4 Jul 2016

Art Investment: The Fine Art of Collecting

This article was published in Tapasya, a publication by the Indira Institute of Management Pune
 

The Fine Art of Collecting

The last couple of decades have seen a tremendous surge in terms of awareness and interest in art. Suddenly names like Souza, Raza and Husain are familiar, not to just those within the art community but also outside it. Clearly, this change has not taken place overnight. The economic liberalization policies in the early nineties and the subsequent spurt in economic growth resulted in substantial amounts of disposable income that was accessible for splurging and also for financial investments. Simultaneously, the advent of global luxury brands in India introduced the middle and the upper middle class to luxury products, symbols of societal status and high living. For the first time one could purchase a wide range of aspirational products in India. This exposure to luxury brands and hi-end products was instrumental in creating and widening a buyer base that had a penchant for art, artefacts and collectibles.
Art Investment: The Fine Art of Collecting by Nalini Malaviya
This was also a period when many art galleries set up operations or expanded their businesses, thereby increasing their reach and creating multiple access points for art connoisseurs. In fact, this was a phase when art was positioned and promoted as a viable asset class that could generate large financial returns. Unfortunately, the subsequent crash in the market led to the economic downturn which also affected the art market immensely. It helped in dispelling the myth that all art could be a financial asset in the short term, or that there were parallels between investing in art and in stocks and shares, real estate or gold. In a way this led to correction of art prices and has eventually helped in stabilizing the art market to an extent. It has also shifted the focus back on art as a medium of creative expression, its aesthetics and its visual content rather than stay confined to names, price brackets and returns.

In this context, collecting art has caused some confusion especially for the first time buyer and collector. It Art Investment: The Fine Art of Collecting by Nalini Malaviyabecomes difficult for them to gauge and assess which art to buy, at what price points to enter the market, which artist to invest in and in general what to expect. Yet, art as an aspirational collectible continues to draw connoisseurs who have an eye for the finer things in life and can afford to indulge in luxurious living. Research and an avid interest in art can aid in developing a keen eye for art and also empower buyers on commercial aspects.

For instance, paintings by old masters or contemporary art in various media are coveted for the artist names which have become synonymous with high end brands; however, apart from artist names, thematic content, concept and execution are paramount in contemporary art. With increasing art awareness, a familiarity with artists’ names, local galleries and prominent auction houses is created which empowers the buyer when buying art. As art events, shows and auction reports are widely publicized in the media it helps in keeping abreast of upcoming artists, trends and sale figures. All of which can be valuable when buying art.

Collecting art

Building an art collection can be a rewarding experience, both aesthetically and as a viable investment option, albeit in the long term. It is important to be clear and identify the motives for collecting art, and a passion for the arts should be the driving force. A visual investment should take precedence over all other aspects.

One should also realize that significant collections are difficult to build overnight, but instead they tend to evolve organically over a period of time. In the initial stages, they are driven by the collector's tastes and preferences, however, later on they may get refined further due to conscious efforts. Sometimes, the choice of the collector is governed by considerations such as budget, available space, and time required for such an activity.

When selecting art, it helps to keep in mind if the collection is a private one or if it might be put on public display at a later date. One can buy representative art from various periods or focus on a specific school, style of painting, era or artist. It is also essential to realize that an art collection, unlike one comprising of smaller collectibles needs a larger space, and special care in terms of lighting and maintenance.

The process of buying art can be an exciting and rewarding one – visiting art shows, interacting with artists, critics and gallerists, reading and researching on art are activities which help immensely in selecting art for the collection. It is possible that there will be times, when one is forced to overlook personal tastes in favour of deliberate choices, which would benefit the entire collection as a whole.

When one is collecting art, irrespective of the initial investment, the overall value of the collection is likely to go up with time. Therefore, it is important to do the necessary research and take the time to build one that will be significant in terms of historical content and also its financial worth. When collecting art, it is essential to periodically review the artworks and see if some of them need to be sold off to either make space for new works or in order to build a more coherent compilation.

Art Investment: The Fine Art of Collecting by Nalini MalaviyaThe Indian art scene

The current art scene has much to offer to discerning collectors and buyers. The recently held India Art Fair, New Delhi has grown to be a significant event in the region and attracts a large number of international audiences as well. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale has also emerged as a major art event which showcases several exhibitions and organizes art and culture related programmes for its entire duration. A number of other art exhibitions and festivals that are organized in tier II cities ensure that local audiences are engaged and there is a buzz around art.

Art auction major Sotheby's will be opening its first office in the country in Mumbai in March this year. The auction house Christie's has seen its business grow at a faster clip in India since its first sales in December 2013, and its auction figures saw a sharp surge in 2015.

The contemporary art scene is clearly vibrant and should thrive further in the years to come. The online space is a fast evolving and attractive arena which is expected to see more players. Art ecommerce ventures are likely to grow and hopefully offer greater diversity and curated artworks to its buyers. There is a marked interest in Indian modern and contemporary art and an emerging attentiveness towards classical Indian art, which makes it an exciting phase for art connoisseurs.
 
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