People are under the impression—and I get this all the time—once an artist dies, his work becomes valuable. That might be true to some degree but only because of the fundamental capitalist concept of supply and demand. What’s funny about this whole idea is people seem to want something more when they know they can’t get it—the nature of the human psyche I guess.
Have you ever been involved in a bidding war for something? Well! that is usually based on supply and demand and/or exclusivity and perception of that exclusivity.
It is people that drive up prices based on emotional perception, not fact.
Case and point: Street artist Banksy just had a piece of art auctioned off at Christie’s in London for 1.5 million dollars. The frame of the picture—Girl with Red Heart Balloon—was rigged to shred the piece when the gavel fell. The shredder malfunctioned and only half of the piece was shredded. Once the media got wind of this stunt they went crazy and started a publication frenzy with lines like “Banksy does it again with the stunt of the century”
The publicity around this stunt suggested that the artist had planted the shredder in the frame months before it went up for public auction without the knowledge of the auction house. Based on Banksy’s reputation for not wanting to sell his work and the destruction of the piece—it doubled in value over night.. I personally think there was coercion between the artist and the auction house to drive up the price.
That is an extreme example of how peoples perceptions can influence the value of something. On the other hand and beyond the exploitation of the Banksy/Christie’s stunt, exists a world of creative people wanting to make a living doing what they love and do well. These people bring value to the table on so many levels constantly pushing to improve perceptions of their craft and the art they wish to share—they just want to be seen.
The international art market is as near as your computer and if a person is willing to put out two or three grand for a piece of art by an up and coming artist—it will most likely be a lucrative investment.
I knew a man that put away a portion of his biweekly paycheck to purchase art. Many years later, when he died it was discovered that his art collection out-weighed the value of his house by about 5 times or more. It was estimated—based on receipts found—that certain pieces of art in his collection had appreciated by more than 200 %.
The thing is, artists are tremendously under-payed because once they sell a piece of art it no longer belongs to them and any further proceeds from that piece are out of their hands. Andy Warhol sold his original Campbell Soup Can paintings for under one thousand dollars. That same piece sold—while he was alive— for millions and Andy never saw a penny of that money.
Reputation, consistency, longevity and collect-ability of an artist’s work is what drives its value. The more an artist sells the greater his body of work is valued at—including everything that was sold before.
My point is, you never know who or what will come along and champion the next great painter.
The artist’s reputation is foremost and it seems the quirkier they are the more people are interested in their work. Salvador Dali for example was constantly bringing attention to himself through publicity stunts like walking an anteater through the streets of Paris, 1969. That sort of high profile image making posture and the pop art movement were partly responsible for changing the face and accessibility of the art world by taking it out of the hands of the elite and spinning peoples perceptions of what art could be.
I think there is still a ways to go in changing how the public sees art and artists but we are making headway.
If you know an artist that has been creating for a while, connect with them, take a tour of their studio and if you see something you like, consider investing in them and buy a piece of art. You won’t be sorry because you have just advanced that artist’s career and your own potential for profit plus you now have a great piece of art.