Online galleries and affordable art fairs are rapidly democratising the art market and bringing undiscovered artists to new audiences. Kate Douglas-Hamilton talks to the founder of pioneering graduate art site New Blood Art to get the 101 on art collecting and why children’s spaces shouldn’t be overlooked when choosing original art for your home.
Frieze opens today in Regent’s Park, bringing a multitude of well-heeled art lovers and collectors from around the world to London and kicking off a week of satellite exhibitions, exclusive drinks parties and air kissing. While most of us don’t own nearly enough Bottega Veneta to be taken seriously at Frieze itself, it also heralds the arrival of the city’s autumn ‘affordable’ art fairs, where us mere mortals who know nothing about art can still waft around pretending otherwise, while dreaming of snapping up something by the next Tracy Emin or Peter Doig for £25. (Doig famously struggled to sell any work on graduation. His White Canoe sold for $11.3m in 2007).
Many still consider art investment the preserve of oligarchs and hedge fund billionaires, and certainly there will be no shortage of them at Frieze Masters this week. But the last decade has seen an explosion in alternative art fairs and online retailers who, free from traditional gallery overheads, are disrupting the market and bringing emerging, collectable artwork to a wider audience, often at very affordable prices.
According to a recent report by Hiscox, the value of the online art market rose to an estimated $2.64bn in 2014. The popular Affordable Art Fair (AAF), which was first launched in Battersea in 1999 by Will’s Art Warehouse founder, Will Ramsay, now takes place in multiple cities around the world, with over 1.6 million visitors having bought over £235 million worth of art since its inception. Whether it’s because we are finally out-growing our ‘decorating with gap year photos’ phase or because we fancy ourselves as small time speculators, the desire to seek out and own unusual and original art is definitely on the rise among Generation X.
Gatherings I by Jo Harris
(Original painting in acrylic ink on paper, in bespoke white wooden box frame. £300)
Are we all going to make huge fortunes from this democratisation of the art market? The smart money says that’s unlikely – after all, the chances of beating the likes of Charles Saatchi at their own game are slim (or at least that’s what they’d like you to believe). In an interview with the FT, Ramsay cautioned that only around 2% of artists ever get a big break and see sizeable price increases. Art is fundamentally an aesthetic investment. Buying something you will still love looking at in 15 years time is a wiser bet than acquiring an experimental piece of installation art you think you ‘should’ buy and then end up keeping in the shed. But, nonetheless, gains are achievable – particularly if you do your research and view it as a long-term strategy – and that in itself adds to the fun of buying original or editioned art.
More or often than not, though, we only think about our own living spaces when buying original artwork and default to Ikea prints when looking for pieces for our children’s bedrooms or playrooms. Abstract art, in particular, appeals to many children from a very young age and, if you engage them in the buying process, you may be surprised at the strength of their opinion on certain pieces. And, who knows, you might even buy them that undiscovered masterpiece that means you won’t be bankrupted by their university education. If nothing else, it’s extra wall space to factor in when indulging what can quite quickly become a rather consuming habit. Be warned: art buying can become very addictive.
If you worry that your children are too fickle to like anything for longer than 6 months, there is at least one upside. To paraphrase Charles Saatchi – once you’ve bought more art that you can hang in your home, you’re officially an ‘art collector’.
In and Out by Craig Wright
(Original screen print in ink on paper, £250)
Kaleidoscope by Nina Goldsmith
(Original painting in oil, enamel and varnish on paper, £210)
Want to find out how to get started? Sarah Ryan launched New Blood Art in 2004, and it was one of the pioneering sites bringing graduate and MA artists to a wider audience. I have bought several brilliant pieces from them (including two which have already seen appreciable valuation increases, albeit not quite enough yet for me to be buying at Frieze Masters this week…). Unlike many other online platforms, all of the artists are handpicked and given guidance on pricing, meaning that a lot of the legwork has been done for the novice art buyer making this a gateway into collectable art.
I asked Sarah for some tips and suggestions for pieces that would work well in children’s spaces.
How has the market for art as investment grown over the last few years?
The investment market is a complex topic but in terms of our sector – emerging art – it has become much more widely accessible. There were always a few people in the know, who would visit degree shows and buy young artists work at the start of their careers, but it was a rarity. Now with sites like ours it is something anyone can do. Buying right at the start of an artist’s career when their work will never be more affordable – it’s a revolution.
What do you think is the reason behind the growth of the affordable art fairs and online platforms as challengers to the established gallery model?
Good question. There’s a growing hunger for the original and unique – an assertion of individual style and personal taste. I also guess the boundaries that inhibited the general population from collecting have begun to crumble: the price point and the elitism around gallerist/collector relationships. And of course the internet – the whole gallery experience can now be bypassed if people wish by browsing and buying online.
Spacewalk 25 by David OM
(Original painting in acrylic on canvas, £125)
Why do you believe graduate art is great place to look for investment pieces?
The filtering process has begun by virtue of the fact that the students were selected for the degree courses and have gone on to complete 3 or 4 years of study (with the art foundation course taken into consideration) and the talent is condensed into these annual shows so it makes sense to start here. Some great artists are self taught but it’s very rare – and self taught artists in general tend to lack the depth of research and rigour found in great art. For more tips you can see my blog post on what to look for when investing in emerging artists.
Any big success stories you have seen via New Blood Art?
Our Masters section on the site profiles artists who have graduated through the space and work full time as professional artists – having all seen meaningful increases in the value of their work.
Any particularly standout artists with NBA at the moment that you are tipping for great things?
All of the artists have been specifically handpicked though I particularly have my eye on the following:
James Matthew O’Connell (BA Hons Fine Art, Wimbledon College of Art. Graduation Year: 2015)
John Clark (Fine Art, first-class honours, Ruskin School of Fine Art And Drawing, Oxford)
Orlanda Broom (MA Fine Art, Winchester)
Any tips on what to look for in pieces for children’s rooms?
I don’t think there are any rules as to whether certain works are better suited to specific rooms as such. I would look to have children define their tastes, to begin to choose things that they like so that they take ownership over their own preferences. That’s how personal style is formed.
I’ve heard it said that black and white images are particularly pleasing to children at pre-verbal stage and of course some children like particular colours or shapes – so perhaps more abstract work – but not necessarily. I would avoid having rules and simply encourage children to consider the choices they make in their environment.
Cranes (pink) by Lisa Pettersson
(Original painting in acrylic and pen on paper, £190)
(Opening image: The Lick by Orlanda Broom. Original painting in glasslike resin on matt white canvas, £3000)