The ‘Art of Collecting’: What it means today


Anita Choudhrie is the founder of The Stellar International Art Foundation. Currently the Foundation comprises over 600 works dating from the late 19th century to the present day, including international artists, and ranging from paintings to sculptures.

The art world has changed significantly since Vermeer created his masterpieces over 350 years ago. Even since Picasso, Matisse and, more recently, Eva Hesse were putting brush to canvas, the art world has grown and evolved. The development of the internet has played a significant role in art’s recent evolution, as has the continued advancement of contemporary popular art, video, film and electronically produced sound.

Amidst this flux, one thing that has remained constant is the fundamental impulse to consume and collect artwork. Emerging from a complex amalgamation of investment and status-building on the one hand and connoisseurship and pleasure in artistic creation on the other, art collection has endured the test of time.

A cultural investment

Ancient Romans such as the emperor Pompey the Great, were well known for owning vast arrays of Greek paintings and sculptures. More recently, the aristocratic and royal collections of the 17th century have supplied the foundations for most of the world’s public art collections.

The real value is added when works are gathered into comprehensive collections like these. As a repository of societal expression, art displays prompt social reflection, education and change.

One of the major drivers for passionate art patrons is therefore the ability to assemble an entirely unique collection with a wider social narrative. The works in the Stellar International Art Foundation for example, include art from all over the world. Distinguishing its selection less on regional concerns and more on the individual artist’s talent, the Foundation provides a unique insight into the cultural viewpoints of individuals with diverse understandings of the world.

Through exploration of topics such as racism, poverty and sexuality, collections can engender a profound comprehension of humanity and the variety of groups and people within it. Bridges are built, barriers are broken down and tolerance of diverse beliefs and societies is propagated.

The value of an artistic collection as a force for cultural change therefore simply cannot be underestimated. If there is one thing that history has taught us, it is that the world always benefits from listening to vast array of perspectives and voices, and this is something art champions. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, for instance, is an outstanding example of art making a political statement, with his message of protest regarded by critics as one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings ever.

With recent revelations on the gender pay gap and movements such as #BlackLivesMatter dominating the political sphere, society is on a path to change. Art can, and should, be at the forefront of this.

A financial investment?

With art running through the veins of every culture, it is unsurprising that many people are also waking up to the value of art as a financial investment. According to a recent report by Deloitte Art and Finance, 75 per cent of collectors now purchase art with an eye for long-term investment. This dramatic change in activity is partly due to the impressive degree of financial growth in the art market in recent years.

Auction records are being broken almost as soon as they are made, works by Picasso and Paul Gauguin are being sold for over $100 million each and art market sales grew to an astounding $51 billion in 2014.

Art certainly does make a viable solution for individuals wishing to diversify their financial portfolio. As a non-correlated asset, it is largely impervious to economic uncertainties such as an unpredictable stock market and has historically performed well during times of rising or high inflation. As a tangible asset, a beautiful work of art is also likely to keep its value if the price dips. There is a prestige associated with art that will not alter even if the value changes.

It is important to remember though that investment within the global arts market does necessitate ample diligence and a degree of good fortune. Essentially, art must be treated as an asset if it is going to act like one. To yield a significant return on investment it is therefore important to carefully consider which artworks will hold their value.

Finding a balance

When contemplating an art investment, it is vital to take a step back and take a holistic view. Art may well yield significant profit but, in my view, the cultural value if art is of far greater importance. Whether we observe art in a gallery or create our own collection, art is born from passions and is an investment in people and culture, rather than a means by which to deepen our pockets. Though paintings often have a price tag, art itself is priceless.