker punches them, where are they? Often selling timeshares or Real Estate or into network marketing! I believe a good investment artist must have a large body of work that is growing steadily. That way there is enough work out there to create a demand. Demand of course drives up the price. Some years of selling antiques quickly showed me the surprising fact that rarity does not create the price… demand does!! The one artist in particular I am keen on is definitely historical. Send me twenty bucks after I score a few more of his works and I will give you his name. In the meantime go find your own patch of berries! : )
If you are not sure where to begin I would start with getting clear in your head. If you are one, (and don’t fool yourself here), who likes to follow the advice of idiots like me and other self declared wise people then again jump to THE GALLERY OPTION below. Nothing wrong with following good advice but knowing this makes a difference on your path.
On the other hand if you are one who takes your own advice, does your own thing, and rarely needs direction from anyone then you need a different path.
For you I would check out your local arts scene. Most cities these days have “Art Walks” or “Artist Open Studio Weekends” where artists open their studios to show the public what they do. These are vital to attend for a few reasons. First they often show a lot of artists that are committed to their work. After all they often have studios and are putting in major self motivated effort to promote themselves. I have been in lots and it really is a huge effort! Not only that but a lot of the artists involved are “pre-gallery” thus the prices are often far cheaper. It also gives you a chance to check the artist out in person to feel out his level of commitment etc. You can often learn a lot by talking to an artist about their work and where they are planning to go with it. I spent six years managing the Artist Resource Centre here in Vancouver BC and saw a lot of artists come and go. It is amazing how many good artists cave in to the call of consumerism and regular jobs!
The Eastside Culture Crawl here in Vancouver has usually over two or three hundred artists open their studios to the public for a three day weekend. There are a couple more of these events in the city also. You can check out your city and will likely find the same.
When “what to buy” comes along again you have to trust your feelings. Art is all subjective and about feelings. In my opinion most of the art I see is junk. Who cares though since we all know you have to move a lot of gravel to get to the gold. Not only that but when I say junk that means junk to me. I want to buy art that I love, that looks cool, that feels cool, that draws people in, and that gets people talking, yet is clean impressive and realistic but not necessarily realism. I don’t want some controversial “dead rat nailed to a board” piece that lives on shock value alone. Keeeripes I swear the shock value thing has been beaten to death already. Talk about old hat. Just the same that may be right up your alley! If so then go for it. Don’t follow my two bit advice. I think art reflects to us a part of who we are, or maybe a part of who we are that we want to get in touch with. If a piece of art connects you to some part of you that you are missing then go for it. You might find that rat nailed to the board is a perfect way to get out of your conforming day job as the local preacher and into some other part of you!
I find I can often tell when I see a good piece of art (I like) since I usually get a rush right away. Then I start to worry that someone else is going to score it before I can gather up enough empty beer cans to buy it. Money and investment aside if it still feels good then I am even more motivated. Hearing too much “good” advice about some up and coming artist can cloud my perspective on whether I like the artists work or not. Easy profit often clouds everyone’s thinking and often leads to no profit. I would rather have art I have loved and not made a dime on than junk I hate but thought was a good investment and never made a dime on!!! : )
THE BIG TRUTH OR LIE…
BUYING ART HURTS, IS SCARY,
AND A WASTE OF GOOD MONEY!!!
If you can get beyond the above then you are home free. Most people never do though because good sense gets the best of them. You can tell those people since they are always telling you about the fish that got away…. Dang I was going to buy all these shares once and never did. Now that company is Microsoft. That’s what happens. Of course the other guy bought shares and is now basking in the glories of capitalism! You don’t buy the ticket you don’t win.
IT IS ALSO TIME TO GET OVER IT! BUYING ART IS EXPENSIVE!!
If you can't afford it then you can always hit Big Box
and score a new tv on payments.
Though think back to the sixties give or take. Where is that brand new stereophonic sound system you bought?? Well my guess is the landfill. If you bought an original Andy Warhol piece instead where would it be now? Likely under lock and key with an armed guard!! Ten years from now I will likely care less that I had a tacky iphone and will be kicking my ass that I did not buy one more piece of art work from the guy on my “secret list”
Remember old Confucius saying: You can’t collect the jackpot...
if you don't place yer bets!!!!
Now if you don’t want to bother, have a lot of money and just want to score some good investment art then check out the Gallery option below. You will pretty well be safe since most reputable galleries are pretty honest. One of things that appear to happen with art in galleries is that once a gallery starts selling an artist’s work it keeps going. They tell people it is quite popular and thus more people buy it which makes it appear more popular and off it goes. Sure galleries may tell you different but generally I have noticed that the more work an artist sells they more they sell.
THE GALLERY OPTION
Check out local galleries and ask questions. Most will give you a good idea on who is the hot up and coming and in fact they will likely be the artists they are handling themselves! This is great and makes it very easy. If you are not sure about their intentions then you can always check the other galleries. They will likely say the same about their up and coming group of artists. But if you check enough galleries then you will at least find an up and coming artist that you like. After all if you are going to invest in art why not make it art you feel good about.
MORE VITAL POINTS!!
Don’t buy art you don’t like! For Pete’s sake get a day job that pays better if you want to get rich. Besides if you are already quite successful it is likely because you followed your own path and made your own decisions! Trust those same instincts to guide you toward the art to buy. Don’t let some overzealous gallery confuse you with numbers and facts about the artist’s popularity. Remember very often the very best things in life never start off as popular. That is why good artist’s that are ahead of their time rarely start off as popular. Course that’s often true with a lot of things as our friend Bill will attest to.
When it comes to art think forward. Don’t buy work that looks just like some other famous artist’s work. What for? Look for something new that’s cutting edge, but not gimmicky. Something timeless and lasting. Anything that blends to much with today’s couch styles is going to fade with today’s couch styles. Fuck the couch color. If you have to, show some spine and leave your wife, husband, or significant other home when you are buying art. Real art is not there to match anything!!! It is there to inspire, motivate, remind, change, clarify, heal and possibly express parts of who you really are. Not to blend with the couch. If you are worrying about it blending then you have likely shut down what you are feeling. If you want art that “matches” go to Ikea! Chances are you will save enough money to invest in the next dotcom scheme!
At the same time don’t go for art that is outlandish or bizarre just so it will stand out and shock your friends. Buying art is really a chance to be honest! Just like Halloween is the one and only time of year that we actually take off our masks! (at least for those that dress up) We let who we really are out! That’s a scary thought! After all wasn’t it you who dressed up as that big breasted hooker a few years back? : )
In regards to gimmicky don’t be dazzled by new and exciting techniques! Those fade fast. Especially these days with all sorts of new and gimmicky processes coming out. Artist’s often get hold of those techniques and try to turn them in to something new, cool and trendy. They fade once people are no longer impressed with the electronicy this or gizmoy that.
Serious artist’s often have a passion for a process or style that sticks. They work at expanding it farther and farther. This is not to say that they would change and embrace new mediums. If they did though their style often shows through. Trendy artists are always looking for the next velvet painting scheme. Ooooohhhh aaaaahhhh work gets boring very fast. Sure at first it feels/looks nice but soon it’s whatever….
As a final note the one name I will give you on my “Secret List” is me. I have kept quiet up till now but that’s because I have finally built a private collection of my work that is big enough. Now I am willing to let some of the excess go. Of course I am producing new works all the time but some of those I also intend to keep for my private collection. Though as far as all the other names on my list… like I said before, “go find your own patch of berries!!”