"Google is my best friend and my worst enemy. It's fabulous for research, but then it becomes addictive. I'll have a character eating an orange, and next thing I'm Googling types of oranges, I'm visiting chat rooms about oranges, I'm learning the history of the orange." Liane Moriarty
Just like this busy orange, by the time you are done researching art and artists, you will learn all kinds of interesting and useful information. Sure, it'll feel like you’ve become a crazy stalker creep, checking out Facebook pages and Instagram accounts, but at the end of it all, you will have more confidence to dive in and make that purchase (and probably know the answer to ‘boxers or briefs?’).
I’m So Confused…
The relationship between art and the art market has so often been an illogical, unpredictable and plain old confusing one. Some artists have seemingly always sold at high prices - so entrenched is their position in the art-historical canon - and will presumably continue to do so. Others may see their prices wax and wane. Then there are those who may have little real market for their work at all.
Amid all of this, you, the budding art collector, may struggle to make sense of the artists to go for from an investment prospective, the ones to avoid and those who might be worth a gamble purchase.
With this in mind, listed below are our 8 tips for researching artists and the prices they typically command.
1. Whatcha Doing?
Follow Artists' Career Trajectories
If there is a particular artist whose work you already own or have your eye on, this could be as simple a process as Googling them every now and then and searching for recent references in the news, or updates to their online artist's CV. What kind of exhibitions have they shown at lately? Is there evidence of solo shows? Have they been nominated for major prizes or residencies?
2. Be A Bookworm
Read Art Magazines and Newspapers
Sure, some of them might be stuffed with impenetrable 'art jargon', but they also provide fine pointers as to the artists who are 'hot' in the here and now. From ARTnews and The Art Newspaper to Art Review and Artforum, there's no shortage of publications - on both a national and international level - that will help you find your bearings in the current art world.
Keep Track Of Recent Sales
You might not be able to afford to attend Sotheby's every week, but you can certainly keep an eye on the art auction listings and the headlines in relation to major sales. As you do, consider whether any trends are emerging in the kind of art that sells and the kind of art that doesn't, and where the opportunities might be to snap up the work of an art world 'up and comer'.
4. I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Don't underestimate the value of the "net"
The Internet has done so much to democratise the art market, with much of the information that might have previously been buried in art magazines and journals now freely available. The artist who takes your interest may not be sufficiently famous to have a Wikipedia page, but they are certainly likely to have a website and they may be included in major galleries' online collections.
5. I Thought One Million Dollars Had 5 Zeros
Be wary of valuing work yourself
Pricing artwork is definitely an art rather than a science, although such factors as the artist's reputation and current prices and the rarity and condition of a given piece all come into play. If in doubt about a work you own, contact a specialist fine art auctioneer like Christie's, Sotheby's or Bonhams - getting a second opinion if necessary.
6. Extra! Extra! Read All About It!
Subscribe to gallery newsletters
Visit the websites of your favourite public and commercial galleries alike, or visit them in person, and ask to be added to their mailing list. That way, you will be kept up to date with the latest news on acquisitions, exhibitions and other events involving the artists who interest you - perhaps including opportunities to meet and chat to the artist in person.
7. Do I Hear Another Bid?
Subscribe to market research bodies and auction houses
Sites like MutualArt and Art Brokerage are great for keeping yourself well-informed of the latest art market developments and even having your own art valued. Artnet also presents you with the chance to be notified when pieces by your favourite artists become available for purchase at any major gallery, event or auction house. Some of these subscriptions are free, while others require a money spend, so you should be sure to work within your budget.
8. He Said, She Said
Talk to other collectors and galleries
If there are any people who know the 'law of the land' better than you, it is other, more experienced collectors, together with the galleries that represent your favourite artists. Are prices for your artist in decline or on the up? Are any particular pieces shortly set to hit the market? Perhaps they have contacts which will enable you to meet the artist? These things are all of potential use.
Boxers or Briefs?
Piece together the puzzle using all of the information you have sourced via the aforementioned methods, and you will be able to make much more informed decisions on your art purchasing, while learning a lot of interesting things along the way – like I prefer boxers 😜