Posts Tagged ‘investment’

How and Why to Buy Art, Even if You Are Super Rich!

July 2, 2012

If you are one of the privileged few, who having been fortunate, now own at least two homes (one of them will be a large villa, or mansion), you have possibly paid a top architect and an interior designer, to create your palace, and your gardens are managed by specialist landscape gardeners and everything is beautiful – the rest of us can just dream on!  

But how do you then go about adding your own personal statement to your magnificent home?  This is when works of art are considered, but even here you can call on the experts too and pay an art consultant, or specialist to guide you.  But eventually there will come a time when you will want to buy and display your own choice of picture.  What then are your main options? 

Some people have chosen to buy the most expensive picture they can possibly find, simply to show off that they can afford it.  Just think of the new owner of ‘The Scream’ that was recently purchased for $119.9 million, as an example.  Was it bought because of loving it, or as an investment, or to demonstrate that the owner could afford it?  In the past so many enormously expensive contemporary pictures have never been resold, without making rather a big loss, so the investment angle seems unlikely. 

Whatever is considered great in contemporary art is subject to change; it is only great at a particular time, mainly because the amount paid says that it is!  There are only a few names that have survived the test of time; such as Picasso, or Andy Warhol, but many others eventually simply fall by the wayside. 

If you are not so inclined to simply buy the most expensive, you then have many other choices.  But the picture you choose will say something about you; so you should make sure it is one of the focal points of your home and given pride of place, as well as being something that you enjoy. 

When thinking about the value of various artists’ works, many unknowns over time can suddenly become sought after, whilst others in big demand can go out of fashion.  So the best advice is to simply follow your heart – not your head, nor the experts. 

Today you no longer need to rely on art galleries, trying to sell you what they consider are the finest ever.  With the Internet there are so many, from all over the world, art galleries to be found, allowing you to view at leisure, without having to bother with the sales pitch.  But more interestingly, there are now very original, excellent artists that now have their own sites.  Exploring and hunting Internationally is now a reality.

Beware of the experts, who make a living by convincing others that they know about art, even though they have never created anything themselves, as the art world is really such a very fickle business, mostly influenced by the amount of money paid.  They talk a lot and come up with various theories, all based on what has sold recently, mainly to maintain their own life style, but they also have no idea of what will be fashionable next.

Does it need to be an original painting, or could it be a limited edition print?  It has been said that limited edition prints are mainly for those with a lot more taste.  Today limited edition prints are highly respected, valued as highly as paintings, and often they have appreciated in value too.  So the choice is yours.

Should it be chosen simply because it is something beautiful, the right colour, something dramatic, classical, or should it be of flowers, a portrait, a scene, or an abstract?  How should you decide? 

Well really no one can tell you!  You should simply choose what attracts you and only buy what you really like, or rely on your wife, husband, or partner.  Otherwise, if you dare not back your own judgement, pay the experts, but then is what you call home really your own?

The author has been a very keen Asian antique collector for many years helping to create ‘The Cohen Collection’ but he is also an artist.  For much more information with lots of photographs see

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Some of the Wealthiest Chinese are Now Investing in 18th Century Jade!

November 3, 2011

Jadeite and Nephrite (both referred to as jade) have been highly valued for thousands of years, especially by the Chinese.  But for so many years it has mostly been the Western world that took over this fascination of collecting antique jade carvings.  Here in Europe and the USA much has been published and there have been many dedicated collectors and antique jade experts that created and influenced the market values.

But recently the wealthy Chinese have become very interested in jade again, but so far they mainly regard jade as an investment commodity.  As most of the usual forms of investment, currencies and property have all proved so precarious, perhaps these successful millionaires are being very shrewd!  This is why prices have now changed beyond belief!

The European and American collectors have highly valued the craftsmanship of antique jade pieces, some 19th Century, but particularly from the 18th Century and earlier; much has been studied and published for the benefit of other collectors.

Apart from the quality of the carving and the period of the piece, when considering jade, there is another consideration that can add value, that being the colour of the stone.  Many people do not realise how many colours of jade there are.  Antique jade carvings can be found in white, mutton-fat, various shades of green, yellow and lilac, black, even in red, and these can be a factor in the price.  Also if there is a seal (so many wonderful pieces have no signature) but if the seal is genuine (many were inscribed later) then this too adds to the value.  So for a very long period these were the main criteria that influenced the price.

Gradually antique jade of quality, has become more and more valuable.  This caused the Chinese to cash in by making lots of new copies of earlier jade pieces and they carved various others in less valuable stones, but called them jade too! So many have flooded the market.  They have also discovered ways of adding colour to jade.  However, very few collectors found any difficulty in recognising these, as nothing more than the cheap fakes, or modern copies that they are.  To be sure that the colour has not been added requires strong magnification, so it is not that easy to check.  I believe that over time the dyed stones revert back to the original colour, so to pay extra for bright lavender, yellow or green jade could prove most painful!

Subsequently some of these modern fakes are so much better (the carving has improved) and there are now a number of more difficult to identify fakes.  So there has become another important factor that affects the value and this is the question of ‘Provenance’.  Every jade is now regarded with suspicion, unless it can be established as having been in a well known collection, or auction that dates back to the time when these fakes were easy to spot, or better still, to an even earlier period.

So this has been the way of things, for quite a number of years, whilst I was collecting.  But now values are changing dramatically in a way that is hard for the collectors like myself to understand!  These Chinese investors are buying back their heritage, but more as an investment than as collectors.  They have decided that 18th Century pieces of a pure colour with no flaws and certainly not mottled are their preference, they particularly prize pure bright white jade, or pure green, as well as the bright emerald green that is often used in jewellery.  Also any of these jade carvings that happen to have a good seal mark (even if this seal is not genuine) now command a much higher value.

Talking of a much higher value, this is where the older collectors are now really confounded.  Because if we consider a well carved, good quality pure white 18th century jade carving, that would normally have sold for our expected highest value, in any auction these days, this same piece will probably sell for anything from 4 to 8 times that figure, to a Chinese investor!  But a similar in quality piece, that includes a flaw in the stone (often these were brilliantly carved making clever use of any flaws) and valued just as highly by past collectors, or a similarly valued piece, but in a mottled colour, today will certainly not appeal to these Chinese investors and so will not sell for such a huge sum, making our sense of values hard for us to reconcile.

The hope is that in time the Chinese will recognise the same values, as us older collectors, also that they will become collectors rather than investors, but who knows?

The author has been a very keen collector for many years in helping to create ‘The Cohen collection’.

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