As the art market grows increasingly global, prices are skyrocketing. Is this a bubble, or a good time to buy? Ask your art advisor these questions to avoid making an expensive mistake.
01. What is your background?
Don’t just accept a recommendation made at a cocktail party. It’s important to vet an advisor before hiring, including obtaining detailed references. “Anyone can call themselves an art advisor,” says Katja Zigerlig, vice president of art insurance at AIG. “It’s an unregulated industry, so you have to be careful.”
02. What’s the best way to start collecting?
Figure out your goal. “Are you looking to build an important collection that will gain value, or just to find art you love?” Zigerlig asks. Judith Selkowitz, a Manhattan-based advisor, tells clients to attend museum shows in New York and L.A., visit galleries and see auction previews. “It’s important to see what really good art is,” she says.
03. What’s hot right now?
Contemporary art— particularly sculpture—continues to be in demand. “More sculpture is being offered at auction for top prices,” Selkowitz says. Prices are also rising for L.A.’s early pop artists, says California advisor Cheryl Perkey, thanks to competition from global buyers.
04. Are prices for Chinese artists still at record highs?
Not really—the Chinese art boom has faded over the last couple of years. That said, “some individual artists such as Ai Weiwei are still really hot,” Perkey notes.
05. What segments are undervalued?
Often, it’s younger artists who are having their first museum shows or have been commissioned to create public art. “These artists are being noticed, but you might get some really good values in their work just before their careers take off,” Perkey says.
06. Where are the best places to buy art?
Depends what you’re looking to buy. Auctions are certainly good if you have a specific work in mind, but do your due diligence on condition, provenance and value. Galleries are great places to shop because they specialize in specific rosters of artists. Merry Norris, an art consultant in Los Angeles, warns against art fairs. “It is so competitive at the fairs,” Norris says. “People often make mistakes.”
07. What are the most important art fairs?
Then again, fairs are still worth attending because you can see so much art in one place. Art Basel in Switzerland has the best quality; Art Basel Hong Kong will debut in May 2013.
08. Do I need extra insurance?
Yes. “Don’t assume it’s covered under your homeowner policy, and if it is to some degree, the coverage won’t be as comprehensive” as a separate policy from leading insurers such as AIG, AXA or Chubb, according to Zigerlig.
09. What mistakes do new collectors make?
Don’t pinch pennies on packing and shipping your art; use a fine-art packer and shipper. “A lot of art gets damaged in transit,” Zigerlig says.
10. What’s your most important advice for new clients?
Be patient. “If you want good art, it might be five to 10 years to build a collection,” Selkowitz says. “It’s not instant gratification.”
For more information, contact: Merry Norris, firstname.lastname@example.org, 310.276.6406, merrynorris.com; Cheryl Perkey, email@example.com, 310.204.2787, perkeyfineart.com; Judith Selkowitz, Art Advisory Services, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212.935.1272, artadvisoryservices.com; Katja Zigerlig, AIG, email@example.com, 212.458.8861, aig.com/us/pcg.
This article originally appeared in the December/January 2013 of Worth.