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Simplifying the intricacies of buying art - I
For those who are in a position to possess quality works of art, arguably the most satisfying and enriching way of engaging with them is to cherish the pieces as a timeless treasure. It’s a privilege to enjoy their presence and to form a long-term relationship with them. Buying art is a highly rewarding, refreshing and pleasurable activity.

However, the fine art marketplace is a maze of complexly interlinked aspects that are not easy to grasp if you are not well conversant with them. There are works on offer that look exciting and appealing at the outset but have more decorative value and little investment value. Then there are reproductions that seem like original art so you need to be careful in your selection. Some of the questions you should ask yourself while setting out on the artistic voyage are as follows:

1. What is your budget? What is the maximum value of one single work you can buy initially? What is size of work and what is its media/style/form?

2. Is the artist an emerging star or a more established name? What is his or her academic background? Who has been the artist’s mentor or idols?

3. Which are the exhibitions the artist’s work has been featured in recent times – either solo or group exhibitions?

4. Who has curated the artist’s shows? Are there any critical writing or reviews about the work? What do they say?

5. Is the artist represented by reputed galleries? Has his or her work forms part of a museum or biennale collection?

6. How well are the ideas or thoughts behind the works communicated? Are you able to identify with the artist’s work and practice?

7. Are the ideas visually appealing and interesting? Do they feel relevant to contemporary times? How economic and effective is this mode of expression?

8. If there are formal concerns –materials, colors, surfaces, shapes, composition etc - how do they relate to the core idea of the work and how successful has the artist been in their usage or technique?

The broader art market is, in a way, an aggregation of several mini-marketplaces – cutting across countries, styles, forms, mediums, artists, and different time periods. Before you decide what kind of art and artists you like, you must set aside preconceived notions and prejudices and approach the art market with an open mind. This will allow you to explore the vast variety of art forms, respond to them, and gradually understand your preferences. The key is to develop perception and vision. In essence, it’s important to understand what makes a work unique and authentic. If you are keen to collect contemporary art, some of these basic tips will prove handy:

• See as many artworks of different forms and styles as you can. It’s a highly fulfilling social and cultural activity, and by far the best means of developing your eye and sense as a collector. Try and visit as many art galleries– both commercial and public– as possible, apart from checking permanent collections, to develop your critical faculties.

• Focus and introspect on your initial response and review the work again. This will help to cultivate a more rigorous and deeper understanding of your taste and inclinations. The process will involve creative energies to appreciate a work of art as possible.

• Going through reviews, write-ups, curator essays and research articles is important for upgrading your knowledge and awareness of the key trends and concepts. Identifying nuances of contemporary practice and getting a grasp of art history are both equally vital. Make an effort to critically engage with gallerists and artists.

• Become a member of any contemporary art organization or society, to get independent specialist advice and a chance to attend programs on buying and collecting art. Be part of their mailing lists. Attend private views and art show openings, if possible. Serious collectors should also attend art fairs and biennales, to make sure that they stay tuned to the latest developments in the emerging and established art centers.

• Don’t be in a rush to buy. Ideally, seek expert advice to recognize and distinguish reproductions or copies from originals. Spend requisite time researching, reading, looking and contemplating rather than resorting to impulse buying. Develop an engagement and a solid framework for your future collection so that it becomes coherent in thought and expression. When you are thinking of a purchase, don’t just think of the market trends and value.

If you patiently hold on to an upcoming and talented artist’s work, you can make good returns over time. However, to make the most out of it, your collection will require careful maintenance. Before buying an artwork, ensure that it’s in good condition and check its provenance. Harbor a clear idea about the timeframe and gestation period for it to grow in value. If you are looking for quick returns, you should probably stay away from art market.

By approaching specialists and professional advisors, you can tap the immense potential of art as a rising asset class. They help you to draw precious insight into the market and build a collection in a more informed and knowledgeable way. Remember, putting money into contemporary art is gainful, provided you know what you buy and when you buy.

Picking out future stars from the contemporary and modern art landscape is not merely a case of comparing price charts and coming up with projections. It involves in-depth market research, study of each individual artist’s trajectory so as to identify the works you want to add to your proud collection that you can treasure forever…