This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I've been researching various art appraisal services lately. I have discovered that many offer basic suggestions on their websites as to what types of art are most profitable to collect / invest in. A few go as far as to suggest that there are "secret art rules" that all art collectors with investment in mind should know. Needless to say, those "secret art rules" were of interest to me.
One art appraiser implied that by knowing the rules an art collector can "make a lot of money" by investing in art (surprise, surprise -- this specific art appraiser is an 'expert' in the "secret art rules"). Unfortunately, the "secret art rules" I've read appear to be rather reckless in my opinion -- especially when I reflect on artwork that I know has sold well even though it contradicts the opinions of this group of art appraisers.
To be fair I'm not going to list any specific art appraisal websites -- mainly because I don't know when these suggestions were posted and therefore have no way of knowing if the suggestions focused on what was 'hot' in the art market at a specific time. I will say that most of the art appraisal websites I visited were horribly outdated -- which is a sign to me that many art appraisers have failed to adapt to the information age in which we live.
Most of the art appraisers I researched appear to be catering to specific types of art collectors -- or should I say, specific types of art that they know their regular clientele tends to be attracted to. I say that because the majority of them made it clear on their website -- with their 'magical' list of what to look for when investing in art -- that certain themes in art are frowned upon. You guessed it -- those frowned upon themes happen to fall outside of the type of art promoted on their websites.
It was clear to me that the art appraisers I researched were spearheading specific directions in art... directions that I can only assume are embraced by their typical clients. I'm not suggesting that all art appraisers are opportunists nor am I suggesting that they all strive to stroke the ego of their collector clients. That said, it does seem -- in my opinion -- that some art appraisers have a very narrow view of art. The scope of their professional practice -- and the narrow view of art that I observed during my research -- is miniscule compared to the larger art world.
In my opinion, the "secret art rules" of art investment rhetoric spewed by the art appraisers that I observed is an example of bad business -- and perhaps a tad unethical. After all, writing off entire groups of art comes off uninformed -- and it makes me wonder just how much these art appraisers know about the overall art market. Point blank -- if specific types/forms of artwork fall outside of their expertise they should simply be upfront about it instead of downplaying the importance of said works in favor of what they do understand.
I would think that an art appraiser, more than anyone else, would realize the diversity among art collectors in general -- and the diversity of art that exists today. Could it be that they are opportunists motivated by specific directions in art? Perhaps. After all, a few that I researched openly admit that they are art collectors as well -- could they be using their profession to further cultivate their own art investments? You never know. This much I do know -- art collectors with investment in mind would be at a severe disadvantage if they followed the advice I read to the letter.
What did some of these "secret art rules" of art investment suggest? Examples below:
* One art appraisal website suggested that anything about death (including any work of art involving church cemeteries) is nearly impossible to profit from. Try telling that to Laurie Lipton.
* One art appraisal website suggested that some dog breeds are more desirable in art than others. It listed spaniels and terriers as the 'best' art investment. Another site suggested that dachshunds and collies are the least desirable. Collies are not desirable in a painting or as an art investment? Try telling that to Jack White.
* Another art appraisal website suggested that anything "grotesque" or "bizarre" in art is not worth investing in. It listed examples along the lines of: any portrait involving tattoos, works of art involving 'monsters' or 'other-worldly beings, and so on. Try telling that to Shawn Barber, Chet Zar, Travis Louie, Mark Ryden, H.R. Giger... I could go on -- all are highly collected artists... and a few have been an inspiration to an entire generation of artists.
My research of art appraisers online has lead me to think that perhaps art appraisers need to get with the times. Some of these services have the validation of having been in the business for 50 years or longer -- experience is great... but not if it denies the 'here and now' -- and in some cases, themes that have long been with us. Frankly, some art appraisers appear to be stuck in the past. I assumed that the art appraisal services I researched would have a wider view of art in general. I was wrong.
In closing, art appraisers should know better than to simply write specific themes off as not being a good investment in art. Artists have proven them wrong... art collectors have proven them wrong. Art history speaks for itself. If the future of art appraisal is to be considered valid the practitioners of said trade must be informed. A narrow scope of art appraisal fails to capture the larger world of art that we have come to know. Art appraisers need to get with the times.
Take care, Stay true,