20 Feb 2009

Not the best time to sell art

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

During a financial crunch, people like to have the option of selling part of their assets to obtain liquidity. In the recent past art had been promoted aggressively as an alternative asset class and many buyers invested large portions of money in it in the hope of receiving good returns. However, most people who had invested in art without sufficient knowledge of the art market dynamics are now struggling to resell their works. Although, many galleries began offering buy back guarantees on the works they sold, this often came with clauses regarding timeframe, returns and valid for only select artists. Now that investors are facing major problems in reselling art, most of them are disappointed and disillusioned with art an investment option. It is important to realize that investing in art is an altogether different ball game compared to investing in traditional assets such as stocks, real estate and gold.

At this point in time, there are a large number of people looking to exit but unfortunately given the financial constraints permeating all sectors of the market, it is a difficult option. Many of these investors had bought art hoping for quick and high returns, and while this did happen during the boom period it is an extremely unlikely scenario at the moment.
Still, if an investor needs to exit now, he could either sell directly to a private buyer or through a gallery or a dealer. Rare or high quality works can also be sold through an auction house and one may want to consider that also as an option. As art prices have dropped recently if one is selling now, one should be realistic about the selling price. As we have mentioned in the past also, ideally this is not a good time to exit unless one is forced to. If possible hold on to the work for at least another two to three years.

(Published in Financial Times)

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