If you’ve been thinking of getting into the auction market but didn’t know where to start, The Art Life’s fool-proof ten point plan can double your money in 12 months or your money back – and that’s a guarantee!* Check your sense of propriety at the door. There’s no need to feel embarrassed about trading in the art market and you can forget all about the “intrinsic worth of the art object” – those are old world ideas that went out with the 1980s. We’re here to make some money.
1. Scout Out The Market – Have a look at some auction catalogues and see what’s popular. The Australian art market is very slow moving, so chances are figurative painting from any period (contemporary, modern, old) will be fashionable. Ask an auction house to send you a list of sale results and see which paintings are selling for the highest price. Now move to step 2.
2. Find an Artist– Choose an artist everyone has forgotten about, preferably someone who was on the periphery of a previously well known art movement or social circle of more famous artists. This chosen artist’s work should be readily available in the auction market for next to nothing because it isn’t very good. The artist does not need to be alive (but this will help later on) and if the artist is living in a decrepit flat or has a half-mad wife still living, all the better.
Catalogues available on request.
3. Buy Tactically – Now comes the buying part. Using your available cash, hire some front people to go to auctions and buy paintings by your chosen artist. Ask your front people to bid ostentatiously while pretending as though they don’t want anyone to notice they are bidding. You should buy as many paintings by your chosen artist as quickly as possible from as many different auctions as you can. This will raise a “buzz” that “something is happening” in the art market.
4. Raise Interest In the Artist – Getting a journalist or arts writer to publish a story “reassessing” your chosen artist is the easiest step. There are multiple angles they can take with their story – “overlooked genius finally making good”, “something is happening in the art market”, “a stash of unknown paintings found in cupboard”. There are plenty to choose from. The enticement for the journalist/arts writer is to promise to let them write the book you say you’ll be publishing on your chosen artist, which will be “in all good bookshops”. This is not a promise you will have to keep.
5. Publish A Catalogue – Dig up an academic who has written a hitherto unpublished book on your artist, excerpt a chapter from their book and publish a 12 page glossy brochure illustrated with reproductions of the paintings you now own. The purpose of this catalogue is to promote an exhibition you will have. Send out invitations to the “opening” along with copies of the brochure to arts writers, journalists, corporate art advisers and collectors. Make certain people notice the high falutin’ language in the text and the academic credibility of the author. You can also invite the author to launch the exhibition or save that pleasure for yourself.
6. Stage An Exhibition by The Artist – Lease a gallery space and arrange your paintings in an attractive display while hiring some attractive wait-people to dispense drinks and canapés. Working the crowd or standing back while wearing a cravat and drinking red wine is entirely up to you.
7. Have the Artist Appear At The Opening – If alive, have the artist come to the show to add extra credibility. Although they will not be receiving a penny from the sale of the works, the artist will appreciate all the belated attention to their twilight careers. If dead, have the artist’s wife or adult children attend and say something at the opening or, if incapable of speech, have them wave from their wheelchair.
8. Sell Works At Handsomely Inflated Prices – This is the most crucial step in the whole process and the point of the exercise. With enough attention to detail and effort on your part during the previous seven steps, the works should sell themselves. Your only task here is to set a price. Rule of thumb indicates 150 to 300 per cent over the original price you paid, depending on the amount of interest you’ve managed to create. If you only want to go through this process once, now is the time to cash out, so set the prices as high as you want.
9. Resell Works Back Into The Secondary Market – Anything unsold or kept back as being too good for your exhibition should now be offered back into the secondary market. If you’ve done it all right, you can be looking at anything up to five to ten times the original price. Just doubling your money shouldn’t be considered a failure. It’s all good.
10. Find a New Artist –Repeat the process.
*Guarantee will not be honoured.