The Fine Art Of Investing

18 Dec 2010

Ever dreamt of finding a sketch in the attic that turns out to be an Irma Stern? Or picking up a watercolour for R100 at a flea market that is revealed to be worth thousands? Well it isn't just undiscovered old masters that could be a good investment.

During November and December South African graduate artists will be displaying the products of their hard graft in final year degree shows at art universities and colleges across the country. These annual exhibitions not only feature some of the most interesting artwork being produced in South Africa, but are also at prices that can look very good value if the student becomes hot property. You don’t need to be a multi-millionaire to be a patron of the arts - BA and MA graduate art work can be picked up from between R500 – R5000.

"Now is the perfect time to invest in graduate art," says Jennifer Reynolds of StateoftheART, an online shop for original art by early career and emerging artists. "The market has been deflated over the past couple of years and there has been a cautiousness. If you buy art now you could see values go up significantly over the next two or three years."

So how do you tell who will be the Kentridges of the future? If you are going to invest in graduate art, Ms Reynolds advises buying MA graduates rather than BA graduates. She says: "to get to MA level you have to have shown a financial and time commitment which means you are less likely to fall at the first or second hurdle. The artists have got to a certain point in their practise by then and have a recognisable style." It is quite common for artists to work for 10 years or more between graduating from their BA and embarking on their MA. Ensuring the quality of the object itself – as well as the subject matter – is also important. Good paints are expensive, but better quality materials will mean that the colours will be just as vibrant in 50 or 100 years.  The biggest prerequisite for buying any type of art work, however, is not potential for profit, but whether you like the piece. Remember, art can decrease in value as well as increase, so you should be happy to keep it if it becomes unsaleable.

Ms Reynolds tips Jenny Fox McKay as one to watch this year. Her work has already been snapped up to grace the walls of the Nelspruit Civic Centre.

Alternatively, if you don't have the time, or inclination, to trail around dusty art rooms, you can now do it all from your home computer at StateoftheART, where you’ll also find the dates and venues of the upcoming degree shows.

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