Art investment: The emotional bond


Dave Deruytter looks into how art investment can have an emotional and monetary value.

More and more art galleries and fairs come to Brussels. Why, and what do they sell?

Art is part of the human DNA. It is one of those particularities that differentiate humans from other living creatures. Art is a key element in the culture of a person, a community, a region, a country. In its broadest definition art is ‘the most individual expression of the most individual emotion’. But that, of course, covers almost anything we do.

Before even starting to think about art investment, it is important to know what art means to you. It is critical that you have an emotional bond with a piece of art you want to have in your home. It should be touching your heart. The piece of art should raise emotions. It should give you a special feeling when you see it when you wake up in the morning. In fact, it would be ideal if you could borrow the piece of art first for a few months to see if you really develop a long-term bond with it or whether it was just a brief flash of love that soon passes.

Once the bond is established, it may be interesting to know something about the artist. Who is this person? What drives this particular artist? What is his or her history, style and possible future? The answers to questions such as these may hint at the potential future monetary value of the piece of art. And this is where an art gallery or fair director, or their staff, can assist you.

Of course in the digital world of today you can find a lot of art information online. And there is even an important segment of art that is digital in itself, including video art. Online you can find reviews, the history and possible future of an artist’s work, from art critics and collectors. But there is something very human about art, something very emotional. And to be able to physically relate to the piece of art, to see it for real, to listen to the artist, to hear the critic or art gallery expert, clearly has added value.

How to effectively start learning about and buying art?
Art galleries have something elitist about them. You often have to ring at the door with a camera watching you. A gallery does not always feel like you can just walk in and out and stroll around as you would like to. Still, given the value of some of the pieces on show, you should understand that it is a bit like a jewellery shop and so security is a concern. You can, of course, go to art fairs, such as the accessible or affordable art fairs that have recently established themselves. At these fairs there are few hurdles when you stroll around. Plus the fair organizer has put the opportunity in place for you to meet the artist or curator, and experts are around to give you background information. It is a bit like a visit to a museum where you can buy. More established fairs Art Brussels and BRAFA give you a similar experience, but often in the higher price brackets and a little more elitist.

Investing in art is an interesting possibility for diversification, away from the ‘hard’ investment options such as savings, stocks, bonds and real estate. But the same basic rules apply. As liquidity is limited, art is more of a longer term investment, a bit like real estate. It doesn’t yield a physical interest or dividend, yet the enjoyment of the sight of the piece of art in your home may be priceless. There are mutual funds that invest in art if you are only interested in the financial value, which is not really to be recommended.

The fact that investors are more and more interested in this category of investment has interesting side effects for society as a whole. Community money, the taxes we all pay, is not needed to support the art world as much as they used to be. And if they are needed, it is more for young artists starting out or for those pockets of art that cannot easily be quantified in monetary terms or are generally difficult to sell. There are sponsoring schemes or crowd funding options increasingly play a role. Also, some famous artists, who have made it financially, are sponsoring such grassroots art, sometimes by auctioning some of their own works to support a museum, or by setting up galleries to help young promising artists to become a success.

All in all, art investment can be a very pleasant, certainly emotionally and sometimes financially rewarding activity, hobby or side business.

It may sound strange but the best way to approach art as a novice is to openly state that you do not know anything about it. You will be surprised by the amount and quality of free advice that you will get from gallery owners, fair curators and art critics. And there is a good economic reason for that. The mere fact that you will talk about your new art hobby to your friends is great free publicity for the art market as a whole. The fact that you may buy, even a very cheap piece of art in money terms, will help the market’s value to grow. And every artist, gallery, investor will get his or her share of that in the end.

It is a question of not being shy about entering galleries or fairs, of being curious and asking questions, much more than knowing everything about the piece of art and the artist, or having lots of money. There is art to every person’s liking and for every purse. Be brave and start on your road to artistic discovery today. Keep on checking what is going on in the art and cultural scene and go to a few of the many events on offer. A whole new world will open up to you.