The art of investing properly in art

Dusseldorf Art can be a lot for centuries. Decoration, status card, source of contemplation and joy or irritation of viewing habits. For 50 years there has no longer been one leading style and its adversary, but an almost unmanageable variety of artistic attitudes and techniques.

The self-questioning is at the beginning for those art buyers who don’t just want to have mementos bought wildly by accident: Should business or private rooms be decorated? Would you rather like it or reflect your own time in it? How much resistance to art is still acceptable? Should the image of lasting value be conveyed? Or rather the appeal to the avant-garde and the orientation towards the future?

The question of style – what is suitable for companies?

The classics of “concrete art” are popular in companies. This is a style based on geometric shapes that refers to intellectual content. Josef Albers, Rupprecht Geiger and the Swiss Camille Glaeser and Karl Gerstner are among the famous concretes. But even among today’s artists there are specialists who are passionate about the play of matter, space and color.

Susan Tauss, for example, creates color contrasts on heavy handmade paper that literally bends into the room. In the entrance area of ​​the machine builder Trumpf in Ditzingen, for example, a paper object made of bright blue hangs with a signal red border.

Thomas Kesseler is a visual artist and an architect at the same time. A focus of his often space-related works are color concepts realized in old master technique. For the particularly deep luminosity of entire walls, Kesseler uses grated pigments.

Despite the corona pandemic – where do I get information?

Anyone who already knows artist names that are of interest can surf on their homepages. In addition to providing an insight into their exhibitions, many private galleries and public museums also offer films about artists and in-depth material. The network is not only a good research tool during the pandemic.

The eye school – where do I discover “my” work of art?

If you are still looking for what makes your heart beat faster, treat yourself to extensive visits to public and private art institutions, including their websites. Museums generally present more secure positions, even with contemporary art.

So not the very young ones who have just left the art academy, but those whose work has proven itself in solo and group exhibitions for several years.

Good addresses include the Museum Brandhorst in Munich, the Berlinische Galerie and the Hamburger Bahnhof, both in Berlin, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, the Schirn in Frankfurt and the Kunstmuseum in Stuttgart.

The sources – who specializes in contemporary art?

Art associations are a good place to get to know young art. What is shown here is daring, experimental and in no way as introduced as the work of already recognized artists. However, only annual gifts are sold in art associations. These are works in short runs or multiples at reasonable prices for club members.

But if you not only want to see unique pieces, but also want to buy them, you can search the artist’s gallery using a search engine. Galleries are the best source for exploring how contemporary art works. The joint openings of several galleries in an urban district are ideally suited for extensive rounds of exploration.

Sometimes whole weekends follow with Sunday openings, for example at the start of the Frankfurt galleries in September or the DC Open in Düsseldorf and Cologne or the Gallery Weekend in Berlin.

Contemporary art galleries often represent several generations of artists, from long-established stars at high prices to new discoveries that are still available for little money. The mixture minimizes the economic risk.

The platforms – where can I compare offers and prices?

Trade fairs give the collector, the representatives of public and private museums, but also the curators and exhibition organizers of art associations and especially the young collector an excellent overview. Here it becomes clear what the current offer looks like, which trends and topics the visual arts negotiate.

The most important trade fairs include “Art Basel”, “Art Cologne”, “Fiac” in Paris and “Frieze” in London. All of them are said to take place in autumn due to the Corona pandemic.

Trade fairs are also recommended for beginners because the sales prices are often on the label next to the factory. There it is also recorded whether it is a one-off or a slightly cheaper edition or multiple.

If the “Asking Price” is not written on, gallery staff can look it up in a price list on request. The art market in the Handelsblatt reports regularly on all important trade fairs and their exhibitors – every Friday.

Security – How can I find art that has lasting value?

In short, through patience and caution. It does not make economic sense to buy a work by the Italian artist Ugo Rondinone “cheaply” in the parking lot of a tennis court. This work, which was once changed from a collector to a layperson at a strong discount to the market price, turned out to be a fake (see below).

