Investing in the contemporary art scene, where new artists set to become hugely sought-after in years to come constantly surface, is tempting, but also daunting for the novice. Here authorities in the field of contemporary art offer advice.
“I always tell clients to buy with their heart, but to also let their brain come into play,” says Han-I Wang, a specialist in post-war and contemporary art first for Christie’s and now for Gagosian Gallery.
“That means buying with a strategy. For example, you might want to set a maximum bid before you buy at auction.”
She suggests previewing sales catalogues to review items’ condition reports and visit the auction galleries beforehand to see the works.
“To understand art that’s hot and popular, go back to its origins. Today’s street art of Banksy and Invader is related to the earlier pop art work of Keith Haring, even though it might be of a different genre.
“If you have questions, ask to talk to a specialist who can offer personalised advice,” Wang says.
She believes provenance is important. “In simple terms, provenance is the record of ownership for a work of art.
“Did an important collector own the piece? Has it been exhibited before? These factors will play into the work’s price, so keep an eye out for this information in the sale catalogues,” she advises.
“It sounds basic, but Instagram is another great way for collectors to learn about artists,” says Bianca Chu, head of sales for First Open in London.
Lindsay Griffith, a specialist in prints and multiples, agrees: “Social media has democratised the art world, allowing for dialogue, more accessible previews and even some behind-the-scenes insights. It’s now wise to search event hashtags and see lots of images.”
Keep an eye out for editions, Griffith advises.
“Editions, or prints, are any works made from paper, ink or an image source such as a woodcut or lithograph. These aren’t reprints. Many have been touched by the artist’s hand.
“They give collectors the chance to acquire art from well-known names at more accessible prices and are exciting works in their own right. The piece’s value will depend on the condition and technique, among other factors,” says Griffith.