There are no guarantees for the financial performance of an artwork. The art market is highly fragmented and each micro-market within the art market, both for living and deceased artists, is subject to cycles and fashions. That said, there are certain factors I take into account when advising a client on an acquisition, the same way that your financial advisor judges opportunities in stocks, bonds or shares. This article focuses onone of those factors: the importance of a living artist’s career path to the monetary value of his work.
Contrary to popular belief, an artist has to work at building his career as much as the rest of us. Sitting in your studio and waiting for Gagosian to pop in with a contract is not the best strategy. An artist with the best chances of success is constantly plugging away at his career by not only working on his art but by building a network of contacts that will lead to gallery contracts, exhibitions and sales.
Although an ever-increasing number of artists is highly successful at marketing and selling their own art, it is still beneficial for an artist to be represented by a well-respected and professional gallery. A good gallery will hold exhibitions for their artists and facilitate sales, thus building their artists’ resume by getting them exposure.
A resume is a good indication of an artist’s career progression. You can find it on the artist’s website or on the website of his gallery. A resume contains group and solo shows exhibited in, prizes, awards and grants won, publications the artist has been featured in and press received. It also lists the names of public institutions and private collectors that have acquired his work.
What does this mean for a collector? Firstly, setting aside other drivers of value for now, the financial performance of a contemporary artwork produced by a living artist is correlated to the artist’s career track. Secondly, gallery representation is a 3rd party validation by experts in the art industry who put time, effort and money into making sure that their artists are successful. So include these factors in your research. In next month’s column we will continue the discussion on what to look out for when buying contemporary art.