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Fine tuning the art of investing in art
Contemporary art is sure one of the most bankable alternative assets that you can treasure even as it gradually appreciates. If you are not too much aware of intricacies of modern art, but have a fair understanding of what you like, now is the time to start investing into a work by the Subodh Gupta or the Jitish Kallat of tomorrow. But how really to spot the next superstar on the horizon!

This is a long-drawn process that should begin with the basics. And that’s what exactly what we are trying to spell out! In continuation of our series on simplifying the intricacies of buying art, we offer insight and tips for keen collectors who want to build a quality portfolio. The aim is to simplify the complex elements of buying art, trying to move away from the jargon of it!

Collecting is vitally important for the domain of art, to harness talented artists’ potential and boost the galleries in their endeavor to promote good art. Secret of building a quality art collection lies in remembering and understanding the fact that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’. The key is to grasp what makes a collection timeless. In the first part of our series, we have realized that art investment demands:
• In-depth market research in order to stay tuned to the latest developments in the domain of art
• Elaborate study of an artist’s growth trajectory, his academic background, galleries represented
• Clear idea about the timeframe and gestation period for the work to grow in value
• Analysis of the formal concerns and how they relate to the core idea of the work
• Grasping of how well the ideas/ concepts are communicated in context of contemporary times
• Understanding the nuances of contemporary art practice and a grasp of art history
• Evaluating a piece of art in terms of its physical characteristics and longevity that also impact its value.

In essence, when planning to buy a work of art, do not merely think in terms of the market trends and value benchmarks. While looking to acquire the work of an established or even an emerging artist, first and foremost is to develop a proper vision and perception. Try and understand what makes an artwork unique. Each work is supposed to have a context. When watching it, also grasp your response to it. View it from different angles and perspectives and as many times as you can and then study the accompanying exhibition notes or catalogue essays. This will enhance your critical approach.

As we’ve already followed, picking out future stars from the contemporary and modern art landscape is not merely a matter of guesswork. Instead a proper insight into the market helps to build a collection in a more informed way. If you don't have the time, or inclination, to do the fieldwork and trail around an array of galleries, you can approach professional advisors. Seeking their expertise means there’s an implied assurance that the work is of a long-term value irrespective of the market vagaries. The specialists will devote requisite time, energy and research, to suggest you some of the best names. They constantly visit the art colleges, attend art fairs, take part in seminars, talk to scholars, are in touch with market participants and check auction records to find artists who are likely to do well in future.

Based on their study, they build a database of quality artists to invest in with the potential to offer good returns. Their advice will help you to tap the immense potential of art as a rising asset class. In case of an emerging artist with loads of talent, albeit yet to be discovered or fulfilled in terms of market potential, the prices are obviously more affordable. It makes sense to buy work of lesser known names with immense talent. Potential purchasers, in most cases, are offered privileged access and would, in all probability, be not likely to find it easily through commercial art venues.

Here are other important aspects to consider while build a quality portfolio:
• Each artist and his or her works make for their own supply-and-demand equations. Critical factors like who previously owned it; who's keen to buy the work; which gallery/ museum showcase them; and, of course, who's selling them and at what price matter.
• Bear in mind the fact that art marketplace is not for speculators. One should gather as much knowledge and insight as possible of the artist one is interested in. Grasp finer aspects of select artists’ work with potential. If you choose well, the value of the work acquired could well jump in matter of a few years.
• Don't get so attached to it that you would never weigh the option of selling piece. First and foremost, decide whether you want to be a medium-term investor or a long-term collector.

Those who have the foresight and inclination to pick right artists and right works can enjoy impressive returns. The values of their portfolios have zoomed over time. To sum up, it is important to look for quality artists with a natural talent and a good command over their medium as well as the subject matter. This essentially translates into a credible trajectory to ensure they will continue to grab attention for the next several years – thereby becoming commercially successful. It is a fact that not each artist will go stratospheric, but if you like his or her work, you won't be so much concerned about such ups and downs. Possess an artwork for its sheer quality and beauty; not merely because it reflects the market reality…