A quick guide to buying art for dummies (or uncultured millennials)
I don't get art. It's a world full of big names, exotic themes and hefty price tags – enough to turn a seemingly uncultured sod like myself back around into The Warehouse where I can buy my own $20 canvas and paint what the hell I like.
That said, my amateur koru swirls of blues and purples would barely earn me 50c from my mother, let alone a $75,000 return.
But now the age of 30 is frowning down on my white walls and I've realised that, as an maturing millennial, I need to get myself cultured. So for anyone else in my shoes – here's a small guide to buying art for dummies.
First step to investing in art: don't invest.
Those in the know say a piece of art should be purchased for the love of it without the intention of selling it.
An Australian couple that purchased a Peter McLeavey piece for $30 in 1982 just had it re-valued, purely out of curiosity, at Dunbar Sloane. It's now worth $75,000. Apparently it was a pleasant surprise.
But those stories are a dime-a-dozen. The most important point to take was that the couple purchased the piece 35 years ago because they loved it.
David Alsop, director of Wellington's Suite Gallery, says the art must be appreciated in your home.
"Choose something you love, that speaks to you and that you think you will enjoy living with," he says.
"Living with good art is an enriching experience – enjoy the process."
Buying is a scary and often confusing process for buyers. No one wants to part with a big wad of money for something probably not worth anything in 15 years time.
One-third of Alsop's customers are new buyers ranging in age from their mid 20s to 30s.
"Ultimately, they're buying because they like art and they would like to be surrounded and live with nice art work so these are people that might have just come back from overseas or work and own their first house or a nice flat and they just want to have something on the walls," he says.
His advice to them, like any good purchase, is to start with your research. The internet is your oyster.
Research will give you an idea of the artist's credentials. What stories have been written about them? Is their work featured in public collections and galleries? Did they have any outstanding reports from their studies?
"Identify a short list of artists that you are interested in, ideally three-to-five artists and include photography and sculpture in that," Alsop says.
"Visit or call the gallery or galleries where the artists works are shown, gauge the gallery experience in terms of how the 'art in the gallery' feels – be forward-looking with new works, develop relationships with the gallery to enable first look at new works by artists you're interested in."
To combat the issue of having no idea about prices, Alsop set up an online directory so buyers have a sense of transparency with purchasing their first art piece.
"If we didn't have the context of this whole storeroom to give you some kind of comfort, you'd be totally reliant on what I've said," he says.
"I'm not suggesting people are lying about prices, but I felt it was important for potential collectors to look right back and see where the artists have come from with the gallery and then you can see the development through the years and then you can get a sense for yourself if the prices that you feel are about right for the artist."
He said the new feature has worked spectacularly.
"I get young people coming in, or first-time buyers coming in, and we come out the back and they look around, but, what I encourage them to do is not even really think about what's here but think more about the artists they might be interested in. Art collection should be a really enjoyable passion and pastime for people. You want to take it quite slowly and enjoy it."
The trick, according to the art world, is to buy something that you love and not something you think will give you a return later down the track.
"Human nature is to want to move quite quickly, and that's the excitement, you want to at least go out of the gallery, have a cup of coffee and think about it," Alsop says.
"Living with good art is an enriching experience."
While many art galleries might not agree with the auction process (artists don't get any revenue from auction sales in New Zealand, unlike in France and Australia), Dunbar Sloane fine arts director Helena Walker says an "affordable art auction" is an excellent place to start for newbies.
"The affordable art is a really good place to train your eye," she says.
"The room is absolutely chocka with items. There's no other environment where you would get that – where you've got a room absolutely full with items that at a gallery would be selected for you.
"It's quite a good training for you as such to develop your eye and see what you like."
At an affordable art auction, you could be paying anywhere between $50 and $3000.
"We have a lot of young buyers coming through the affordable art auction, because that's where you start buying, and then you start building the confidence and you start going up to the specialist sales.
"At the moment, we are finding a lot of people are investing in art because they're not getting the returns they want in bank investments – so art is something tangible they can enjoy on their wall and get a lot of love out of as well as being an investment."
Dunbar Sloane's latest affordable art auction kicks off at noon on June 21. Walker picks out a collection of vintage railway posters as one sector showing a steady movement of growth and popularity.
"They're really graphic and quintessentially New Zealand iconography - they're going to sell really well," she says.