Investing in Art: The Danger of Fads and Trends
Although the art market is a relatively insulated market there does tend to be a vulnerability that is perpetuated by the amalgamation of fine art with popular culture and the influences of commercialism and the media. As I have said many times before, when investing in art it is primarily the artist’s career that you are investing in so it is important to be as sure as you can that their career is one that will be long lasting. The problem with artists that take advantage of the hype often associated with popular culture is that the creations of popular culture are often short lived fads. Taking advantage of the short lived hype associated with fads and trends is not particularly difficult, what is difficult is producing art that transcends the superficiality of our modern consumer driven society and reveals enough to evoke thoughts and emotions yet conceals enough to allow for differing opinions and interpretations.
Artist’s whose work is a result of a fad or trend will often see huge increases in price of their works in a short period of time but in the long term the value of their work will often see the same fate as the fad. Investing in this type of artist is very risky as the price spikes are often very quick and unpredictable although the rewards can be much greater but you would need to have the knowledge and information available to you so that you can gauge when to get in and when to get out. An example of such an artist is the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami whose work is centered around the current popularity of asian cartoons such as manga. Murakami’s work has shot up in price as the result of a flood of media exposure and commercial success which has caused people to question whether what he creates is actually fine art or merely merchandise. Because of this I would seriously question the long term stability and value of Murakami’s work.
In order to avoid being stung by the fads associated with consumer culture you should look at investing in artists whose work is more intellectual and thought provoking rather than just decoration. Those artists that produce work that evokes comment, thought and discussion with imagery that is open to interpretation will often find that people will come back to an image over and over again as they discover something new each time they view it. These atributes will often mean that an artists work will stand the test of time and become more valuable as it continues to reveal its secrets.
I cannot tell you how to immediately identify those artists that produce intellectual work but what I can say is that the more galleries you visit the greater your ability will become to distinguish between those artists that produce decoration and those that produce intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging fine art.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectables for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.