Whether you are a first time buyer or established art buyer, here are some tips that will help to ensure your satisfaction and enjoyment in your art purchases for years to come.
What to know prior to purchase
Education about the artist includes knowing whether they are living or deceased and who is representing the artist – a dealer, an estate, family or is the artist representing himself or herself? Also, understand if this content is representative or in high demand and where the market is for this artist.
Knowledge about the piece itself includes the condition, if it is signed and/or dated, the provenance (history of ownership), and if it is included in the artists’ catalogue raisonné. Also ask if this piece is a one-of-a-kind or a series, and find out about recent sales by the artist and sales by comparable artists.
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Familiarity with the seller is also critical. Know their reputation and understand the terms of the sale – if found to be inauthentic, what is your recourse? Commission, written agreement for return, payment plan, extra charges for shipping and other incidentals should be outlined clearly.
Now that the prized piece is yours, how you care for and protect your art will directly affect its marketability and value over time. The material of the art piece will affect the way you care for it in order to properly preserve it over time. For example, organic materials will deteriorate and are best kept in an environment that has stable temperature and humidity.
Rotating your art to allow a “resting” period is also recommended. Regardless of the material, I advise my clients never to display fine art in direct sunlight or near vents. And just as any other major purchase you make, don’t forget proper insurance.
Now it’s time to think about your long-term plan for the art. Ask yourself if you would like to see this as a gift to a museum or charitable organization. This is common practice by experienced art collectors as a way to enhance their legacy and extend the enjoyment, education and history of the piece by sharing with others. Your heirs may or may not want your art, but a conversation on this topic will mitigate potential misunderstandings and add to your peace of mind. A trusted advisor can be a valuable asset in this process and your estate planning team has the experience and expertise to be an objective presence to help you and your family.
Current trends in art
Internet auctions can be a fun and exciting adventure, but it’s still the “wild, wild west” for the business of art. And while increasing in popularity, the preferred method is still to purchase through more traditional sources.
Another trend is the growth of international, regional and local art fairs. These can be intense entertainment events where the competition of trying to buy something before it’s taken can lead to decisions that are too hasty.
A very positive trend is a heightened awareness about the importance of having an inventory. No longer just for museums and galleries, this practical and valuable first step can be an important piece of your comprehensive legacy or estate plan. Information should include an image, artist name, type of object, dimensions, condition description, provenance, location and any historical information available. While this can be a “DIY” project, most enlist the help of a professional to gather, document and inventory a collection.
Research, plan, purchase
If you keep a checklist of the information you need to know prior to making a purchase and have considered the long-term plan for this piece of art in your life, your art buying decisions will be deliberate and in-line with not only your personal taste, but your art investment goals as well.
Jan Leonard is managing director for UMB Bank Charitable Trusts & Foundations. She is also the director of the Thomas Hart Benton Foundation and a member of the National Museum for Women in the Arts. She joined UMB in 2003 and has more than 25 years of experience in the management of private and public organizations.