Valuing art: how do I know if my purchase is worth it?
At the Affordable Art Fair, we’re standing by our mantra that anyone can buy, and enjoy, contemporary art. Whether you’re looking to kick-start a collection, add to an existing one, or just find that unique piece which inspires you, the process of discovering and buying art can be endlessly exciting. However, for those of us who aren’t art market aficionados or art-history experts, it can also be difficult to judge the value of an artwork and feel confident that the piece we’re purchasing is worth the price tag.
But, never fear! We’ve compiled a concise guide of things to look for to ensure you’re certain, before you pull out your wallet, that what you’re buying really is the perfect piece for you.
Explore the options
The beauty of buying at an art fair is the sheer range of work on offer. You are able to get a comprehensive overview of what galleries are offering and easily draw comparisons. At the Affordable Art Fair details about all artworks are shown clearly, including information about price, ensuring you can be confident not only in the transparency of the pricing of the artworks, but also that you’re using your budget wisely. There is no clear ‘price guide’ for artworks; there are a number of determining factors including the medium and size of the artwork and the status of the artist, so it’s important to really consider the range of works available in your price range.
Get to know the artist
One of the most exciting parts of collecting contemporary art, as opposed to historical pieces, is discovering works by unknown and emerging artists whose reputations are fresh and developing. However, where historical and established artists tend to have formed reputations and sales records dictating the sale price of their works, for contemporary artists the pricing process can sometimes seem more arbitrary. However, it’s good to build up a picture of who created your artwork – their CV, status, representation and accolades – as these are all important determining factors when valuing work.
Our gallerists are amazing ambassadors for the artists they represent, and they’ll be more than happy to talk at length with you about the work; providing information aplenty and answering all your questions. The internet is also an invaluable resource – see what you can find out about the artist and their work online. Many artists will have a website to showcase their practice, and galleries often include digital profiles of the artists they represent. Bear in mind that artists whose works have a recognisable style, those pieces that can be easily identified as by their hand, are generally more likely (although, of course, not guaranteed!) to appreciate in value as their reputation matures.
Embrace the unconventional
Don’t be afraid to invest in unusual pieces – be it in terms of medium, subject, or style – if they catch your eye. Walking around an art fair, current trends quickly become apparent. However, don’t buy an artwork because you think it’s what you should be buying, or because it’s what everyone else seems to be punting for. As infamous contemporary art guru Charles Saatchi said:
“Who’s to say what will one day appear to have been trendsetting? Sometimes artists who receive breathless acclaim initially, seem to conk out. Other artists who don’t register so keenly at the time, prove to be trailblazers.”
This is, of course, part of the excitement of investing in contemporary art – so, if an unusual work captures your imagination, go for it. Who knows, you could have just spotted a future masterpiece!
Examine the materials
Much like you wouldn’t buy a dress or a piece of furniture without checking the materials and workmanship beforehand, when buying a work of art it’s important to examine the materials and finish of the piece to ensure it will stand the test of time. Good quality materials and finishing mean that the piece will look its best for longer. If you’re not familiar with the materials it can be tricky to know what you’re looking for, but don’t be afraid to ask the gallery for specifics about the construction and longevity of the artwork and over time your technical knowledge will develop.
Be confident in the originality
At the Affordable Art Fair, all artwork on show is original – so there’s no need to worry that your investment isn’t unique. Prints, for example, are all strictly editioned – in other words, no unlimited reproductions are allowed. Prints produced in smaller editions are generally priced higher than those in a much larger print run; as with anything, artworks are generally more valuable, the rarer they are. Similarly, check photographic or sculptural editions are signed and numbered, or accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. It’s important to discuss this with the gallery – the originality of the artwork is vital to its value as an investment; if a work can be endlessly reproduced, its value will rapidly decrease as it saturates the market.
Value your personal reaction
When it comes down to it, this is perhaps the most important factor in determining whether an artwork is worth the investment. Selecting an artwork for your collection pivots around your reaction to, and relationship with, the work. Try asking yourself – what attracts me to the artwork? How does it make me feel when I look at it? Would I want to see it everyday?
Regardless of financial value, ultimately if you love the piece you’re purchasing, and you’ll get happiness from seeing it in your home everyday, we think this might just be the best way in which you can receive a return on your investment.