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Secrets of becoming a successful collector
• Dr Barbara J. Scheuerman, an independent curator-writer based from Berlin, was in India earlier this year to grasp the key trends in contemporary art.
• The Peabody Essex Museum representatives recently paid a visit to premier institutions like the National Museum, NGMA and the LKA, Delhi to understand how works of art are collected and displayed there. Incidentally, PEM is planning an ambitious show of Indian art in the near future.
• According to Phillips de Pury’s Indian art specialist, Peter Sumner, many of the young and talented artists have firmly established themselves internationally. Their rising stature has instilled greater confidence in the long-term growth story of contemporary Indian art.

In essence, India seems to have truly arrived on the global art scene. Both established and the upcoming artists with their ability to document the modern ‘globalized' country’s socio-economic transformation are drawing the attention of collectors and investors, from across the world. With prices having become attractive post-correction and Indian economy on an upswing, most experts believe this is the best time to buy art! But the issue is: how can a buyer make sure that the works he or she is planning to acquire remain depreciation-proof? To simplify the process, adhere to the following basics:
• Remember, it is unrealistic to think, plan and build a collection in a short span of time. Collecting art demands passion and patience. To begin with, try following the kind of art and artists you like. Gradually hone your buying tastes and skills by looking at the different genres of art in terms of composition, color, theme, and style.
• Develop your eye by looking at art constantly in order to educate yourself. Walk in a gallery, visit museums; surf the Web; read books; talk to experts; or go for an art appreciation course. The more you travel, view and study art, you will get further exposed to current art trends.
• Decide for yourself how much you can allocate to start with. Expensive art is not always the best. Proper aesthetic understanding and sense holds the key to your becoming a successful collector. Of course, there is no objective view of the perfect piece. So you need to keep your eyes and mind open. There is good art by lesser known or less established artists available in abundance. You can spot good artists early if you have to the ability to grasp the hidden talent.
• Most established collectors specialize in order to develop expertise in a specific category. Collect information not only on the works important collectors are buying, but also the works they are not keen to acquire. It is worthwhile to check the recent acquisitions by leading museums and art collections. Their selection is invariably based on the suggestions and recommendations of an expert committee. This will help you in buying quality art.

If you intend to buy art as an investment, it makes sense to diversify the portfolio. To make it meaningful, the collection must be more than the sum of its parts. It is equally important to make your process foolproof with appropriate paperwork. A crucial factor is provenance. Here are some more pointers to help in your quest to collect quality art:
• Previous buyers’ history: The key question to ask - who had first bought the painting? Check where it was earlier shown or displayed. Seek catalogues and other possible sources of information to prove the previous ownership claims, history, records as well as condition of an artwork.
• Proper paperwork and authentication: If you buy a work sans the requisite paperwork, it won’t be easy to sell it at close to its right market value. For artists, who sign and date their respective works, an easy chronology is available to trace. You can get to see similar works for purpose of comparison (pictures of them, at least). This may not be the case with artists from previous generations, having left behind unsigned works, which are now up for grabs. In such a scenario, proper authentication needs to be ensured.
• A credible dealer: Always seek services of reputable and credible dealers. No good collection can be envisaged without an experienced dealer, who will advise and help you locate good quality works.
• Valuation process: Numerous criteria, such as the historical significance of the work, the rarity and its physical condition have to be assessed before proper value can be assigned.

The valuation process should involve:
- A detailed study of pricing history for the artist
- Price comparison with other works of the artist from similar periods
- Price comparison with works by other contemporary artists
- Research on historical significance of the work
- Previous auction price references
- Current value estimation
- Liquidity rating & analysis (if required)
- Rarity & availability analysis
- Investment rationale (if required)

For valuation purpose, complete description of the artist and the work, as well as provenance, exhibition, publication history etc are also necessary. To understand valuation mechanics, it makes sense to seek advice of experienced art experts.

Displaying, preserving and insuring the works of art properly is equally important to retain their long-term value. This again demands expertise and special skills. Last but not the least; buy art for sheer love of it! Genuine collectors enjoy the very idea of owning an artwork. Treasure your collection as a priceless piece of heritage for generations to come. Thus you will be able to draw the maximum fulfillment and satisfaction out of it. This will also help you derive good returns over time. Genuine love for art is the most vital ingredient in your conscious effort to become a successful and satisfied collector. Remember, a good art collection is more about research and knowledge than mere budget allocation.