A Practical Guide to Purchasing Art

Sebastien Laboreau

The art market is booming and original pieces have become an alternative investment. Review the golden rules before buying a work of art.

The art market is showing more strength than ever supported by a growing international demand, as demonstrated notably by the increasing frequentation and frequency of art fairs all over the world. This is further seen in the record highs achieved recently for modern and contemporary works at major auction houses in New York, London, and globally.

Buying Art
Sebastien Laboureau.

In fact, the global fine art market has now reached historical peaks in 2014. But one does not have to be a super-collector nor a billionaire to collect art, some new segments of the art market such as Urban Art are great opportunities for younger and newer collectors, and Miami is a well-known capital for Urban Art.
Miami as a global cultural hub

In 2014, a record of over 73,000 international visitors attended Art Basel Miami Beach at the Convention Center, whereas more than 82,500 attendees visited Art Miami and Context. Miami Beach and Miami have seen a radical transformation since the creation of Art Basel Miami Beach that has had a considerable impact in our communities. For example, it is estimated that, what has become one of the most important art fairs in the world, now injects the city with over USD 500 million per year.

Nowhere in the world, one can find more peripheral art fairs; we have counted more than 20 this year, and even more pop-ups and various artistic events with such a strong quality and intensity!

However Miami has an exciting art scene to offer all year-round, with the Wynwood Art District and its now famous Wynwood Walls, where some of the most important urban artists have painted entire walls and counting more than 40 art galleries and private collections, but also the Design District with an impressive line-up of the most important luxury brands, the revival of Downtown notably with the world-acclaimed new PAMM museum, and many more… Miami has truly become a global cultural hub.

Buying Art

This being said, it is never easy to purchase art at any level. There are many ways to purchase artworks (at auction, from art galleries, at art fairs), and prices always include different kinds of fees and commissions depending on the origin of the artwork, so it is important to know how to navigate the art world and to apply a few simple rules in order to make the right purchase at the right price.
The Golden Rules For Buying An Artwork

Only buy what you love. This is the most important rule of all. You must be ready to live with the artwork you purchase for a long time, and ultimately if you love the artwork you purchase, you will never be wrong… You will be astonished at the impact an artwork can have in your own life.

Familiarize yourself with art. Art is an intimate journey, one you can share with your family and friends. Knowledge is key and to acquire this knowledge, one has to visit museums, go to art fairs, galleries and attend auctions as frequently as possible. The more art you see, the more you will understand what you like and will be comfortable with what you purchase. There are also numerous publications online that will help you understand better the world of art and art history.

Do your own research and due diligence. It is critical to know exactly what you purchase, who the artist is, who he has exhibited with, who he is represented by, who he is collected by… there is no harm in asking as many questions as necessary to the person who is selling the artwork. There are also many ways to check the price, through comparable sales at auctions, or through research online. More importantly, you must obtain all the relevant documentation and paperwork pertaining to the artwork you purchase (certificates of authenticity, provenance, bill of sale).

Seek the expert advice from an experienced art advisor. It is difficult for a “non-expert” to know where to start and to choose the right artists and artworks; it is not only a matter of taste… It is critical to seek advice from well-qualified and experienced professionals to navigate the world of art. Price is not the most important criteria in the purchase of an artwork, there are many parameters to take into account when purchasing an artwork: including authenticity, provenance, and condition.
Art as an Investment

Art is now seen as a true alternative investment. While it remains an aesthetic and intellectual investment, it is one that can also result in strong positive returns in the medium to long term. Numerous studies are showing investment in major “blue chip” artists is worthwhile. However, the art market is still not an investment market as it notably lacks liquidity and transparency. Only savvy and experienced buyers are able to generate investment returns, through diversification and more importantly over time. An investment in artworks also involves “hidden costs” that you need to take into consideration, like insurance, shipping, framing, and potential restoration.

Even though art is now seen as somewhat of a “safe investment haven”, buying art is above all satisfying and fulfilling. Living with an original work of art is a way of seeing the world differently, of seeing oneself differently, of stimulating our senses and our minds, and of sharing with our loved ones. Miami offers just that with its multiplicity of art galleries, museums, private foundations, and a unique location to enjoy and understand the best of Urban Art.

Nowadays, it is still very affordable to purchase an original artwork from a well-known urban artist, and the potential for an increase in value is considerable as Urban art is clearly the future POP Art.  ■

© | 2015