The Wall Street Journal ran an article on starting an art collection titled Your First Picasso by Brooks Barnes on Friday, April 4. If you missed the article or are not a subscriber to the WSJ (which means you can't access the article on-line), I have spelled out the highlights (and added a personal comment or two) here. These cliff notes will be posted in sections.
The goal of the article:
With the neophyte collector in mind -- and also more-experienced buyers who want to add cheaper works -- Weekend Journal went in search of strategies for finding less-expensive art with the best chance of increasing in value.
Here is their first of four recommended strategies for finding works at $5,000 or less:
1) Buy 20th-Century prints at auction or through private dealers. Last year, print sales at the big New York auction houses "totaled $31 million, a 35% increase over 2002." Recommended artists: only Picasso... no other artists were named, except as an example of price increase. Takashi Murakami prints sold for $2,800 in 2002 and $8,000 last March. If you didn't get one in 2002, his prints are now above the $5,000 limit they are writing about. They recommend buying Picasso prints from the late 60's or early 70's because prints in all other periods are over the $5,000 mark. My favorite tip: "Try to avoid [Picasso] works that are overly erotic; it keeps value down." Very funny. Recommended auction houses outside of New York and LA are Ivey-Selkirk in St. Louis and Skinner in Boston. They recommend you see a print in-person before buying it to assess condition (torn edges or frayed corners are no-no's); therefore buying a print on-line is not recommended.
I think this recommendation is best for the Investor Collector. (Actually, the whole article is geared towards this type of collector over any other. No talk of collecting out of passion for art in this article anywhere. Then again, it is the WSJ.) If you are looking to collect as an investment, this is the route for you. As you would research a stock, so should (and can) you research a print by most 20th Century artists before heading to an auction. There is a plethora of information available to you by checking out auction results at artnet.com or contacting the auction houses directly to request price lists. Some auction houses even post their recent auction prices on-line.