When big art money isn’t the only game in town

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What was once an investment of a few thousand dollars has turned into hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits for my clients.

As an art advisor specializing in helping collectors re-sell their work on the secondary art market, I find it thrilling to work with collectors who have put time, energy, and effort into their collection. One of my favorite Miami collecting couples, for example, has actively supported the arts together for more than 50 years. They would frequently attend gallery openings, visit artists in their studios, and spend time getting to know their practice. They invested heavily in rising young stars, and 50 years later their dedication has paid off: I’ve helped these collectors re-sell works by John Baldessari, Peter Saul, Raymond Pettibon, Richard Tuttle, Ana Mendieta, Carrie Mae Weems, and Chris Ofili, to name a few.

However, in today’s art market, people approach collecting in radically different ways. You see, the past 30 years have seen a shift in the art market. On Wednesday, November 7 at Silverspot Cinema in downtown Miami, Commissioner and Art Market Liaison will be introducing the award-winning documentary film, The Price of Everything, that lifts the veil on this booming industry, interviewing important stakeholders that have led the change on this dynamic market.

For aspiring collectors, let’s review what’s changed and consider what dedicated Miami collectors can teach us. While managing your collection and your wealth through a Byzantine art market can be intimidating, there’s a decisive advantage to understanding context, competition, and trends, and a strong case for leveraging local ties to build your collection.

A brief history of the art market

In the 1980s, the stock market boom and rampant real estate development across the United States flooded the economy with cash. Suddenly, high-net-worth individuals had plenty of disposable income, and purchasing fine art was viewed as not only a beautiful addition to a home but as an asset whose value could appreciate over time, making it a fabulous investment. Galleries, auction houses and dealers shifted their focus and began engaging with affluent people across all industries and communities. Now, hedge fund billionaires, oil tycoons, and real estate moguls were aggressively making major art purchases, and that meant competition on the auction floor catapulted prices and drove a flurry of interest in the art market.

Eventually, private banks got into the game and began offering services tailored to art advisory. When the globalization boom started in the 1990s, the traditional borders surrounding the art market slowly began to disappear. Collectors located in Japan, Switzerland, France, and Italy, who typically bought art at London sales or from local galleries, started frequenting New York sales for more variety. To meet the demand, auction houses and galleries opened offices in other cities around the world, cultivating collectors to buy at multiple sale sites. When the Internet caused the technology boom, regional borders came crashing down. Now, a Los Angeles gallerist could send images of works to a client in Berlin, and the collector could easily purchase the work, and have it shipped to their home within weeks.

Amid bust cycles, like the recession of the mid-2000s, art often retains or gains value, making it an enticing investment. And so long as art is a status symbol, new buyers will clamor for it in increasing numbers.
[infobox_default_shortcode header=”The Price of Everything screening” img=”” color=”#8EC9C8″]Dive deeper into the global art market on Nov. 7 when Commissioner and Art Market Liaison will present a special screening of “The Price of Everything.” Purchase tickets via Silverspot Cinema.[/infobox_default_shortcode]

What it all means for Miami collectors

Now that there are so many buyers active in the global art market, there’s a lot more competition for the Miami collectors who have supported artists for years. It can feel like barriers to entry are impossibly high for the novice collector. But the reality is, anyone can build a beautiful and valuable collection, if they follow the example of our Miami clients.

Why? Because art isn’t only about economic value. Collecting is a passion and a pastime, and investing in and supporting artists will only drive their value higher. Take a note from our Miami collectors, and make art collecting a well-researched, educated effort. Information is power: Get to know your local artists — visit their studios, ask questions, attend their gallery and museum shows, and introduce them to your friends and work colleagues. Make regular trips to local galleries, who rely on the local market to stay in business. Keep in touch with artists and galleries outside of Miami by following them on Instagram, and visit their booths when they make it down for Miami Art Week.

Sign up for free art world blogs, online magazine subscriptions, or art world newsletters and stay abreast of major shows, auction sales, museum openings, and trends. Support your local institutions by becoming a member and contributing to their continued programming and success, and gain access to some of the best contemporary art in Miami. Join local groups like Commissioner, a new initiative introducing exciting ways to connect novice collectors and local Miami artists. Reach out to advisors once you’re ready to make a purchase and feel even more confident about your investment.

Art collecting certainly can be millionaire’s game, but that’s not the only game in town. Take a note from our Miami clients, and immerse yourself in local art. Educating yourself and turning art collecting into a fun, yet serious hobby will ensure that you’ll cherish your collection for decades to come — and it’s likely that someday, that dedication will pay off.

This article is presented in partnership with Commissioner, a new membership community with a goal of building lasting local arts patronage in Miami through commissioning original artwork from thriving local artists, telling the stories of the city’s arts scene, and bringing members to unexpected spaces, homes, and studios to learn how to become collectors.