Art Radar lists 12 useful resources for art investors, including online platforms, research publications and books.

Whether you are an art lover preparing for your first purchase, or a seasoned investor looking for something more interesting than stocks and bonds, the following list of resources will help you get started. 

The hammer comes down during one of Sotheby's Spring 2013 auctions in Hong Kong

The hammer comes down during one of Sotheby’s Spring 2013 auctions in Hong Kong.

Please note that the list below, composed of online resources, accessible research publications and books, excludes art funds and art advisory houses as well as resources from auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

Online resources

1. Saatchi Art

“Collecting works by emerging artists is the best way to begin investing in art”, reads the introduction to the ‘Invest in Art’ section of Saatchi Art, a leading online gallery and art advisory. For those intimidated by the vast quantity and diversity of artists in fairs and festivals, the page publishes a few editions each year with profiles of the hottest emerging artists from around the world, handpicked by Director and Chief Curator Rebecca Wilson.

The site also features a unique art advisory service free of charge – perfect for beginner investors who need help getting started. The page reads:

Your Saatchi Art curator selects art tailored to your needs, space, and style. Depending on your request, your curator might suggest as many as 50 works for you to browse through online. No other art advisory programme offers this time-saving service to both individuals and trade professionals free of charge.

2. Artprice

After developing their own eye for artworks, investors face more difficult questions: how much to pay for an art item and how much to sell it for. This is where global databanks and art indices come into play. With over thirty million indices and auction results covering more than 550,000 artists around the world, Artprice is the global leader in art price and art index databanks. According to a press release:

Artprice permanently enriches its databanks with information from 4,500 auctioneers and it publishes a constant flow of art market trends for the world’s principal news agencies and approximately 6,300 international press publications. 

Chinese artist Chen Yifei's Thinking of History at My Space, 1979 sold for CNY36,100,000 landing him at #69 on Artprice's 2009 Hammer Price List

Chinese artist Chen Yifei’s ‘Thinking of History at My Space’, 1979, sold for CNY36,100,000 landing him at No. 69 on Artprice’s 2009 Hammer Price List.

3. Artnet

Not only is Artnet a principal venue for online art auctions; it is a resourceful and user-friendly platform for seasoned investors and beginners alike. Price Database, for example, is a valuation tool containing records from over 1,600 international auction houses and eight million sales results. The site explains that:

With results dating back to 1985, the database allows users to easily and discreetly determine what they should pay for a work of art, the value of their collection, and the right time to buy or sell. 

In addition, the Analytics Reports benchmark the market performance of artists, art categories and customised sets of artworks against financial indices, such as the S&P 500 and Dow Jones, or specific assets such as gold. For busy professionals, the handy Market Alerts tool informs subscribers via email when artworks by their favorite artists hit the market at any major auction house, gallery or event.

4. The Mei Moses Index

Tailored for the financially-minded, the Mei Moses Fine Art Index describes itself as “[t]he art indexes most often quoted by the media in the analysis of the financial returns of the art market”. The site focuses heavily on the financial side of things, pitting its own art indexes against major financial benchmarks.

However, investors should beware the limitations of even the most sophisticated indices. Mike Moses, Co-founder of Mei Moses, reveals in a 2014 Forbes article that “[e]very index provider faces the same problem of how to deal with buy-ins. […] There’s no way to assign any value to these lots, other than making up a price”. The same article warns:

While making a laudable attempt to bring transparency to the opaque art market, [art indices] have always been hobbled by the lack of sales data available. All of them rely on data from just half the art market – the auction market – when 53 percent of the global art market is actually made up of private gallery and dealer sales.

5. ArtRank

Despite such analytical limitations, adventurous investors might nevertheless enjoy ArtRank, a unique yet controversial site that uses a complex algorithm to place emerging artists into buckets including ‘buy now’, ‘sell now’ and ‘liquidate’ – “in the same way stockbrokers rate shares”, as The Guardian states.

Carlos Rivera, Co-founder of the company, tells The New York Times that the algorithm was designed by a financial engineer who still works at a hedge fund. In response to strong criticisms from artists, Rivera insists that he is not endorsing speculation, but merely increasing transparency and quantifiability in the notoriously opaque art market. He also openly states his wish to hook in a new class of investors – a class that can only understand art as pure commodity:

He […] believes the art market cannot sustain its current rate of growth without broadening the base of collectors. The obvious place to look is the new class of super-rich technocrats, people who made their fortunes in data-crunching and want art, or their understanding of it, to conform to that view – not as a proposition fashioned by self-styled elites in New York and London.

Research reports

For the analytically minded who prefer to get dirty with the data itself rather than accepting recommendations from advisors, the recent boom of research publications on the art market is a godsend.

6. The Art Market in 2014 – Artprice and AMMA (Art Market Monitor of Artron) 

Now in its thirteenth edition and published in six languages, Artprice and AMMA’s annual report The Art Market in 2014 (PDF downloadable here) combines powerful resources and different perspectives of the West and the East to provide top quality information for art market participants.

