Everyday finances

The art of buying art

The art of buying art

Looking for something for your living room wall? There is artwork for every budget. But as an investment? Better take a look...

Could you afford a real work of art? If you’re thinking of the masterpieces that have been making headlines recently, probably not.

The big bucks in fine art


But don’t be discouraged: the fact is, you probably have enough money to buy something good.

More affordable than you think

How much are you prepared to spend on something beautiful for your home? If $100-$500 seems like a reasonable amount to you, then you likely have the means to purchase a work of art. Signed works are readily available at that price, particularly among the lithographs, engravings, etchings, drawings and photographs sold in galleries and art fairs.

But before you make the commitment, you might want to consider renting a work of art. Renting allows you to hang an original work or a reproduction on your wall for often less than $10 a month, and it’s an inexpensive way to become familiar with different artists and styles. A simple web search will bring up galleries, art libraries and other organizations that offer such services near you.

Investing in art: a whole other story

However, paying thousands of dollars for a work of art can seem more like an investment. Which comes with potential gains… and losses.

Investments in the art market are not managed like any other investments. First of all, experts recommend that you make your purchases based on a solid understanding of the art world and careful attention to artists’ track records: where they have exhibited, what the critics have said, the reputation of the galleries that represent them… Ultimately, there are relatively few artists or works likely to make your investment grow, and not many people have the know-how to pick those out of the crowd.

Another thing to consider is that an artist’s reputation can fluctuate, which can involve surprises. For example, it is not unusual for a talented artist to be very productive during his or her thirties, and then hit a wall after 40. What’s more, a period of excessive productivity or poor visibility can have a negative impact on the artist’s value.

Finally, a work of art is not always a liquid asset that can be sold whenever you need cash: in many cases, there is no secondary market and you could get stuck with what you bought. Which is not the case if you invest in a mutual fund, for example. Then again, you can’t exactly frame a mutual fund and hang it on your wall.

A passion above all

When it comes to buying art, not everyone can be a good investor. Still, why deprive yourself completely? It may not enrich your portfolio, but it may well enrich your life.

Enjoy touring the galleries!

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*Mutual funds are distributed through mutual fund representatives associated with SFL Investments in Québec and Desjardins Financial Security Investments Inc. in other provinces.

The following sources were used in writing this article.

The Globe and Mail, “Can't afford to buy original art? Rent it,” September 10, 2012. Arthotèque, “Louez nos œuvres” (Rent our works). Bloomberg, “Billionaire Griffin Pays $500 Million for Two Paintings,” February 18, 2016; “The Billionaire, the Dealer, and the $186 Million Rothko,” April 27, 2015. Desjardins – Coopmoi, “Achat d'œuvres d'art : investissement ou coup de cœur ?” (Buying art: is it investing or love?), April 2014. La Presse, “Louer une œuvre d’art,” (Renting a work of art), July 14, 2011. Kazoart, “10 conseils pour commencer à acheter de l’art,” (10 tips for beginner art collectors), June 24, 2016. Les Affaires, “Comment monter une collection avec art,” (How to build an artful collection), April 18, 2015; “L'achat d'œuvres d'art procure un avantage fiscal,” (The tax benefit of buying art), April 18, 2015. The Star, “Buying art in Toronto: a beginner's guide,” May 10,  2014. Tourisme Montréal, “10 endroits à Montréal pour trouver de l’art contemporain abordable,” (10 places in Montreal to find affordable contemporary art), April 10, 2015. Vanity Fair, “Qatar Purchases Cézanne’s The Card Players for More Than $250 Million, Highest Price Ever for a Work of Art,” February 2, 2012.