There is no doubt that buying art is difficult at the best of times. Buying Indigenous art can seem like it’s even further down the long and winding road of art acquisition.
It doesn’t need to be though and this blog post is designed to help you navigate your way to what many people find is a very exciting and rewarding experience; collecting Australian Aboriginal Art!
Some of the points I make in this blog post will not be warmly received by all in the industry and there is no doubt that it will cost our gallery some profit from future sales too but I think it’s more important that people wanting to jump into this exciting art niche are armed with the tools and knowledge that will help them to purchase the best Aboriginal Art they can afford at the lowest price that is possible, realistic and serves all parties well.
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So we are publishing this blog post with 8 of our 15 insider tips to buying Aboriginal Art for anyone to read regardless of if they are a subscriber, customer, Facebook fan or not!
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I’m sure you will find this blog post valuable and as always, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or you can leave a comment at the bottom of the post.
1. Buy what you love!
I know it sounds simple but it truly is the best way to buy any art, especially Aboriginal Art. The great thing about following this rule is that no matter what happens, you can’t lose. Because if you love it, and you get to view it on a regular basis, you win!
It’s so much more fun collecting art if you truly love what you have purchased. You wouldn’t want to live in a house that you hated for 10 years because you thought it may make you an extra $20,000 over that time. It’s the same with art.
You don’t want to have a painting on your wall that you didn’t really like just because you thought it might appreciate in value more so than something you do love.
Because if it doesn’t increase in value, you will be one upset art collector and that is not the purpose of collecting art. Art should always be enjoyed.
2. Determine why you’re buying
Are you buying something that you love and you want purely because you think it’s fabulous? Or are you buying something that you love but you secretly want to be an investment?
There are many diverse types of acquisitions in the art industry. As we mentioned in point 1, if you’re buying it because you love it, it’s far easier. Read on and we’ll show you just how easy it can be.
If you’re purchasing art primarily for investment reasons and you want to hold the artwork long term in the hope that it will increase in value significantly, then that’s a different ball game and a harder one at that. This guide is predominantly aimed at those who want to buy artworks to hang in there office or home because they love it.
Purchasing for investment purposes is an entire subject on its own and will be covered in detail at a later time.
3. Spend time finding out what it is you love
So now it’s clear you should buy what you love, how do you work out what you love? Simple! Look at lots of indigenous art from different regions painted in different mediums and different styles. And take your time.
If you can view some art in the flesh be sure to check out as much as you can at galleries and exhibitions, museums and art shows.
If you find it difficult to get to places where Aboriginal Art is displayed, there is an abundance of it online. Artlandish gallery alone has over 1000 artworks to view online that will help you decide what it is you really love!
This is Teddy Carlton who starred in the Baz Luhrmann blockbuster movie “Australia”. Teddy is not just a name but the photo suited the point as he is getting out of a limo!
4. Don’t just buy a name
”An A-grade painting by a B-grade artist is always better than a B-grade painting by an A-grade artist” (Quote from Michael Reid)
When it comes to Aboriginal art, one of the trends we have seen is an artist will win an award or be recognised in some kind of major way and demand for their work skyrockets!
In response, various art dealers may contact the artist to paint for them and all of a sudden they are having to rush their artworks to keep up with demand.
Then at some point the number hits critical mass and everyone starts to wonder why the artists prices have not gone up despite having recently won a major award or been responsible for a record auction price etc.
This happens because it’s too easy to find their works for sale everywhere and often these new works will not be of the same quality as earlier works, which by this point have been well and truly put away for a future time by their owners.
The owners of these earlier works will sit on them until the hype and number of artworks for sale dies down.
The result is a plethora of B grade artworks from an A grade artist flooding the marketplace at the same time and you have a bunch of new buyers of that artist sitting there waiting for the price to rise and it never comes.
Sometimes the artists reputation can be irreversibly damaged but most times everything returns to normal within a couple of years.
So always be wary of buying based on name alone. If the artist has a great reputation and you’re seeing an artwork for sale way below the odds, make sure you do your homework on it because if it sounds to good to be true…..you know the rest!
5. Lay-by is better than a compromise
If you find something that’s beyond your current budget, buy it in installments rather than forgoing what you want for something you can pay for in full today.
Some galleries offer this service. We certainly do at Artlandish and have found it is a great way for people to ensure they get the painting that they want. Once a deposit has been paid that artwork will not be sold to someone else and you’ll have up to 6 months to pay it off.
Don’t be afraid to use this type of arrangement. Remember, this might be hanging in your house for 20-30 years! 3-6 months longer, if it is really what you want, wont make any difference in the long run and you will be far happier you went the extra mile every time you look at it.
6. Avoiding fakes
Whilst there is a problem with non-genuine and fake artworks in the indigenous marketplace, the issue is often blown out of proportion by the media looking for a story. It’s a problem as old as art itself and one that is certainly not limited to one particular part of the art market.
There are things you can do that are very easy though, that ensure to a greater degree that you can avoid being a victim of a fake.
The best way to avoid buying a fake is to buy from established sources that have a long term investment in the industry. For example:
– Community Art Centres or artworks purchased by private galleries from Community art centres
– Established galleries that have a considerable investment in the industry. Galleries like Artlandish have many years and many hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in the industry. It is less likely that a business in this type of position would risk everything they have built by dealing in non-authentic artworks.
– Is the organisation you’re purchasing the art from a member of any industry recognised organisations or government initiatives such as DESART, ArtTrade or the Indigenous Art Code of Australia?
– Does the deal seem far too good to be true?
– Are the answers to your questions being answered sufficiently or are they skirting the issues and tough questions you should be asking?
– What does your gut tell you? It’s often right!
– Don’t wish it was real so much you end up convincing yourself it is.
– What provenance comes with the artwork?
– Does the seller operate within the Indigenous art industry in any significant way? Do they have something tangible to lose if the art wasn’t genuine?
Chances are you’ll never come across a fake in your collecting journey but you must remain vigilant and on the ball because “It won’t happen to me” is not a reasonable game plan!
7. Ask the Gallery Manager!
Don’t be backward in coming forward and asking for advice or the opinion of a gallery manager or art centre curator.
Ask them what they think of specific pieces you have narrowed down in your search.
Ask questions about each artwork and the artist. The more questions you ask the more knowledge you will gain which will help you make more informed decisions. Plus it will become clear to you if you’re dealing with someone who knows about Aboriginal Art or not.
Artlandish Gallery Manager Kirstie Vinken
8. Don’t buy based on age or estimated lifespan
Don’t think that the passing of an artist means their prices will double overnight. Don’t buy with this thought in your mind because this is rarely the case.
Maybe the prices do double but then no one buys them and before long they are back down to the same prices as before the artist had passed.
There is no doubt that the passing of a famous artist can have an effect on the price of their works but the art already needs to be of the highest quality and the artist needs to be very well known. It’s the quality of the artwork and the fact there will be no more available plus the limited number in the marketplace that causes the price to rise dramatically.
If the art is of average quality and / or there is an abundance of works available and flooding the market, the price will likely remain the same. If the artist is not well known before their passing, it is unlikely that the price will move at all.
If you liked the first eight tips we shared with you I am positive you’ll LOVE a couple of the ones still to come.
One in particular could save you hundreds or even thousands of $$$$ when buying Aboriginal Art and it is so simple it’s almost silly but it’s something that 95% of art buyers miss and do not do!
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