Wan Jie, CEO and Founder of Artron Art Group and AMMA, writes in the introduction:

Compared with the annual report in 2012, this report improved its structure and content to fit the totality of Eastern and Western art market. Firstly, it introduces the characteristics of Eastern and Western art markets; secondly, it illustrates the segmentation of the art market by period and by medium; thirdly it focuses on some great art market capitals around the world; finally, it analyses some hot topics of [the] global art market in 2014 (such as the establishment of a free trade area and the importance of young artists).

7. Art & Finance Report 2014 – Deloitte Luxembourg and ArtTactic

Consulting giant Deloitte and art research firm ArtTactic released their third Art & Finance Report (PDF downloadable here) in September 2014. The report synthesises information contributed by 261 private banks, family offices, art collectors and professionals and acts as “a barometer for the emerging Art and Finance industry, to highlight the main trends and developments [and] to capture and measure the changing motivations and perceptions among its participants”.

Geared towards seasoned investors (not just art investors), the report’s comprehensive data situates art investments in comparison to other asset classes, analyses the growing sector in detail and forecasts future market trends. A summary and commentary of the report by Artnet states:

[…] the report […] found that the average wealthy individual currently allocates approximately 9 percent of his or her portfolio to art and collectibles. However, particularly in the United States […] wealth managers are forecasting increased portfolio allocations to art as an investable asset class.

Larry's List Art Collectors Report 2014 report cover: Boo Ritson, 'Monique', 2009, archival digital print on Somerset paper, 101.6 x 78.05cm, unframed. Photography by Andy Crawford. Image courtesy the Poppy Sebire Gallery Ltd, the artist and the Burger Collection, Hong Kong.

Larry’s List Art Collectors Report 2014, report cover: Boo Ritson, ‘Monique’, 2009, archival digital print on Somerset paper, 101.6 x 78.05 cm, unframed. Photography by Andy Crawford. Image courtesy the Poppy Sebire Gallery Ltd, the artist and the Burger Collection, Hong Kong.

8. Art Collector Report – Larry’s List

Recently reviewed by Art Radar, the Art Collector Report by Larry’s List focuses on the art collector scene, providing an in-depth analysis of data collected since 2012. The report breaks down the private art collector scene via region, art collection particulars and the collector’s individual characteristics. A regional approach is also taken, with comprehensive investigations into continental, country and city case studies. Co-publisher Magnus Resch explains in the press release:

The report gives insights into the world’s art collector scene for the first time. […] It underpins the belief in the importance of the private art collector cohort and sets a starting point for providing some transparency on one of the most powerful driving forces in the art market today.

Books

9. Fine Art and High Finance: Expert Advice on the Economics of Ownership – Clare McAndrew (ed.)

Albeit a little dated (published in 2010), Fine Art and High Finance: Expert Advice on the Economics of Ownership is a valuable starting point and continuing desk reference for serious art lovers looking to gain solid knowledge of finance and investment. Key topics in the volume include appraisal and valuation, art as loan collateral, securitisation and taxation, art funds and insurance. The book is edited by Dr Clare McAndrew, a leading expert on art economics, who also compiles the annual TEFAF report.

10. Big Bucks: The Explosion of the Art Market in the 21st Century – Georgina Adam

Published only last year, Big Bucks: The Explosion of the Art Market in the 21st Century is a well-researched yet highly readable book dissecting the 21st century modern and contemporary art market. Author and veteran art journalist Georgina Adam draws on her own personal experiences and narrates with an engaging, insightful voice the many facets of the mysterious industry, including the development of auction houses into cutthroat business firms, the emergence of mega dealers, Internet sales, ‘branded’ artists and the explosion of art fairs.

11. Art as an Investment? A Survey of Comparative Assets – Melanie Gerlis

Also published in 2014, Art as an Investment? A Survey of Comparative Assets questions whether art could be seen as an investment at all. Extensively researched and written by Melanie Gerlis, The Art Newspaper‘s Art Market Editor, the volume presents a detailed analysis of a list of other assets as compared to art, including gold, wine, property, private equity, public equity and luxury goods. Gerlis paints a grim picture; ultimately the book reads as a solemn caution to the ill-advised and ill-informed art investor who might be susceptible to much hyped but skewed rates of returns.

12. Art as Investment: A Research Anthology From the Past 100 Years – Robert Lewis (ed.)

Not for the fainthearted, Art as Investment: A Research Anthology From the Past 100 Years is a dense collection of rigorous academic research papers from various sources over the past 100 years. The anthology aims to deliver a historic research background via primary research material. Albeit a bit heavy on the mathematics and statistics at times, the volume proves extremely illuminating for both the layman and the professional – assisting in the navigation of “the treacherous waters of art valuation”, according to an Amazon review. The stories and anecdotes of sales stretching back 100 years make for an intriguing and helpful guide.

Michele Chan

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Related Topics: art and investment, art collecting, market watch, market transparency, business of art, auctions, funds, books, market reports, resourcesresource alerts

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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