Art school painting

by Dr. Lori Verderame

There are a few basic things to remember when you are considering an art purchase for investment. In addition to the quality of the piece that an artist creates, other factors also carry weight. Make certain that the work meets the standards for presentation and condition. The basic factors include keeping true to your collecting goals, buy objects of interest and enjoyment, and select quality. The elements all impact your decision to invest in a work of art.

The Artist’s Role in your Investment Strategy

The artist plays an important, even vital role in the scope of buying art as an investment. The artist’s general background is important. This certainly impacts the value of the piece. In basic terms, this means that the artist’s background, training, education and credentials, and teachers are important. Other traits like an artist’s exhibition record (how often and where do they show their work?) and sales records or commercial record  come into play when determining value and investment return. Most of us understand the concept that a work of art by an established artist is worth more than a piece by a lesser known artist. For instance, a Van Gogh usually commands higher prices at auction than a work by someone lesser known, like Joe Smith. Simple!

Art is like anything else that can be marketed. We want the “brand name” or popular artist’s works. If an artist is recognizable, then so is his work. This is why we have to conduct some research before we buy.

An artist’s teachers, art training, exhibition record and sales information all have an important impact on the value of that artist’s work. For instance, teachers, art school participation, and credentials such as the degree of Masters of Fine Art (MFA) sometimes help to increase the value of an artist’s work. Degrees are not the only standards. So, don’t just search for the sheepskin but be sure you enjoy the piece too.

If an artist studied under a master painter or sculptor, his work usually carries more value. Famous teachers and their reputation help their less-than-famous artist pupils make good in the marketplace. If an artist was one of only a few students of a master painter or sculptor, that artist’s work is even more sought after.

A good example is the teacher/student relationship of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock. Good artists usually produce successful students.

From the topic of teachers, we arrive at the topic of art schools. Remember, the art world is not so far removed from the rest of the world. We look to hire graduates of the finest schools in many professions and that is no different when it comes to art. As you might expect some art schools, just like colleges and universities, are better than others. We are quite familiar with this notion and it is no different in the art world.

Work by David Graeme Baker

For instance, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the idea of studying abroad or attending an art academy carried a great deal of prestige for the artist. This remained true in terms of determining the value for such an artist’s work, too.  Today, artists take the Grand Tour and also attend art schools or MFA programs at colleges and universities.