I was forwarded an interesting read on a different way to look at art buying, focused on the younger generation of contemporary artists rather than the Old Master painters and “blue chip artists” like Richter or Picasso.

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Confrontation 1 (1988) by Gerhard Richter, oil on canvas, 112 cm x 102 cm

Chad Loweth doesn’t suggest spending $300,000 to $3,000,000 on a few high valued (or often “overvalued” according to the author) pieces by “Nifty Fifty” artists. Though said to be safe, he sees the possibility of a crash in most of these top tier artists at today’s prices.

Loweth suggests spreading your money around to a select group of young mid career (or to continue Loweth’s metaphor “Mid Cap” artists) in the $30,000 – $50,000 per piece range. Generally, the idea is that artists who have managed to attain these price points at an age where they still have a career ahead of them have the most potential to turn into a blue chip artist.

From the article: If you diversify across 25 artists, he says, and buy what you love, “one of those artists will likely be a star, and you will at least be able to get your money back.”

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Richard Dupont, polyurethane and resin. 2013

Though his promotion of these artists seems a bit tacky (like his choice to “set an example by purchasing additional pieces at the party”) I really like the idea of supporting a living breathing artist as they move into the next income bracket. The safe buying of top tier art doesn’t lend to a productive art economy. If all that sells is work from the Jeff Koons Corporation, the market will breed more and more shiny things to compete. It doesn’t lend itself to change or advancement, something creatives need to avoid stagnation.

Even better, Loweth’s model scales itself down nicely. If you aren’t in the $30k market, scale it down to a number of $3000 pieces spread between a number of artists. Or $300 pieces if that’s your range. Regardless, filling your home with original works over a variety of styles and mediums makes for a strong and varied collection. And if Loweth’s model is correct, the more you spread it out the better the odds of the work paying you back.

Loweth’s model counts on a dip or major drop in the price of the Warhol’s and Bacon’s of the art world however. While an article last year made the case for the un-bustability of the art market’s quick inflation, citing a variety of factors that spell out new opportunities in what looks to be a new and unprecedented growing global exchange of art objects.

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Brent Wadden, Untitled (2012): Oil on Canvas, 152 x 122 cm, 2013

I know that immediately screams BULLSHIT but Adam Lindemann lists the factors that have changed the Art Market in ways we’ve never seen previously. This quote from the well researched essay sums up his thoughts well.

“Despite the highflying golden outliers, there is no bubble and there hasn’t been one since the one that burst in the 1990s. My prediction is that there will never be one again. I don’t see art market history repeating itself, and I don’t fear a tulip-style crash. Fine art was undervalued for a long time, and for a number of reasons. Before the Internet, the glitzy retail auctions and the now-ubiquitous art fairs, collecting tastes were often quite regional. Aside from a few global names, Europeans were primarily interested in collecting European artists, and Americans bought Americans. Even inside the U.S., the Los Angeles art market was separate from the one in New York.”

Brent Wadden (shown above) is a great example of the contemporary art world. A Nova Scotia based painter, he was picked up by Berlin gallery Peres Projects, run by Spanish born former entertainment lawyer and collector Javier Peres who started in LA and reps artists all over the world. Between Peres’ art fair circuit and Wadden’s own shows, his work will be seen in Miami, Berlin, London, Paris, Athens, and Brussels in the next 3 months alone. And he’s not a particularly large player in the art world.

With globalization bringing a huge influx of international buyers galleries never had access to previously, and the internet and art media spreading knowledge of a whole new collection of artists to the world, the opportunity for collectors and artists is unparalleled. More buyers, more work available, more vendors and chances to buy and trade.

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Joe Bradley, who made it out of the Mid Cap range over the last 5 years.

The relation to the number of ultra rich and the price of art has been proven, and with more wealth spread out over greater numbers the trickle down means more work moving through more hands.

Does it mean the jumps in price won’t be as great with more players and more work in the world? Good news for artists is the number of collectors is expected to increase 8 fold over the next 10 years in the “ultra high net worth population” or those with over $30 million in liquid assets.

Like all bubble talk, it’s exciting and makes for good copy. It’s still a matter of making the work for those who want it, and choosing the work that gives you the best value over time. Whether that is only aestethic value or financial as well the weather seems to point to more choices and better prices for everyone.

—Written by Joseph Staples, Office Supplies Incorporated.

Previous articles on art and art buying are here.

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