Fine art specialist John Adams provides expert advice on investing


By John Adams

The question of whether art can be a good investment can only be answered when backed up with studious research, honest and reliable professional advice and a garnish of luck. No investment is risk-free but the art market is notoriously fickle, being subject to the vagaries of both current aesthetics and financial stability.

Unlike stocks and shares, where an individual share in a particular company has a value that is identical to a companion share, no two artworks by a particular artist are identical – and consequently the attribution of value is not straightforward. Two similarly sized and dated paintings by a particular artist can vary enormously depending on subject, condition and perhaps most importantly, aesthetic judgement. I can make a qualitative assessment to determine the authenticity and stature of an artwork within an artists’ oeuvre, but I cannot necessarily explain the narrative for taste. Individuals wear different identities/clothes in order to reflect both their own preferences and societal fashion and in many ways the art market reflects a similar confection of discernment. Values are very much assimilated within our current cultural aesthetic. These norms are continually changing to meet the next generation of ideas and identifying lifestyle behaviour.

Back in the 1950s, paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite masters of the 19th Century could be purchased for very modest amounts. Today painters such as Rossetti, Millais and Waterhouse have undergone a reassessment, and values have risen to reflect their newfound popularity. In general, much of Victorian art is currently in the doldrums; once-valuable paintings may be purchased inexpensively. Will a future generation of art buyers wish to reignite an enthusiasm for Victorian art, or indeed for any other currently unfashionable style of painting?

If you do wish to speculate on art as part of your investment portfolio then I would advise both caution and extreme diligence. Do your homework. Visit as many galleries as possible, if only online at the moment, to get a feel for your preferred style, period or artists. Much in the same way as one would seek out professional help with any other meaningful investment, then do find a suitable and reputable dealer for advice. This may involve extra expense but nevertheless should provide some comforting reassurance before purchase decisions are made. I would also seek to spread the risk by purchasing a variety of artworks and not necessarily confine the portfolio to one artist or genre. There are no guarantees of financial reward but if you purchase what you admire and cherish you will always have the artworks to give you pleasure and enjoyment.

My conclusion is buy what you like and can comfortably afford. Enjoy the visual stimulation and satisfaction of ownership. If the artwork appreciates in value, all well and good.

For help in creating a collection or administrating an existing one contact John Adams at johnadamsfineart.com

Main image credit: Le Miel et Le Lait, Oil on canvas: 60 x 73 cm. Signed. Titled & Dated 1968 verso, By André Masson (1896 – 1987).


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