This came out when the insurance company asked the Rondinone family gallery for a certificate of authenticity. The Galerie Presenhuber in Zurich had never traded the said work and was also unable to prove it in the documents on the oeuvre catalog that it maintained. Of course, she did not create an ID card. In this case, the low purchase price from collector to beginner led to a total loss.

Art Cologne

A woman is interested in concrete art at the fair in 2019.

(Photo: imago images / Xinhua)

Connoisseurs distinguish two types in the art trade: primary galleries and secondary market. The former campaign intensively for the well-known of their protégés, arrange exhibitions in institutions and get the works directly from the studio.

The secondary market, on the other hand, consists of auctioneers and galleries without contact with the studio. Secondary market works come from private sales or auctions.

In order to find out whether the beginner is dealing with a primary gallery, those interested can feel free to ask. “Communication, not only with artists, but also with collectors, is an essential part of our area of ​​responsibility,” says Rosemarie Schwarzwälder from the Galerie St. Stephan in Vienna.

She adds: “On the homepage, the term ‘artist of the gallery’ usually refers to the direct primary relationship, in return, ‘works by …’ often indicates the secondary market. But I also notice that this traditional and clear separation has blurred and abolished somewhat in recent years. ”

Tip: For living artists, first orientate yourself on their primary galleries. Many of these first galleries exhibit at juried trade fairs such as Art Cologne, Art Basel or Fiac.

Buy on account. This helps with the adjustment of home insurance and a possible later sale. Trust galleries that follow a code of honor. For example, they are organized in the Federal Association of German Galleries and Art Dealers, the BDVG.

The comparison – develop a feeling for the right price

There is no security for the price level called up if one of the tours of the art academies in Düsseldorf, Berlin or Munich asks the young exhibitors first about the price.

Some young artists are so clever that they counter the question, which is perceived as unreasonable. And would like to know which other artists the unsophisticated questioner already has in his collection? You immediately notice who has no idea.

The codes learn who goes to exhibitions regularly and who can have the price lists given at the counter. If the chosen artist has already made a name for himself, a look at auction results can also give an indication of the price level.

The market value – where can I look up auction results?

The easiest way to get auction prices is with a daily subscription to one of the art price databases of or Interrogate.

The advisor – when is it useful?

Basically, an art consultant is a good investment if the object of desire is very expensive and the experience of the buyer is still very small. If you have the appropriate financial means and an annual purchase budget of at least 50,000 euros, you can get an art consultant in galleries, museums and groups of friends of museums. There is no directory for this profession.

The small budget – what to collect?

Those looking for art that can only cost hundreds of euros or a few thousand euros have two options. First, almost all galleries also offer art on paper from their artists.

Duplicated works, i.e. lithographs and etchings, copperplate engravings or posters are cheaper than unique one-off pieces such as drawings or paintings. The prices of annual gifts from the art associations also rank in this area.

Secondly, those who deal with styles that are currently not so popular pay less. The anti-cyclical collector is currently on the lookout for undervalued art with religious content or pictures of old masters, whose names no longer know. Treasure troves are primarily the auction houses. They also put their catalogs online.

Transport – take the plant home with you?

At trade fairs, galleries give smaller works packed and with an “export certificate”. In the case of bulky work, the gallery suggests the cheapest transport.

The net – is the internet a source of good art?

Ideal for beginners to get information. But those who shop there should already have a lot of specialist knowledge to protect themselves against counterfeiting.

The fake – how do I protect myself?

Anyone who buys on account in prestigious galleries and at juried trade fairs knows what they have. In order to examine “favorable” opportunities, collectors need solid expertise. Beginners usually don’t have that much experience at the beginning.

The discount – can I negotiate the price?

Anyone who would still like to trade down an already framed drawing for 2,000 euros at a trade fair will not be taken seriously by the gallery owner. In the case of higher values, ask about the rough price: Which currency? With or without VAT? Delivery possible?

For large and expensive works, however, regular buyers are given a small discount. The artist and gallery owner share that. Because of their regular financial commitment, such collectors are real art lovers, if not patrons. Only those are spoiled.

More: A video on art – and what it has to do with debt, death and divorce


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