The fine art of buying art

2014-08-22 12:51

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Buying art is scary. Some of it hardly increases in value, while other art is bought “cheap” and is worth millions a few years later.

For anyone who does not have an intimate knowledge of the artists or going rates, buying an art work can be really tricky.

For investors in South African art, however, the experience has generally been good. This is because of the quality of local art and the fact that it has been hugely popular internationally. With the FNB Joburg Art Fair on the go this weekend, City Press asked some experts to help you through the minefield.

William Kentridge – The Refusal Of Time

Julie Taylor, founder and director of online art platform Guns & Rain

1. Must I buy to invest or must I buy what I like?

The two don’t have to be exclusive. But in general, buy what you like.

If your hedged investment bets don’t work out in your favour then you still have an artwork that you really enjoy each day.

2. Who should I buy if I have:

a. R1 million to spend

Don’t spend it all at once. Maybe a Robert Hodgins or two.

b. R50 000 to spend

Consider the work of Deborah Bell and Peter Clarke (who passed away earlier this year), and emerging Zimbabwean artists Wycliffe Mundopa and Virginia Chihota.

c. R5 000 to spend

A limited edition print by Mongezi Ncaphayi or Themba Khumalo.

3. What names should I be looking for? – up and coming artists and established

For young emerging artists, keep an eye on artists who are coming out of the art collectives like Artist Proof Studio, Assemblage, the Bag Factory and Greatmore Studios, as well as those who do well in local competitions – Portia Zvavahera won this year’s FNB Joburg Art Fair prize, for example, and Luyanda Zindela and Bevan de Wet won the merit awards in Absa’s L’Atelier competition.

4. In terms of an investment, what are the returns on art and are these short or long-term gains?

There are a small number of savvy (or perhaps just lucky) players out there who successfully “flip” art for high short-term gains. For the rest of us mere mortals, it’s better to take a longer term view, which could be anything between five and 25 years, maybe even longer. Returns are unpredictable and can vary widely.

5. Is art investment just the preserve of big business?

Definitely not. Many people don’t realise that there is plenty of affordable yet high quality art out there.

South Africa has a strong community of visual artists, so there is something for everyone, starting as low as a few hundred rand. A good way to get a feel for what kind of art is being produced, and the price ranges, is to visit collectives, galleries and art fairs on a regular basis.

6. What are the common mistakes that art buyers make?

Don’t rush into making a decision about your purchase, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. Take your time to learn about the artists who interest you, and to view a variety of their artworks. Try to identify promising artists earlier rather than later in their careers, and avoid buying an artist just because they’re currently trendy.

7. Is it okay to buy art online? It seems so impersonal and hard to judge scale.

Viewing art online will never match the real life experience. But with good technology in place you can still get a great idea of what the artwork is like. Several online platforms let you rent before you buy, or give the option to return an artwork if you don’t like it. The great thing about online art is that it helps emerging artists, especially those in Africa, reach new audiences that they would never have otherwise. Last but not least, art lovers who find gallery or museum environments intimidating often feel much more comfortable scouting for new art from their desktop.

8. Is online buying a big thing in the art world?

Art is moving online in a big way. It’s still early days, but it’s moving fast. Online art won’t replace the traditional offline gallery model, but will certainly complement it. We’re seeing a plethora of new online galleries, a number of online-only auction platforms, and even the rise of digital art that has been created purely for consumption on screens. As the global public’s comfort with digital channels increases, so will demand for online art services. Last year, for example, more than 25% of those who bought art online were under the age of 30.

Love by Stanley Pinker

Michelle Constant

Chief executive, Business and Arts South Africa

1. Must I buy to invest or must I buy what I like?

I always think one should choose what one likes. After all, you have to live with an artwork.

2. Who should I buy if I have:

a. R1 million to spend:

(or more!) William Kentridge, Stanley Pinker

b. R50 000 to spend

David Goldblatt, Jo Ractliffe

c. R5 000 to spend:

I just bought a lovely series of works by an artist called Pebofatso Mokoena; also, Collen Maswanganyi’s smaller sculptures

3. What names should I be looking for? – up and coming artists and established

The list is endless. Look out for the work of Sindiso Nyoni and photographer Lebohang Kganye in the up and coming. Then in established, I love Joni Brenner’s work, among many others.

4. In terms of an investment, what are the returns on art and are these short or long-term gains?

I’ve always thought of it as a long-term gain.

5. Is art investment just the preserve of big business? Not at all. There is no doubt that if you choose your art carefully, do your research, and you have good art advisors, you can become an art investor. There are plenty of extremely savvy collectors in this country. Just go to any art opening and auction.

Part of a work by Kudzanai Chiurai

Marianne Fassler – designer and art collector

1. Must I buy to invest or must I buy what I like?

Always buy what you like, but it helps to be informed and interested in art. A good dealer will also ignite a spark and guide you in the right direction, but it is essential to cultivate a love of art by attending exhibitions and getting to grips with the subject

2. Who should I buy if I have:

a. R1 million to spend

Never been in that position, but I would probably head straight for El Anatsui (just a small piece) or Nicholas Hlobo or perhaps a beautiful Stanley Pinker

b. R50 000 to spend

Photography, photography and more photography. Kudzanai Chiurai, Gerald Machona or even Walter Oltmann’s drawings.

c. R5 000 to spend

A small piece by Gerald Machona, or visit David Krut Gallery. They have some stunning original prints. Art auctions at Russell Kaplan or Stephan Welz & Co are a treasure trove of bargains … from artists in the 70s to current. This is where you pick up the real bargains but do beware of fraud … choose your auctioneer carefully.

3. What names should I be looking for? – up and coming artists and established

Depends on what you love but I am really intent on laying my hands on an iconic Gerhard Marx.

4. In terms of an investment, what are the returns on art and are these short or long-term gains?

I would only sell my art to trade up. If you buy what you love you will not want to part with anything … unless of course you are also buying smarter or know better in retrospect.

Art appreciates in the long term and should be well looked after while in your keep.

5. Is art investment just the preserve of big business?

I think big business is able to buy the big iconic pieces, but some carefully selected small pieces can be equally good investments. Never buy ordinary pieces from good artists. Like property, you should always buy the best you can afford.

6. What are the common mistakes that art buyers make?

They buy art to decorate their homes … big mistake!

Kyle Morland

Warren Siebrits – art curator and collector

1. Must I buy to invest or must I buy what I like?

Buy what you like

2. Who should I buy if I have:

a. R1 million to spend

Candice Breitz

b. R50 000 to spend

Andrzej Urbanski

c. R5 000 to spend

Walter Battiss

3. What names should I be looking for? – up and coming artists and established

Kyle Morland, Mia Chaplin, Lisa Brice and Penny Siopis

4. In terms of an investment, what are the returns on art and are these short or long -term gains?

To make a financial return one normally has to hold a work for at least a decade. In some cases one can make hundreds of percent in return on one’s initial capital outlay. I must stress that this is the exception and by no means the rule.

5. Is art investment just the preserve of big business?

No

6. What are the common mistakes that art buyers make?

Listening to the opinion of others. To beat a trend you have to make a trend.

 

 

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