Art can be many things to collectors. A surge of emotion, a conversation starter, a finishing touch, or maybe even a beloved memory. Yet there is another word that collectors should learn to associate with art and their collections if not doing so already: investment. For be it a practical investment, emotional investment, financial investment or all of these, all original artwork is, and can be, an investment in one way or another.
There is first the fact that the majority of original artwork offers longevity, making it a practical investment in the long term. For example, while prints can be an excellent and cost-effective alternative to original artwork, the reality remains that they will fade, discolour and require replacing; depending on the amount of sunlight exposure a print receives, this can occur in as little as a year or two. On the other hand, the breakdown of oil paints is much slower, meaning that if an oil painting is well looked after, it can last hundreds of years, and even be passed from generation to generation. One only need set foot in a gallery such as the Louvre or The National Gallery to see the endurance of fine art, with many paintings dating back to the 14th century. Most collectors feel this kind of quality and longevity is worth investing in up front, and as such, select original artwork such as oil paintings, ceramics and sculpture, or even limited edition sculptures for their collections.
In addition to being a practical investment, original artwork can also be viewed as an emotional investment. Art has a powerful ability to evoke emotion, thought and memory, which in turn make it a natural contributor to wellbeing. It therefore goes without saying that an investment in original artwork is in many ways, an investment in one’s own wellbeing. By incorporating original artwork into daily life, a collector is able to harness the emotional power of art and use it to curate the mood of his or her environment. Each chosen artwork serves as a deeply personal emotional stimulant, and can inspire anything from wondrous awe to warm nostalgia—an attribute that in the eyes of many, more than pays for itself over time. Well-selected pieces can bring pleasure day in and day out for a lifetime, which for most collectors, is perhaps the greatest joy of owning original artwork.
There is also the potential that artwork can be a financial investment. The art market is continually growing and evolving, with prices that fluctuate as artists enter, exit and themselves evolve. The nature of this market means that on the most basic level, there is always a possibility that the value of an artist’s work will go up in the future, particularly if he or she is becoming well-known or is gaining popularity. Picasso, L.S. Lowry, Ken Howard, David Shepherd—they were all at one time emerging artists. One of the most exciting things about art collecting is watching with pride as the career of an artist develops; naturally it becomes even more so when the value of his or her artwork increases, resulting in a gain for both artist and collector.
In recent years, financially investing in artwork has become a more intentional choice for those seeking alternative or more tangible investments. As investors are increasingly seeking to diversify their portfolios, more and more people are considering fine art as a long-term financial investment. Last year alone leading fine art auction house Christie’s reported sales of £4.8 billion. With these kinds of figures, it is no wonder fine art is increasingly drawing the eyes of potential investors. If considering buying art as a serious investment, speak with a financial advisor to discuss options that may be available. As with any investment, nothing is guaranteed; so collectors should always buy artwork based on personal taste first and investment second. But by carrying out reasonable research and seeking the advice of trusted professionals when starting or adding to a collection, artwork can offer both immense pleasure and potentially, a long-term financial return.
At its very core, the creation of original artwork is a magnificent phenomenon, and as such, each individual artwork a masterpiece. Engaging in such a personal way with a collection of artwork, and even participating in the act of collecting itself, can bring great delight; but by further recognising this artwork as an investment, an additional plane of appreciation is added, yet again increasing the limitless pleasure and satisfaction a collection can bring.