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Buying art as an investment isn't a simple process where you just start buying up anything and everything you can to put on the walls of your house. You have to be smart about the purchase. Take your time, explore all the options, and consider all your options.

Investigate the artist or artist collective.

  • Once you’ve identified a few artists or artist collectives who have caught your eye, it’s time to dig a little deeper into their background. This will require a little bit of research on your part, but you can do most of it online.
  • In order to have good value as an investment, works purchased by the artist should all be from the same body of work—this could mean one particular project, group show, solo show or series.
  • Look for artists whose work is interesting and unique—something that hasn’t been done before but still has aesthetic appeal. Avoid blind conformity with trends in favor of innovative works that really stand out in the crowd.

Consider the artist's successes

A major indicator of an artist’s potential for future success is their previous sales history. The more someone has sold at auction or through galleries, the more likely they are to continue to sell—and well.

The artist’s awards and honors are also a key element in determining their value as an investment. If artists have won major awards in their field, this may be a sign that they will continue to be recognized for their work throughout their career and beyond.

The recognition of an artist within the art community is important as well. Artists who work with other artists often benefit from shared attention and publicity for exhibitions and collaborations. The number of exhibitions that an artist has had is another helpful gauge of how much interest there is in them among the artistic community at large.

Media coverage can also help determine a particular artist’s success now and in the future. Media coverage influences the public perception of figures in any field—a positive media campaign can propel someone towards greater visibility, while negative media coverage can diminish public interest quite quickly (eBay).

The representation by major galleries also suggests that an investment would be worthwhile since galleries only choose artists whose work they believe will sell well, both now and later on down the road when it may gain even more traction with collectors who seek out early works by successful contemporary artists (Investopedia).

Finally, reviews by curators and critics tend to help solidify an emerging artist’s reputation within the field; if critics consider someone to be a promising young talent who will continue to produce worthwhile works throughout his or her career, others will follow suit when it comes time for them to invest in a piece of artwork themselves

Examine the artwork's potential to appreciate in value

  • Ask yourself: Does this artwork have a historical value? If it's by a famous artist and is part of a series, there's more potential for its value to increase.
  • Ask yourself: Is this piece in good condition? The better the condition (for example, it doesn't have rips or tears), the better the chance that its value will increase.
  • Do your research. Is this piece already in high demand? Will it soon be in high demand because of an upcoming auction or show?

Look for quality workmanship

When you're looking at a piece of art, you should be able to tell how much work and care went into it. It's worth taking the time to look for the artist's signature on paintings, as well as other signs of quality craftsmanship.

For example, when looking at paintings, examine how the piece is framed. Does it look like something that came from a thrift store? Or does it appear professionally finished with wood or gold-leafing?

You should also take a look at the construction of the piece itself. Is there anything falling off? Are there holes in it? These are all factors that can affect its value.

In addition to examining these details, also pay attention to what materials were used. For instance: was high quality canvas employed? Did they use strong materials instead of cheap ones like paper mugs or plastic cups?

Determine whether there are many other pieces available

A large amount of inventory, whether it be a few dozen or hundreds of prints, indicates that the artist is not as highly sought after. Artists are best invested in when there are only a few pieces available for purchase. If an artist has made many prints or multiples such as drawings, or even other paintings, these pieces will be valued lower than if there were only one piece in existence. If there are many pieces available, the price will likely drop over time as they all flood the market.

Make sure the subject matter is universal and not specific to a particular group

Cultural or political statements are not the best investment in art. To make money on art, you want a broad audience to like your piece. Avoid art that is highly specific to a particular culture or interest: for example, an astrology chart painted by an obscure artist from the Netherlands...or a painting of a shipwreck in the Florida Keys by a local painter. Rather, look for art that appeals to a broad range of people; paintings with no background and neutral colors work well.

Research your source thoroughly

Art investors should buy works from a reputable source and look for documentation that the work is indeed by the artist. Online art marketplaces can be good sources, but buyers are encouraged to dig deeper. Do your research on the gallery or auction house where you intend to purchase. Call them and ask questions. If they are not able to provide answers that satisfy you, go elsewhere. Asking questions of vendors will often reveal how knowledgeable they are and whether they are interested in helping their customers build a collection that suits their needs and budget while protecting them from fraud.

Learn how and where to find artwork directly from artists

You can find artwork directly from artists of all levels, from beginners to masters.

Some artists may only have a limited number of one-of-a-kind works available for sale. In some cases, they may not even be listed anywhere, and you’ll need to contact the artist directly. Even when they are, though, it's always best to contact the artist first as a matter of principle.

Artists love talking about their work! They can provide information about the work that no online description or private dealer can provide. Some artists have websites or blogs with contact information; others have studios that are open for visitors by appointment. You can also find them at art festivals and galleries across the country (and around the world).

If you want your art investment to appreciate, know what to look for

You also need to know what to look for. Quality workmanship is a must, but it's also important to consider an artist's successes and the artwork's potential for appreciation. You should examine whether there are many other pieces available and research your source thoroughly before you make a purchase. Lastly, learning how and where to find artwork directly from artists can cut out middlemen who increase the price of artworks you're interested in buying.

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