A beginner's guide to buying art

May 05, 2013, 09:54 IST | Phorum Dalal

Taking your first baby steps investing in art? Artists and experts tell Phorum Dalal why following your heart and gut feeling is critical when placing the first red dot on an artwork

It’s safer than stocks and gives you higher returns than gold. And unlike the other two, you actually get to flaunt every piece that you own, on your drawing room wall. Investing in art is big. And it's time you hopped on to the band wagon.

But if you are thinking of stepping into the world of art and owning a few good pieces to decorate your home and hope that they appreciate with time, you have to first decide what you don’t like, abstract artist Brinda Miller tells us over a steaming cup of coffee in her artistically messy workshop.

“In 2008, along with other investment markets, art was booming, and it was a fad to buy. People were making short-term gains. The scene today has changed. Buyers are discerning about what they want to buy, and they are giving it a decent thought.”

It’s a good thing the art market crashed, now, people are buying what they like, and not what they know will earn them a higher selling price.

Where to start
Begin by visiting galleries, and check out different genres such as figurative, abstract and sculptures. Your decision will also be based on the space you have for the artwork. In case of space constraints, miniatures are a good option.

Let the artwork you buy be an emotional decision. Don’t think about whether or not the price will appreciate. An investment in art is something in between jewellery and stocks. Speak to gallery owners and let them take you through their collection, and educate you about the artists.

TIP: Most people buy art after their interiors have been redone. One should choose the artwork and then get their interiors done.

How to choose a happy medium
As a beginner, one is likely to find out what they don’t like before they understand their taste. While most buyers feel canvas is the best bet, paper too has its own charm. For artworks, Mumbai has a very difficult weather. Moisture and fungus can cause degradation of material. One should keep the painting in a clean, dry place. During the monsoon, check the back of the painting for fungus. Always hang the painting a few millimetres away from the wall.

Tip: Sculptures and installations are also great buys but ensure you have the right place for these

The art market
While the 2008 boom is not likely to resurface anytime soon, the market looks promising. Niche markets are doing really well, with buyers wanting to invest in pieces for their homes.

For new collections, auctions can be an intimidating affair, and a misguiding one too. “Auction prices are not the yardstick, as some of the prices are too high or too low, depending on individual buyers,” says Miller, who feels that picking up works at charity functions is a good space to start. “You have a sense of giving, and feeling good about your first work. It’s like killing two birds with one stone.”

TIP: The artwork should be good, price should be good and artist should be good, exactly in that order.

Interact with gallery owners
Many galleries allow new collectors to pay in EMIs. This helps a buyer increase his budget. Nicholai Sachdev, partner and curator, Gallery 7, Kala Ghoda, says that while this module usually works with banks, galleries do make an exception for collectors. “We get a lot of new collectors and as gallery owners, our job is to represent the artist and help buyers make their decision. For new buyers, I think it is important to see art in a lot of spaces. Spend time with the gallery owners, as they can tell you a lot about the artist, including how he has fared in his career. A budget of Rs 1 to Rs 3 lakhs is a good to start with,”she says.
TIP: 1.5 lakh is a decent investment for first time buyers. Anything below this would buy only a lithograph or a print 

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