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Art is not always an investment

Buying art is not only a way of investing capital. By choosing modern artists’ works, one can gain status as a patron, a title that dates back to ancient Roman times.

 A patron is a natural or legal person who supports, especially by financial means, artists and cultural institutions with an intension of “having their name praised”. Governments, in my opinion, don’t offer artists enough help and budgets set aside for cultural and artistic endeavours disappear instantly…   

Culture and art, in the place of former patrons-magnates, should nowadays be supported by media and show business. A lot of companies, as part of their advertising campaigns or CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), support a variety of competitions by sponsoring prizes or by funding cultural projects. More and more often, art galleries manage to find patrons for exhibitions and the publishing of catalogues. Such help is, however, a drop in the ocean when it comes to the actual needs.

The fact that more and more PR agencies display interest and appreciation for art patronage and encourage their clients to become art patrons shows that the practice brings profits. There are many possibilities there. The simplest form of patronage is financial support for exhibitions, competitions, art festivals or publications that will bring public recognition for the patron. Another, more standard form, is a continuous patronage of an artist or a group of artists and successive subsidising of their work. There are also other approaches to patronage, for example barter deals, acquiring works of art in exchange for project funding and publicity for the artist. This kind of patronage offers a great opportunity for CSR. There is also the possibility of combining such activities with charitable work by donating art pieces. What’s more, in addition to doing something good, one benefits in a material sense, companies’ profits from patronage can be easily calculated.     

Well placed art investments are usually long term and can generate unimaginable profits. Due to the fact that neither politics nor global markets or wars have direct effect on the price of art, as happens in case of gold or oil, in times of economic slowdown, art can fetch record prices. One could say that art is the safest capital investment option.

Art Banking services, professional financial consulting in the field of art investment, are also available. Banks which offer the service can be the best place to turn to if you are considering spending a substantial sum of money on a work of art. In Art Banking the minimal investing budget usually comprises 50 000 Polish Zloty (£8.600). Any chance of seeing the funded works is, however, very slim.

For those who have just begun collecting art and investing in it, I recommend young art auctions. Professionals responsible for acquiring art pieces for auctions assess the artists’ skills and investment potential as well as setting the trends. The auctions themselves show how many people are interested in particular artists and their work. Art auctions are, in a way, small art markets. During one evening we observe how supply and demand are created. However, some common sense in assessing the situation is required. The results, just as in the statistics, depend on whether the ‘relevant’ sample was researched. I remember an auction that took place over ten years ago in Poznan. There were two authentic watercolours by Salvador Dali to buy. One of them was sold for 1500 Polish Zloty (the opening price). The second one, with the opening price of 2000 Polish Zloty, wasn’t purchased at all. Why? The potential buyers comprised mostly of retired teachers and office workers who didn’t have much purchasing potential. On the other hand, it also sometimes happens that two people with substantial capital are so intent on buying a particular piece of art that it reaches an unimaginable price that would be impossible to get in other circumstances.   

Magdalena Woźniak 
Art Imperium