Once you’ve come to the realisation that there are plenty of good reasons to invest in art, one of the next steps is to think about which artists to invest in and to consider investing in artists at different career stages.
Historically, the art market has performed well and has a resilience and stability that stands out from the stock market and more traditional asset classes. As with any alternative asset, however, investors need an understanding of the art market and what makes particular artworks valuable.
Due to the complexity of the objective value assigned to art, this can be an extraordinarily difficult task. Nonetheless, one helpful way to understand art as an asset class and estimate a value is by assessing the differences between the main categories, or career stages of an artist: emerging, established, and blue-chip.
In this article, we look at those different career stages in order to gain an understanding that will make it somewhat easier to evaluate the value of an artwork.
Investing In Emerging Artists
Irrespective of the artist’s age, the emerging artist is an individual who finds themself at the beginning of their art career, beginning to garner attention and achieve some recognition despite not having yet established a reputation.
This term applies to those who have specialised training in their field (not necessarily academically) and have created a modest body of work and either made a career change or decided to prioritise their art above other forms of employment.
Emerging artists are usually just beginning to exhibit their work, more often than not as part of a group show and they’re very unlikely to be selling on the secondary market. This could be an artist that has caught the eye of an art gallery or critic but hasn’t yet established their reputation in the art world.
In terms of art investment, emerging artists can be the most volatile as it’s quite difficult to estimate how much the value of their work will grow over time, or what their career holds in store. They can also, however, see very rapid increases in value and a well-timed investment could potentially yield a great return.
Investing In Emerging To Established Artists
This stage of an artist's career is a crossing over point, the artist having created a solid body of work and established a recognisable, signature style.
An artist in this stage of their career would have received national recognition through media, publications and solo exhibitions, as well as gathered a following that isn’t just local or regional.
Generally, an artist at this stage of their career will have gallery representation, promoting their work both via solo and group exhibitions, with their work selling on the primary market and in some cases the secondary market.
In terms of investment, whilst slightly more volatile than the work of an established artist, the work of an artist in this stage does have good potential to sharply increase as the artist gains more recognition, especially on an international scale and becomes established.
Investing In Established Artists
The established artist is one who’s at a mature stage of their career, has created a considerable body of work and has begun achieving at a higher level, receiving both national and international recognition and following, with a significant number of solo exhibitions at distinguished galleries and museums worldwide.
They would have had numerous publications about them and their work, most likely through galleries, museums and publishing houses, as well as a substantial amount of press coverage.
As an artist with a signature style that has been further developed and honed with each additional series they’ve released, this stage of an artist’s career doesn’t hinge solely on the number of years they’ve been active.
Years of consistent sales of the artist’s work in galleries and auctions will have established the value of their work, and they would have demonstrated their ability to maintain their high level of achievement.
An established artist will be sought after by seasoned collectors as well as have work being sold on the secondary market.
In terms of investment, an established artist is only one step down from a blue-chip artist and therefore, whilst slightly more volatile, offers the greatest opportunity for an investment that will increase but will at the least, hold its value. Again though, any investment is a risk and there are no guarantees.
Investing In Blue-Chip Artists
A blue-chip artist is an artist who is well-established and globally recognised, even viewed as a “national figure”, as well as being recognised as having made significant contributions to the art world and the discipline they practice and are in almost every instance, world-renowned names that incite enthusiasm and fervour amongst experienced collectors.
The work of a blue-chip artist tends to consistently retain its value, often being sold for astounding prices on the secondary market. Artists in this career stage typically have a solid transactional history on the secondary market that spans at least a decade.
Whilst there’s not a set price point that defines an artist as blue-chip, the works of blue-chip artists regularly sell for amounts exceeding 6 figures.
With years of consistent sales and an indisputable value that has been confirmed in the auction houses, these “prize” artworks that are high in demand but low in supply, are sought after by seasoned collectors and often result in record-setting results when taken to auction.
Another key element behind blue-chip artists is that the artist themself, or their estates are often represented by big-name galleries, with brick and mortar spaces in numerous major cities around the world, featuring their artwork in museum-quality exhibitions.
In terms of investment, the work of a blue-chip artist is considered to be the least volatile on the market as the value tends to consistently appreciate over time due to the status of the artist which is in most cases, achieved posthumously.
Due to the legitimacy afforded to them from previous auction results, as well as their art-historical significance; blue-chip artists mostly achieve consistent auction results with the value of their work either holding or increasing despite the general fluctuations in the economy.
The risks of an auction sale causing the work of a living artist to decline in value can be a reason for many artists to remain safely within the emerging and established artist categories, until after their deaths.
How The Pandemic Increased Demand For Emerging Artists
The Covid-19 pandemic changed the art market not only in the sense of the big shift to online, but it also changed some of the reasons for investing in art and ushered in a new generation of investors, driving demand for emerging and established artists.
It’s no secret that art is a stable asset class with the capacity to preserve value and act as a hedge against inflation. Due to those reasons, during times of crisis or financial uncertainty, the owners of blue-chip artworks tend to hold onto their most valuable artworks as a means of protecting their wealth.
The changes to the industry that resulted from the pandemic saw a new generation of investors as well as many seasoned collectors looking to diversify their portfolios, but with few collectors willing to part with their blue-chip pieces, this resulted in a low supply that couldn’t meet the high demands.
The result of this scarcity of blue-chip artworks and the demand for investment-grade art hitting an all-time high, was the demand for emerging and established artists being driven upwards at an unprecedented rate.
What Does This Mean For New Investors?
Due to the way the art market has changed and managed again to prove its resilience and stability as an asset-backed investment, it’s clear that right now is the best time to invest in art.
The great news for new investors is that art has become an easily accessible asset class. The shift of the art market moving online has offered access to a vast assortment of artworks at a variety of price ranges.
This globalisation of the art market has not only increased the number of emerging artists in the pool of creative talent but has also driven up the demand for emerging and established artists, working towards the value of their works appreciating over time.
So for new investors, this means that now really is the time to get involved and start building a collection. It is important to note, however, that those looking to invest in art will benefit greatly from the guidance of an expert art advisor.
Which Artists Are Best To Invest In?
In conclusion, even with a better understanding of the different stages of an artist’s career enabling you to evaluate the value of art with a little more certainty, you may still be left wondering which artists are best to invest in.
After all, art valuation is a fairly complicated affair, but it is made slightly easier by knowing that the volatility of an investment can be estimated based upon the career stage that the particular artist behind the work is in, whether that’s emerging, established or blue-chip.
Whilst it’s important for an investor to be aware of the risks and rewards associated with each category of career stage, there can be some overlap between the distinctions and the status associated with each category, so the career stage of the artist shouldn’t be the only factor you consider before making an investment decision.
It’s important to remember to invest in artworks that resonate with you and establish informed objectives before investing by conducting the right research on the art market and seeking the guidance of art market experts.
Are You Looking To Invest In Art?
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If you’d like to take the first step in your art investment journey, or even if you’re looking to expand or diversify your portfolio, feel free to contact our expert art brokers for the finest professional art investment guidance.
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