How Do I Become An Art Investor

November 15, 2021

For the uninitiated, investing in art can feel like an impossible task. There is a common misconception that the art world is reserved for the elite; the millionaires and oligarchs who can afford to drop a cool million dollars on a painting, with no need to consider whether they will ever see a positive return.

In truth, the art world is an intriguing, fascinating and exciting place – and one which is accessible to anyone with enough confidence. Investing in art is becoming an increasingly popular decision, and one which has the potential to net you a serious profit if you are willing to play the long game.

Looking to get started in the world of art investment? Read on for everything you need to know, even if you have no experience in art, paintings or alternative investment!

Learn The Lingo

In order to successfully invest in art, it is useful to have a basic understanding of what you are talking about. That doesn’t mean going back to school for a full Art History degree, but coming to terms with some of the basic movements and vocabulary of art can help you to make more confident decisions. Do your homework, and carry a notebook to jot down any ideas or terms which may come up. This will help you to retain and recall them at a later date.

Make sure that you have a good knowledge of the main major art movements, such as expressionism, surrealism, postmodernism, impressionism, modernism and pop art, as well as the main figures in each of these. You should, for example, be able to identify a Monet by general style, even if you do not have a detailed understanding of every piece. Get comfortable with conversations that focus on composition, such as context, medium, aesthetic, framing and style, as well as political and social terms which are typically used to discuss artists and works of art – aggressive, appropriation, dynamic and suggestive will typically crop up in conversation time and again, so take the time to really understand them.

It is a good idea to take a look at the offerings in your local area – many colleges will run adult or evening classes on a range of subjects, and some may allow you to audit art history lectures. If this is not possible, or your schedule does not allow it, you can head to the internet – there are a wide range of YouTube channels and online courses to help you brush up on your skills and expertise.

By building your knowledge and understanding of art, you are not only significantly increasing your chances of finding the perfect piece, but also boosting your own confidence in the world of art. Experts that you may encounter in the field, including gallery owners,  curators, other investors, and artists themselves will appreciate your knowledge and ability to communicate effectively about art. A large aspect of enjoying success in the art world involves making the necessary connections and networks – sounding like you know what you are talking about is a great first step!

Having a good working knowledge of the art world will also make it easier for you to spot quality pieces more quickly, and distinguish a “good” work or interesting artist from something that has the potential to become the next big thing – and therefore is likely to prove a very smart investment.

Change Your Reading Habits

As well as becoming more comfortable with the terminology and vocabulary of the art world, it is also important to ensure that you are up to date on new developments and changes – just as you would if you were investing in the traditional stock market. Take the time to read pieces on the subjects of art criticism. There are a number of online journals, such as “Art Report,” “Whitehot Magazine,” and “Blouin Artinfo” which do not require subscriptions, and offer a wide range of resources to help you increase your knowledge and understanding. Websites such as “Artnet” or the “Art Newsletter” are also very useful in staying up to date with the latest information, and will keep you up to speed on new artists, exhibitions, sales, and events.

If you want to kick things up a notch, consider a subscription to one of the popular publications, such as “Art in America” or “Art Forum,” or one of the well-known academic journals. Over time, you will begin to notice the same names coming up time and again. Pay attention to this – who is being talked about, and in what capacity? This could offer an excellent investment opportunity if you keep your ear to the ground.

Develop A Strategy

As with any investment, you will need to develop a sound strategy in order to succeed. Start by identifying your goals as an investor – what is it that you want to get out of your investment? Are you looking for a beautiful piece of art to display in your home for a number of years, before selling it for a profit, or do you simply want to make money quickly? If the former, you should focus on purchases from strong, well-established artists, whose works have consistently appreciated in value, as well as focusing on a style you like. If the latter however, you may consider an art investment fund – these are pools of money set aside by investment experts, and used to make purchases on behalf of investors – this is a similar operation to mutual funds.

In some cases, you may wish to make money quickly, but still manage your investment yourself – in this case, focusing on local art fairs and local artists can unlock a good array of work to choose from, and offer a chance to flip pieces online in a shorter time frame. By getting clear on your goals, you can then move on to decide the path that your investment journey will take, and narrow down the most suitable sources for the outcome you desire.

Get Connected

As we have mentioned, a large element of your success in the world of art investments depends on the connections you make, and the people you know. Make sure that you are attending art fairs, openings, exhibitions and other events, and getting to know the curators, artists and gallery owners – these will be the people giving you the best tips on the new hot artists, or offering insight and advice which could be very beneficial to your future investment plans.

Gallery owners are particularly useful contacts, and most will be very happy to help budding investors. They will likely ask what types of art you are interested in, the nature of your current collection, and your future aspirations and desires – here is where your prior research can come in handy! Always be polite, and be sure to thank people for their time – this means that they are more likely to think of you favorably when a great deal becomes available.

Be Patient

Investing in art is not a way to make fast cash, and is unlikely to net you overnight success. Similarly, building your way up to establish yourself as a serious and respected art investor takes time and effort – nobody will be willing to trust you until you have given them a reason to do so.

Be prepared to do plenty of research in the early days, and to put in the effort to build connections, contacts, and networks. Once you have purchased a piece, remember that there is unlikely to be a significant value attached in the early days – in some cases, you will need to wait years, if not decades to sell the investment on for a substantial profit. However, if you are willing to put the work in, then becoming an art investor is an amazing opportunity to earn some serious money, while enjoying the beauty and wonder of art. For art fans, there really are few better opportunities available.

Masterworks is a fintech company democratizing the art market. Our investors are able to fractionally invest in $1mn+ works of art by some of the world's most famous and sought-after artists.