I wish to follow up on yesterday’s blog about the opportunities in the fine arts market. There is no question that art is where it's at when it comes to making money in the antique and collectible markets, but not all art qualifies for this opportunity. It is up to you to evaluate each painting as to its value and desirability. “But what am I supposed to watch for?” should be the question that you're asking.
I will try to summarize the steps that I hope the members of our club will take in evaluating fine art. First, remember that it isn't about you. When purchasing, you must have knowledge of what is in demand and what others are looking for. This is easily accomplished by staying up to date on current trends and auction prices. Yesterday, I asked that you keep a list of artists that you wish to follow. These artists should be ones for which the prices of their works are increasing, not just artists who appeal to you. Following these artists can be as easy as just typing in their names on Yahoo to see where paintings by them are being sold and at what prices.
My second step is a very important factor in purchasing art. Consider whether it needs repair and if so, what would be its value when restored. Most art works will suffer some discount in value when restored. I will give you an example of what I'm talking about. One of the artists I follow is William McKendree Snyder. I often buy his paintings and enjoy them for a while before passing them on to other collectors. The other day a lady called and really elevated my blood pressure. It seemed she had two large portraits by Snyder of Indian chiefs. They pictured Geronimo and another chief and were painted on leather. I could hardly wait for more information, but when it came my enthusiasm dropped. It seem that they had never been framed and they were rolled up for many years. When they were unrolled, they suffered some paint damage and two inches of the Geronimo painting broke off. I quickly figured what the restoration would cost and had to pass on the painting because I just couldn't see the profit I needed being obtained, even after the restoration was completed. Boy did I hate not buying them because they had everything that I could have wished for: Indians, the right artist and size, but I had to pass.
The third element is one that many dealers miss when deciding on what paintings to add into their inventory. Even if the painting you are considering is by a good artist, be sure that it represents a work that is sought after by the collectors. Take for example Williams Gollings, a very well known western artist. If you find a landscape or still life that he painted, it might crack $1000, but his western cowboy paintings can bring well over $100,000. But you have to be able to break it down even further than that. In Gollings’ case, he painted around the turn of the century. His early works from 1900 to 1915 sell very reasonably, but once you find his works from the 1920's and later, watch out because the sky is the limit. Most artists have a period in their painting careers in which they seem to have produced their best works and this has to be taken into consideration when you are purchasing paintings.
Now I think you may be understanding why art was the last market that I undertook to study because there are so many things that add to the value of a painting that aren't apparent at first sight. When it comes to art, be prepared to make it a life long study. The rewards will be substantial.
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