I SAW THE MOVE, I FAILED TO APPLY THE RULES
AS I SAY IN MY BOOK, RAGS OR RICHES, I COULD SEE THAT DIVERSIFICATION WAS OF PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE AND THE AREA TO LOOK INTO WAS SE ASIA. I MANAGED TO BUY TWO SMALL PAINTINGS FOR A GOOD 5000 POUNDS.
THE PLAN WAS TO KEEP THE PAINTINGS FOR AT LEAST TEN YEARS AND SEE HOW THE MARKET WENT. MAKING PLANS IS GREAT, KEEPING THEM STRICTLY IS ANOTHER MATTER!!
Investing in art has taken a myriad of routes, innumerable styles of paintings and hundreds of artists. By the time the Olympics in Athens had finished, my portfolio was about 80% Greek. That was an unbalanced portofolio, mainly driven by sentiment. This was short – sighted and very risky. The Greek market had had a great run for over twenty years, which I had exploited well. It had accelerated in the new millennium and as Sotheby’s reported in 2008 had improved by over 500%. But how much further could it climb? I had no idea, but I was aware of similar rapid increases and then major busts, such as the Swedish and Spanish markets in the late 1980s and 1990s and more recently the Irish art market.
Quick action was required to put some order into my passion of collecting Greek art and balance my portfolio.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” (Aesop)
A successful investor adjusts to a changing economic environment and that I needed to do once again. The venture had begun with investments in Victorian art and 19th Century European art quickly followed by Impressionist, Contemporary, Russian and Greek art. Where would I turn to next? It was always a struggle to be one step ahead or even half a step ahead of the rest of investors/collectors, and then with the Internet and mobile phones revolutionizing information and provision of data, I would have been happy to be an inch ahead. Regardless I had to take remedial action; I had to balance the portfolio. I would do this by selling Greek art and investing in emerging markets, in underrated and unknown artists and hopefully bargains that went unnoticed. I had to carry on and look for new investments with potential.
Invest from afar!
October 2007, Arcturial Deauville, France – 3rd October 2011, Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Mai Thu Trung
(Vietnamese [1906 –1980] Top artist of Vietnam who immigrated to France in the 1930s where he lived until his death. A figurative artist, well respected, collected and considered one of the forefathers of Vietnamese art. Auction price range £2000- 60000)
The catalogue from Deauville arrived soon after I had requested it. There are still printed catalogues and if you have time and you are serious about investing, ask for one. Catalogues are a very good source of provenance in the years to come. Please keep them, and if possible attach them to any art you might invest in, together with the purchase documents.
Mai Thu started his art career in Vietnam and distinguished himself at the Hanoi School of Art. Even though he settled in France in the 1930s, he continued to paint evocative and classic art reminiscent of Vietnamese life and people, especially children and young mothers with their babies. The artist delivered figurative images of the highest quality, human emotions of extreme depth and beauty. Those factors were reflected in the steadily improving price bracket and genuine collectibility of his work worldwide. So Mai Thu became an investment target for me.
Any investment in the artist promised a good, slow upward appreciation, but by how much it was impossible to forecast in October 2007. My targets in the Deauville catalogue were two small paintings by Mai Thu, which could have been considered a pair: a girl sewing ‘La Couture’ and a boy painting/studying ‘Garçon au Travail’. The two Vietnamese children were exquisitely painted and in my view very commercial.
Researching an artist’s market value and trends has always been a pleasing activity for me. It is a difficult challenge, but undoubtedly paramount for any investment. Catalogues in South – East Asian art markets was not the strongest section in my library of catalogues, however there are other ways to research an artist’s performance and sales and these I employ fully whenever I intend to invest in an artist’s work.
• Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction websites, plus hundreds of other auction websites, are full of interesting data and are free. Selling prices are available, images free to look at and they stretch back a few years in many cases.
• Artprice, artnet, artfact are art data companies, which, for a fee, give important information on thousands of artists and their auction performance. The new website 10000artists.com is comparatively the cheapest and provides initial research information for a small one-off fee. When intending to invest a serious amount of money it is worth paying a small sum to look at up-to-date results and images.
It is the first time I try to buy anything at Deauville, a beautiful, sea resort in Northern France. The auction is well established and reputable and I trust their cataloguing and guarantees. There is a small degree of anxiety, but even provincial auctions in France operate legally under laws and rules that offer protection to buyers and sellers.
Provincial auctions should not frighten investors especially if:
• The auction has a track record of good auctions.
• The auction publishes high standard catalogues with correct cataloguing.
• There are guarantees of the authenticity of art offered for sale.
There are four Mai Thu paintings in the sale. The first one is a large, fine painting, but too much money is required for it – well over my budget of £6000. I aim for the two small paintings of the girl and the boy. I love them! They will make a perfect pair!
Anxiety and jitters as usual before the bidding. My limit is £6000 and not a penny more. I have to be strict and disciplined as this is money for my old age, if I manage to reach that. There is competition for the first large major Mai Thu painting and I expect the same for the ones I want. Initially I get the false feeling of bargains, but by the time the bidding starts I change my tune. From one thousand euros estimate each I have to press the issue and go to bidding battles with other investors. Luckily, on both occasions, I come out the winner, but at a cost. I am not pushed beyond my limit, but the total investment comes to £5500.
I am excited and hopeful for this new investment! After twenty-four years of successful trading in art I am testing my skills once again. But what do I need to prove to myself? There is nothing more exciting and rewarding for me than buying a new piece of art. The fun of collecting and investing in art is immeasurable. What makes it so different from other forms of investment you might wonder?
• Investing in art involves travel sometimes, which makes the business very enjoyable and fun.
• Auctions offer opportunities to meet interesting people and strike business relationships.
• Opening up boxes and parcels to welcome home purchases is like opening Christmas presents all year round – great expectations, incredible joy! Is it right? Is it as good as the photos? Does the item hide anything the auction failed to spot?
• You can view and enjoy this investment hanging on your wall everyday – immense!
• Shipping boxes and parcels; the surge of adrenalin that accompanies the reward of your labours – a fat cheque arriving through the post!
The two small paintings need to be collected in France. Why not add to the fun and travel to France too? Why not collect three paintings together since I have also bought another one in Paris? Why not? Paris is the city of romance and fashion and I love spending a day or two there. A short drive of a few hours, a couple of good meals in Paris and the purchase of a good few bottles of wine in Calais on the way back home. What else is life about? Art investments allow plenty of fun and that was another part of the venture I enjoyed and loved. Paris, New York, Athens! What a life!
I WILL NARRATE THE ENDING OF THIS INVESTMENT IN NEXT SUNDAY’S BLOG ENTRY!!