There’s an age-old debate in the art world about whether one should buy a work of art with intentions to make a profit—or to hang or display in one’s home. That same argument moves in circles in the wine-collecting community. You are the driver of this horse and only you get to decide the course of your buying.
“I’ve been selling art for over fifteen years, and there are two types of art buyers: those who buy with their eyes, and those who buy with their ears,” says Robert Berry, an art advisor and consultant who has worked with several New York galleries. “Those who buy with their ears just buy the artists their friends are buying, and read all about big auction numbers that have little impact on the value of emerging to mid-career artists. These speculators typically see art as another investment, and do not care what they are buying. They also typically just want a deal on whatever work they are inquiring on, and do not care about the value of what they are buying.
The second type of collector is one who actually looks at art, and falls in love with the objects they purchase. These are the individuals who live and breathe art—like myself—and who believe that art can make a positive change on society.”
“I don’t actually believe in art as an investment,” says Best. “My advice is always to buy what you love, and collect with your eyes and your ears, not your bank account. Don’t buy something and put it into storage because then you can’t enjoy it. Buy the artwork you can’t stop thinking about, that gives you that ‘teenage crush’ when you walk into the room.” And who knows? You may never want to sell it.
Mitow agrees: what you view as amazing art could be a popular view over time. “If you collect work you really enjoy and connect with by lesser-known artists, but you develop a taste and sense about it, the chances go up greatly that you’ll pick an artist who’s eventually much more recognized and whose value increases in kind,” she says.
Wherever you end up buying art that you love, try to look for avenues that provide the artist’s story as well as details about the piece’s creation. While this information may not cause the assessment to spike, your intrigue will. Just like with collecting wine, a certain vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon that you enjoyed at the winery’s Napa Valley estate as sun bathed your face and you chatted up the winemaker is far more precious than the fact that you scored it for a good price in an online auction.
Memories—such as meeting the artist or that the artist has a connection to your family—can be a unique form of currency when deciding whether to make a purchase, and may very well trump all other factors. They will no doubt unspool into stories to share at cocktail parties or when visitors arrive at your home, particularly if the work is on display. “Always buy what you love,” says Hillman. “You have to live with it and authenticity is at the heart of collecting.”