10 Mar 2008

Wait before you sell that painting

As an art collector or investor you may want to sell some of the works in your collection and buy newer works. Unfortunately, due to tremendous media hype a lot of people have begun to look at art as a short cut to wealth. In six months. That is a myth. Art should always be looked at as a long-term investment. There might be isolated cases where someone has made money by selling a work in 6 months, but these are exceptions to the rule. If one is lucky enough to find a buyer who is willing to pay more than the market price for the work you own, then that is another story. In general, it is not easy to sell art in the secondary market unless you are either a part of or have contacts with a network of consultants, dealers, buyers and investors.

Some art galleries and dealers may assure young and new investors that they can always resell the painting, but in fact selling an artwork is very different from selling gold or shares. Although, gallery offers may appear tempting, one must take the time to consider that your money will be effectively ‘locked-in’ for a certain period when you invest in art. According to a Delhi based art consultant as an investor you must be aware that you must hold the work with you for a minimum of 3 years to get decent returns. In fact, if you can wait a five-year period that is an optimum timeframe which will fetch you better returns.

Investors who have been buying art for several years will happily tell you stories about how they bought a Husain for Rs 250 many decades ago. In fact in those days art was not looked upon as an investment avenue, but some of these ‘investors’ who have held on to their Husains, Razas and Padamsees are now probably a part of the millionaire club. In any case, the point is that one should not be in a hurry to sell art. Keep a pulse on the market, which will give you an idea how prices and the demand for that particular artist is evolving, which will also help you in making the decision.

(Published in Financial Times)

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