Whether out of ignorance or misinformation, it's not rare to see novices purchase artworks without knowing much more than the name of the person who created it. These buyers assume that signatures alone are an adequate justification for investing in artworks - especially if the names in question are somewhat well-known.
More often than not, the buyer ends up being burned, becoming a victim to less-than-scrupulous sellers who are delighted to get more money for mediocre art than it is actually worth.
The key to not making such rookie mistakes? Aside from being aware that not every single piece of art with a signature of a known artist on it is automatically collectible, valuable or superior in quality, it all comes down to doing your research and knowing the artists behind artworks.
If we were to widen the scope of the previous paragraph, we'd end up with the following question: what makes a particular piece of art worth buying?
Or, in other words, what about an artwork makes it good or noteworthy in any respect?
The answer to this question, at least in large part, entails understanding the life and the career of the person who made it.
Not knowing enough about the artist always leads to people overpaying for inferior art. In fact, the sole reason poor quality art even has any market at all is that uninformed people tend to buy it.
If you want to invest in good art and avoid purchasing "duds", you could learn how to tell the difference between good offers and those that are simply too good to be true.
We're now going to go through a selection of tips that'll help you get to know the artist and the work you're interested in. These should definitely be applied before you even think about popping up the checkbook:
Maybe the most common root of bad art purchases can be found in not understanding the difference between early, mid and late-career artworks, and how they stack up against each other.
All notable artists have periods in their careers when the art they create is deemed to be better than the art made during other periods. The more you research and get to know about an artist, the easier it becomes to identify which pieces belong in which period, as well as where the best places are to find them.
Needless to say, this will also help you figure out fair price ranges for whatever you want to buy.
As an unwritten rule, collectors usually favor early or mid-career works of art over later pieces. Late works can often be too commercial in nature, or second-rate repeats of earlier successes. There are exceptions to this rule, however, like the case is with Grandma Moses, an artist whose late works are highly collectible.
Editors’ Tip: The Art of Buying Art
The best and easiest-to-understand book on how to buy, sell, search and collect art, as well as research artists, The Art of Buying Art is a 284-pages-long guide by Alan S. Bamberger, a noted exhibition expert, author and syndicated columnist. Bamberger provides the information needed to transform anyone into an informed art consumer, to protect collectors from bad buys and to help them learn how to research artists based solely on their names.
Finally, be patient. Don't go around spending your hard earned money on potential bargain deals until you genuinely know what you're doing. The risk here simply outweighs potential awards.
We're aware that getting your basic art education sounds like all work and no play, there's no going around that fact.
The trick, however, is having the right mindset.
If you truly love art, then trying to learn about it, going places and finding it on an exhibition or two, and meeting interesting people who share the same feelings about it and the artists themselves shall be pure pleasure, not to mention a great adventure.
The best part? The more "legwork" you do, the better informed you get, and the more discriminating you become as a buyer. And then, once you're able to identify the perfect artwork and know all about it, buying it comes without risks and is more of a technicality than anything else - aside from the money you have to pay to get it, of course.
Featured image: Observing Art Inside a Shanghai Museum, via pxhere.com. All images used for illustrative purposes only.