Wealth - The Collection Market

Longtime art collector and Palm Springs Art Museum board member Marilyn Pearl Loesberg owned a New York gallery for 17 years. She remains as passionate about art now as the day she purchased her first Joan Miró print decades ago. She pays attention to market trends and advises collectors to do the same. 

“Today people are buying hot new artists and trying to guess which names will escalate quickly,” Loesberg notes. Some collectors think they can “flip” an emerging artist’s work as though it were undervalued real estate.

Loesberg discourages this practice. “You might make money or you may have to hold on, hoping that artist will eventually become marketable.” To Loesberg, buying art is similar to purchasing tech stocks in the ’90s. “It’s all speculative,” she says.

Thom Gianetto, co-owner of Palm Desert’s Edenhurst Gallery, knows market dynamics. “Right now, early California and American painters are very desirable,” he says. “American painters have been rediscovered. Early Modernists from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s are coming into their own.” 

Gianetto quickly points out, “If you buy mediocre work of an artist or a mediocre artist, the passage of time won’t change that.”  Don’t buy an autograph, he advises. Always buy a good example of an artist’s work, even if it’s a small piece. Or buy a “gem” by a lesser-known artist.

James Carona of Palm Desert’s Heather James Art & Antiquities has seen major appreciation for top-tier, post-war contem-porary and Pop artists such as Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol. Russian and Chinese buyers showcase their newfound wealth by snapping up Picasso and Monet. Carona advises clients to “leave trading and speculating to the art dealers, and don’t invest more than 10 percent of your net worth in art.”

Thomas Danzinger, an attorney and columnist for Art & Antiques, doesn’t like the “art funds” being pitched as investment vehicles. “They haven’t proven to be successful, and many are folding with investors losing money,” he says.

Living near the vibrant art scene of Los Angeles makes it easy to say informed. Galleries continually host new exhibitions, while the area’s major museums snag important shows. “You must know what’s going on. Otherwise, you’re stabbing in the dark,” Loesberg says.

“The best way to look at art, buy art, and one of the most effective ways to see what’s going on are the international art fairs,” says Katherine Hough, chief curator for Palm Springs Art Museum. For example, in December, Art Basel Miami Beach (sister event of Art Basel in Switzerland) exhibits quality art from all over the world. It is heavily vetted, and only works by the best 20th and 21st century artists are shown. Also check out satellite exhibitions. Danzinger cites their importance. “It’s where prices are set these days in the contemporary art market,” he says. For complete listings, consult Art + Auction, a must-read publication for collectors. 

Consider other mediums besides fine art for investment opportunities. Black-and-white vintage and midcentury photography is hot now. Architectural drawings, renderings, and sketches also are generating interest. “This is a new area for collectors,” Hough says. “Palm Springs, with all the interest in midcentury architecture, is a perfect spot for collecting.”

Listen to Nicholas Lowry, president and principal auctioneer of New York’s Swann Auction Galleries, which specializes in antique books, photographs, maps, and fine art on paper. “Today I tell clients. ‘Buy what you like, enjoy it, and then sell it later on when you need money.’”  

Karen Keane, CEO of Boston’s Skinner Auction House and Appraisal Service, thinks “the lower end of the antique American furniture market still has value left.” Select a specific style and start collecting. Look to 17th, 18th, and 19th century European furniture and decorative arts for additional buying opportunities. 

Christine Weiner, a certified estate and trust lawyer specialist in Indian Wells, stresses the importance of frequent and current appraisals. “They will determine what estate tax problems you may face as your collection increases in value,” she says.

Collecting adds another dimension to an investment portfolio. Just as you would with stocks, seek out experts, conduct due diligence, and refrain from impulse buying and selling.
— Ellen Paris
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