Insuring art is big business

What could prompt someone to buy a painting today only to sell it for a fortune at a later stage?

What could prompt someone to buy a painting today only to sell it for a fortune at a later stage?

Art experts believe that the world of art has great opportunities and the sector is experiencing huge growth.

Gordon Massie, managing director of Artinsure, specialist insurers of art, says while some people view art primarily as a capital appreciation asset, others generate an income stream by renting works to companies, hotels or restaurants to display.

Massie says: "Often, however, the purchases will be stored under appropriate conditions for three to 10 years and only be seen again by the public when they are released to the secondary market for sale in a controlled manner."

In either case professional insurance plays a significant role in protecting these assets while their value grows, he says.

But wherever they are kept during the investment-growth period, Massie says they are at risk of loss or damage and require specialist management, curatorship, and insurance that is appropriately tailored to the specific conditions in which they are being kept.

These are major assets from which individuals or groups anticipate creating wealth. Loss or damage to parts of the collection will cause considerable depreciation to the value of the asset.

According to Massie those who are in search for art investments at reputable art fairs can create enormous wealth.

"Recent findings by the European Art Federation show that the world's art market grew by 95 percent in the value of art traded between 2002 and 2006, while transactions themselves only increased by 25 percent," Massie says.

The same research shows that contemporary art has increased by the greatest amount and the balance of power has swung the dealers away from auction houses.

So who is doing the buying and how do they find the future winners?

Says Massie: "To be in line to buy straight from the easels of the fully established greats, it's often about who you know and the network of experts to whom you have access.

Massie, who has been selling insurance to the international art world for 20 years, is now based in South Africa.

"The world's most powerful and successful collectors have relationships with dealers and specialists in their chosen speciality, which might be a particular artist, style or period of work," Massie says.

He says the experts know quality and rising stars long before the average person gets to hear about them.

This is why successful collectors nurture armies of experts and consultants, who assist in acquiring gems and then protecting the value of their investment.

But, he argues, this doesn't mean that there aren't superb opportunities for South Africans to enter the art-investment market and learn the ropes.

"Evidence confirms that the South African market has an abundance of high-quality work and that high capital appreciation is there to be reaped by those who know what to look for."

What must one look for?

Massie explains four tiers of living artists who are the source of potential investment:

l Fully established artists with a fan base in local and international markets.

Despite their high price tag, getting access to these works is a major challenge.

These artists also have a developed secondary market in that they are actively traded at auction houses.

l Established artists with a local fan base and developing international presence. At a mature age with high quality work, their pieces will rarely leave the showroom for less than R100000, but appreciation is virtually guaranteed.

l Local artists, award winners or those who have a keen following and are seen by those in the know as future international sellers.

l A pool of artists with talent who are yet to be considered as established. A keen eye is needed to find these artists.

Massie says the trick is to catch the artist at the right time and the way to achieve that is through strong relationships with the professionals in the market.

"If you're in it for the fun and not the money, then indulge in sample buying without strategy," Massie says.

"But if your objective is to make money, you need to work to a plan, focus and make friends with people in the know."

He says an interesting trend is that people are forming investment syndicates where a given amount each month is invested on behalf of the group - usually by an expert.

"So whether one invests as an individual or a group, opportunities abound in the world of art," says Massie.