At just 22, Olyvia Kwok brought a Chinese scroll painting at an auction for $33,000. She was sure that the painting was older than advertised and therefore worth a lot more. She was right, and later sold the painting at a Hong Kong auction house for $220,000. Still aged 22, Kwok opened an art gallery in St James’, London specialising in emerging markets and then went on to build an art fund for a private bank in Switzerland. Nowadays, Kwok has 15 years’ experience in collecting and selling art and has set up her own firm, Willstone Management, where she works alongside private individuals and offers bespoke art investment services.

What is art investment?

Art investment is one of the three most profitable key investment areas in the world — next to finance and real estate. If you’re wondering whether it’s actually possible to earn a profit from investing in art, then consider this:

‘In 2007 the art market was valued at £7 billion and it is now valued at £20 billion. The market has tripled’, explains Kwok.

Many people assume that art investment is only for the wealthy, or people with extensive art knowledge. However with a bit of research, anyone has the potential to make a profit from collecting and selling art. Kwok explains how art is about: ‘knowing the trends and getting it right. Art retains its value. Unlike other assets, such as stocks, the value will never drop to nothing. A Picasso could go today for £20 million or the same work could go tomorrow for £15 million, but it will always be a Picasso’.

Art investment has become increasingly popular for the following reasons:

  • Physical asset — many investors like the fact that they control the asset and don’t have to leave it in the hands of an investment firm.
  • No market fluctuations — stock market corrections, volatility, and other financial fluctuations are nonexistent in the art world.
  • Appreciates over time — art tends to appreciate at a steady rate over time. If you do your research and choose your pieces correctly, then the art is likely to be worth considerably more, a few years down the line.

Where to purchase your art.

The first thing to consider is where to buy your art. There are several options available including: auctions, galleries, and online. Auctions can be exciting places, with plenty of possible bargains, but make sure to do your research thoroughly and don’t get carried away when bidding! You also need to keep in mind that a buyer’s premium of between 10 per cent and 30 per cent will be added to your final bid. An art gallery is a more relaxed environment where you are able to view, evaluate, and decide on your purchases. Purchasing art online is becoming increasingly popular, as buyers can avoid the high overhead of galleries and auction houses. However make sure that you only purchase art from reputable online dealers or galleries

Knowing the trends

Most people who invest in art have a passion for it and get enjoyment from researching and collecting pieces. Investing in art can be lucrative, but there is no guarantee that your purchase will increase in value. The best chance of making a profit is to do your research thoroughly by visiting galleries, exhibitions, and speaking with people in the industry. Kwok explains:

‘Art can be like super-high-fashion trends. Prices can depend on trends and what is fashionable. One day it could be Impressionists and the next Surrealists, that’s why it’s so important to stay in touch with the market and to keep a short-term focus’.

Selling your art

As with buying art, there are a number of different options available when you decide to sell your art. Galleries and auction houses are often the most popular choices, as they have a network of clients available. If you decide to sell via a gallery or auction house, then make sure that you have the pieces professionally and independently valued beforehand and keep in mind that the venue will charge commission. Another option when selling art is online with platforms like Saatchi Art and Etsy. These websites are becoming increasingly popular but make sure that you stick with the well-known ones.

Final Thought

Art as an investment is now more accessible to everyone and with the right amount of research and planning, anyone can start collecting and buying art to make a profit. If you want to start investing in art, then it’s important to do your research thoroughly beforehand and stay up-to-date with art market trends.

By Emma Saunders

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