The art market is buoyant again, with attendances and sales levels at Affordable Art Fairs showing a return to pre-recession levels. So says Will Ramsey, the fair’s founder.
“This is fabulous news for the hundreds of galleries we work with worldwide, and the thousands of artists they support,” he says.
The next Affordable Art Fair will be held in Hampstead from June 12-15, but the brand is expanding globally, with fairs held in increasingly diverse locations. Ramsey says this is a reflection of the way the modern art world is developing.
“The art world has always been a voracious consumer of the new and exciting,” he says. “Attention in the art world, as in so many other areas, is expanding to take in art from further afield, and the success of the Affordable Art Fair concept everywhere from London and New York, to Singapore and Stockholm, reflects this.
“As people become more confident in their tastes, they feel empowered to buy art that may be very different to the art their neighbours own, and diversity – of geography, of mediums, and of concept, is a key word in the art market at present. At the recent Affordable Art Fair in Battersea, London for example, galleries from as far afield as Australia and Japan proved very popular, as did works using machines to make drawings. It’s not all about a beautifully painted seascape, although there is always room for pure old-fashioned talent and skill.”
While the world of art collecting is full of stories about clever (or lucky) investments, Ramsey believes you should buy from the heart, not with an eye for future returns.
“There are always headline grabbing stories – we could name several artists who have shown at the Affordable Art Fair and sold works for less than £4,000, and whose paintings go on to fetch six figure sums, and inevitably the media love these ‘lottery-win’ scenarios,” he says.
“However, it is worth saying that these stories are exceptional. Often artists will sell work for around the £2,000 mark at the Affordable Art Fair and as their careers progress, their new works may sell for three or four times this. But the main pro of investing in art at the Affordable Art Fair level is that you are supporting living and hardworking artists and buying pieces which will give you years of viewing pleasure – it’s an investment in your quality of life.”
He says that re-selling art by artists who are not household names can be a tricky process – finding the right buyer can involve long periods of waiting, therefore he recommends that when you buy art you buy a piece that you would be happy to keep for life.
“The value of the pieces in any collection can rise and fall with fashions and tastes, and so buying art should not be seen as a substitute for a savings account – it is, instead, an investment in your everyday life – the piece on your wall that makes you think, or reflect, or smile every morning, which provokes a discussion amongst friends and family, which becomes something that you pass on to the next generation,” he says.
As supply has dwindled for Old Masters (many of which are in museums now), Ramsey has seen demand for contemporary work increase.
“Blue chip art will always be a safer, solid investment than riskier art by emerging artists,” he says. “If you are looking for a secure investment, buy precious metals or Picassos. If you’re looking to buy something that will enhance your daily life, make a statement about your tastes and values, and may well hold or increase its value, that’s when you look at buying art.”
He recommends that when deciding which artworks to buy you trust your instinct and your own taste, and that you allow that taste to develop and change over time. It is also advisable to talk to the galleries, asking questions such as, how is it made? What is the artist’s intention? And, what makes you believe in this artist’s work?
You should also ask yourself some key questions.
“When buying, ask: do I love this piece? Does it move me? Will it continue to interest me in five, ten, twenty years time? Would I be disappointed if someone else came along and snapped it up right now? If the answer to any of these is yes, then follow your instinct – you are the only expert on your own taste,” he says.