I am constantly asked by business colleagues, journalists, and friends what I collect. Impressionist paintings? 18th Century Prints? American Folk Art? The YBE generation? Street art? French avant-garde? Most ask whether they should buy art and antiques as an investment, which any collector will vehemently deny as the best course of action; but all the same the question is a valid one.
It is such a hot topic of conversation because people are constantly trying new ways to hedge their bets by following a collecting trend and in doing so receive more for their investment. I guess they presume that my insider knowledge will lead to increased dividends when they go to sell the painting, sculpture or print in ten or twenty years time that they received a "scoop" on, but what perhaps my dear friends fail to understand is that I do not follow a trend or look at a perceived investment strategy when collecting art - I collect what I like and this, for the moment, tends to be Post War Contemporary Art.
The collector Sir David Tong, Founder of Shanhai Tang and Owner of the China
Club, said when it comes to collecting, "The only question I ask is: when I wake
up and get out of bed, would I want to see it? You have to like the picture. I can 't think of anything more ridiculous than someone wanting to buy a painting for their fireplace or to fit a certain space. The moment you ask where you're going
to hang it, you're asking the wrong question."
I echo Sir David Tong's thoughts regarding the importance of buying art that you wish to see and art that will continue to be aesthetically pleasing in the early morning before the coffee has hit your cerebral epicenter. However, the question of what or who to collect is still valid as it is hard to imagine the person who wishes to buy an object projected to depreciate in the near future.
Since 2010 the Contemporary art market has skyrocketed - seeing Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips de Pury achieving top prices and world records for numerous contemporary artists. The market remains bullish for high-quality contemporary works. Damien Hirst, one of the most well known of today's contemporary artists is famous for his cutting-edge works, including For the Love of God, a platinum cast of a human skull encrusted in diamonds.
The skull costs $25 million to produce, the piece was reportedly sold for around $80 million. Works by other top names in contemporary art, including Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Gerard Richter and Jeff Koons have also set benchmarks in prices over the last few years.
While only a select few can afford works by these "blue-chip" artists, works by lesser-known artists, especially from emerging markets, can be had for more realistic and affordable prices. Many collectors look to emerging art regions like India, South America and Africa to find the next big thing in art investment, citing the astronomical rise of the white-hot Chinese contemporary art market as a guide. The telegraph recently published an article arguing that that African art might experience a boost similar to pieces of Chinese origin, with prices of top contemporary African artists beginning to surge. Always adjusting to the current market, Bonhams has developed a specific sale category, Africa Now', to take advantage of this recent explosion of interest by collectors, also fueled by major fairs and exhibitions of contemporary African art, such as Somerset House's 2013 '1:54: Contemporary African Art Fair' and the Saatchi Gallery's current exhibition 'Pangaea: New Art From Africa and Latin America'.
I think this trend remains to be proven true, but for now I will continue to collect what pleases me. And what is next on my list of artists to buy? It would be Secundino Hernández, an artist I discovered recently, whose work I like and I am seeking to get my hands on a good work by him!.. an artist who will go places!
Image: "Untitled," 2013 (Detail), Courtesy the artist and Marburger 3
Patrick Van der Vorst is the founder of online valuation service ValueMyStuff.com