If you put any faith in conventional wisdom, the best time to invest is when the market is at the bottom. So, there's no time like the present to put some cash into the fine art asset class. Hey, what passes for a solid performance these days is more than 70 percent off last year's levels. Before you invest anywhere, it pays (sometimes literally) to do your homework, and this is especially true with the art market. A fourth grade math education equips you to watch a stock prices ups and downs – and it is supplemented by what we pick up on the nightly news and (I hope) on the likes of BloggingStocks and DailyFinance.
Art, however, is different.
To understand this market, you're staring down the task of learning thousands of years of product history, in addition to a relatively illiquid marketplace in which prevailing tastes play a major role. You can carve this mammoth amount of information into smaller pieces, but you still need to identify a starting place. It's easy to get intimidated ... and also unnecessary. Take a look at the 10 tips below to make the art market a bit more accessible.
1. Take a recreational interest in art
If you're going to commit several thousand dollars to an art investment, you really ought to be interested in it. Start by going to museums, just to get a sense of the breadth available to you ... and to decide what you like. Some of the most attractive pieces may be way out of your price range. I love Francis Bacon's work, but there's no way it will grace my walls anytime soon, not even with the help of the current art market slump. But, you can use the masters to get a sense of the styles that turn you on, which you can use to choose pieces that are closer to your price range.
2. Know where to find insights
Okay, my bias toward Luxist's art market reporting is pretty obvious, but the articles here can help you get started. Also, check out art market publications like ArtInfo, ArtPrice and Art Market Blog. Bloomberg also provides solid art market coverage. Once you have the basics nailed down, spend some time on the auction house websites, like Sotheby's and Christie's. Get a feel for how the marketplace operates.