There is an old adage about only buyign art that you love rather than for investment,
, because of posterity’s judgement. Following this advice means that you will be guaranteed continuing pleasure and not be bothered if you happen to be fastened to a declining asset. Art will always be a risky investment but judicious buying, of living artists especially, can lead to some spectacular gains down the road.
You should think art as a long-term investment - 10 years at a minimum. And it’s an investment that will not be expose to the vagaries of the stock market. Those who went for Banksy in the early days are now reaping a rich reward for their perspicacity. Among Irish artist, if you bought John Shinnors or Donald Teskey 20 years ago you can now achieve a very handsome profit at auction - roughy 600% in today’s market.
The Irish auction house have been very lively over the past 12 months. It may be that during the lockdown the €15,000 allocated to a fortnight in Tuscany has been spent instead in a painting by Dan O’Neill or a bronze by John Behan. Or it could be that the record low interest rates that are currently driving investors towards gold and silver are also encouraging them to buy art. There has been a spate of record prices for both living and dead artists suggesting there is money out there for the judicious investor.
So who are the safe bets and who seems to be on the rise ? The usual blue-chip artists such as Paul Henry, Jack B. Yeats and William Scott continue to be both popular and profitable. A world record price of €420,000 was paid for Henry’s A Sunny Day, Connemara last September. Another world record of £300,000 was set by Gerald Dillon in the same month. Dillon is an artist whose stock is certainly on the rise. The key issue for anyone seeking out any of these aforementioned artists is quality.
They were all prolific in terms of output and inevitably there will be some work that is weaker. Also, if you want something typical of that artist. A Paul Henry nude might be a novelty but the market wants those bucolic West of Ireland landscapes with added cloud. If you plan to invest a substantial amount you need to be very sure of your own eye or enlist the advice of an expert. Like horse racing, the more you study the form the likelier you are to make the right decision.
Another other key factor at this high end of the market is provenance. You want a clear line between the artist’s Studio and the current owner. Forgery and fraud are not alas unheard of in the art market as viewers of the documentary Made You Look on Netflix will confirm. If you're looking for an underpriced artist who may appreciate, that’s more difficult. Tipping artists is more problematic than tipping horses. One to consider is George Campbell - a close friend of Dylan's. He seems underpriced at present and might be worth a bet. Among living artists Shinnor’s striking chiaroscuro paintings do well consistently and his work has been steadily increasing in value. His best price last year was €44,000 for Estuary Forms at Morgan O'Driscoll Fine Art & Antiques in West Cork.
On the sculpture front John Behan was another to achieve a record price in 2020. His Westport Famine Ship sold for €27,000 also at in Morgan O'Driscoll’s in June. His timeles bronzes should endure.