Today, there are countless venues to buy art. You can shop online, in galleries, at art shows, auctions, or in stores. Whether you are personally dealing with the artist or buying through an agent, buying “smart” means knowing the background of the artist so you can get a better idea of the value of a piece – both at present and in the future. There are different types of artists, and purchasing art from each has their own advantages and disadvantages.
We are not looking at the different media that artists work in (ie: painting, photography, sculpture, etc.); those are also different types of artists, but their differences are fairly self-explanatory. In this article, we are going to take a look at the differences between the business models of artists, and their career stages.
While commission artists may often have a library of their original works, their primary business model is to work specifically for clients. When purchasing artwork from a commissioned artist, you have two options: buy from their established, personal collection, or commission a custom-made piece for yourself. If you’re looking for an abstract with that specific color hue to go into your dining room, adding some aesthetics to your office, or want your favorite dog to be immortalized in oils, commission artists would be perfect for you.
What is the benefit of commissioning an artwork?
The most obvious benefit is that you gain a highly personalized work of art. You could show the artist the space where the artwork will go, and they’ll be able to choose a “mood” that will fit your purposes perfectly. You could even commission a portrait of yourself or your loved ones. It doesn’t get more personal than that.
Some of the most famous portraits by the Renaissance artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Titian were actually created on commission and are now worth thousands of dollars. However, today, there is no strong guarantee that your commissioned artwork will gain value over time, and you shouldn’t commission artwork with an investment value in mind. Pieces done on commission will most likely be heirlooms that your family will pass down from generation to generation and will represent important history of your family tree or an amazing story.
Are there disadvantages to purchasing commissioned artwork?
For one, it can be a gamble when working with a commissioned artist unknown to you. The quality of their work may vary, as their style may typically depend on their clients’ requests.
When you are commissioning an artwork, research the artist thoroughly and consider other pieces that this artist has done: are they similar in style? Do you think you would be able to predict the quality or ‘feel’ of the artwork you commission? Does the artist seem willing to listen to your criticisms and requests, should you have any?
Emerging artists are artists who have not yet established a reputation for themselves. They might be painters, photographers, sculptors; they might be amateur, highly trained, or savants—the medium doesn’t matter. This category of artist is only about the artist’s established reputation.
Often, emerging artists will be recent graduates, but they really can be any age, from any background. Renowned folk artist Grandma Moses only started painting in her 70’s, and one of her works sold for $1.2 million in 2006.
Emerging artists are often still establishing their voices and reputation, and, as such, their works will be less expensive than more established artists’, making it a great investment. A work of art you buy today for $100 might be worth millions some time down the line. However, while it can be extremely profitable to invest early in the next great artist, you should be realistic about the chances of each emerging artist being the next big thing. There are thousands upon thousands of ‘emerging artists’ out there in the world, and not all of them will become the next Vincent Van Gogh.
Because the ‘investment potential’ is so risky and unpredictable, the main reason you should ever buy a work of art from an emerging artist is because you feel a personal connection towards the piece. Value aside, would you still appreciate this artwork? Does it speak to you on an emotional level? Will you enjoy having it in your life, or in your home? Do you consider the work to be a valuable addition to your collection even without any certainty in terms of investment?
Though it can be nearly impossible to predict which artists are going to increase in value in the future, here are some tips to consider if you want to focus primarily on the investment potential of a piece:
Is the artwork original? If you see a work and find yourself thinking, “This is really great,” and “I’ve never seen anything else like this before,” there’s a good chance that other people are thinking the same thing. Originality can be an indication that this artist may be successful in the future.
Is the artist getting noticed? Emerging artists might have a limited exhibition or sales history. However, there are some indications that this artist may be growing in popularity and value. Have they recently won any competitions? Have they been in more exhibitions in the past few years? Are they ‘selling out’? If so, you may have a good investment on your hands.
Is the artist a good self-promoter? These days, marketing and promotion can make the difference between an established artist and an eternally emerging artist. Take a note of what this artist is doing to gain popularity. Do they have a good website? Are they good at networking? How did you find their work? Take note of all of these things. They can be a strong indication of how far this artist might go.
Again, the most important thing is how you feel about the artwork. If you are only buying art for the investment potential, you are not only taking a big risk, but you also aren’t getting the full experience of being a collector. An artwork should speak to you on a personal level, regardless of its value, before you consider purchasing it.
Unlike emerging artists, an established artist will already have a reputation within the art world. They’ll have a strong sales and exhibition history, and may already have regular collectors purchasing their works. Due to their reputation, established artists’ works will be more expensive than the emerging artists’.
Tip: Don’t be fooled by a high price tag. Just because an artist is asking for a few hundred thousand dollars for an artwork doesn’t mean that their works are worth that price. Inquire about former sales and look into their exhibition history.
Buying artwork from an established artist is a far safer investment than buying artwork from an emerging artist, as you have a good idea of this artist’s’ success and notoriety. Like with stocks, you can typically predict the future value of the works by looking at the recent sales trends. Obviously, you want to consider the same factors as you do with emerging artists. Is the work original? What is their popularity? And, of course, you’ll still want to consider whether you feel an emotional connection to the piece. This must be a work that you show off with pride.
Useful Article: Why Buy Original Art?
When buying works for their investment values, be sure that the artwork is signed and original. Remember to take a receipt for your purchase with the date and the amount of money you spent. Whenever possible, you should also request a certificate of authenticity. These will all be very important, whether you want to resell the piece or take out insurance for it.
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