Capitalising On Your Investment

A collector is a custodian for the artworks in their collection. Tymon Smith consults the experts to find out more about the specialist care and management necessary to maintain a fine art collection.

Once you make the decision to enter the world of art collection there are many things to consider beyond how much to spend on purchasing artworks.

Collections need to be properly maintained, curated, preserved and tracked to ensure that you get the most out of your investment. There are several specialised services available to collectors, including the expertise of independent curators and consultants, archival framers, restorers, tools to track values and auction results, and, specialised art storage facilities.

Curating and hanging

Independent curator and art consultant, Phillippa Duncan says that she begins consultations with her clients by asking, “what is the end game regarding their artwork acquisitions? Are they collecting because this is something that appeals to their respective identities? Is it part of their interior decoration aspirations? Do they simply love art?” Duncan believes that the services of a consultant can help collectors not just with the presentation and preservation of their artworks, but also with the selection of future purchases. “A consultant should be responsible not only for the acquisition of a work, but the full process — visual assessment (condition report) before purchase (yes, even a contemporary work requires an initial visual assessment), framing, hanging location, etc.”.

She also offers advice on the hanging of collections and says it is important to ask where collectors are planning to display their works.  For example, works on paper such as photographs should not be hung in direct sunlight if avoidable. She advises that when choosing a consultant, collectors should remember that it’s important that “a good consultant should be familiar with the space in which work is going to be displayed before making suggestions regarding acquisitions and placement”. Her advice to new and first-time collectors regarding how to choose artworks for purchase is that they “must love it! Don’t try and keep up with the Jones’ of collecting — buying art is not just a financial investment, but a visual one as well. There is absolutely no point in purchasing a piece because someone said it would be a good investment and you dislike it to the point that it spends the next 20 years in a cupboard”.

She also stresses the importance of keeping a constant eye on your collection, pointing out “that when you purchase a home or property, maintenance is part of the future plan to maintain your portfolio. The same principles need to be applied to an art collection. And I cannot stress enough the role of properly documenting your collection: photograph, catalogue and record it”

Finally, Duncan advises collectors to “never skimp on framing! The horror stories I have come across caused by uneducated and poorly trained framers are heart-breaking (and blood boiling)”.

Framing

Archival framer Wessel Snyman, who has been working with collectors for a decade, echoes Duncan’s sentiments. He warns: “The biggest possible threat to an artwork’s value and longevity is the damage that can be caused by bad framing, most of which is irreparable and seriously devalues the work. Archival framing considers the corrosive effect some framing materials can have on the artwork and applies the very best framing practices with the best materials in the industry to ensure that your artwork will stand the test of time.”

Snyman believes that “the frame has two functions. First, and most importantly, the protection of the artwork: A frame takes the ‘knock’ so the artwork doesn’t have to, so it must be well-built and the stable, safe, micro-environment in which the artwork lives and breathes shouldn’t hold any potential threat to its lifespan. The second and perhaps more familiar function of the frame is to offer an aesthetic enhancement to the artwork.

A frame can be a beautiful bridge between the space where the artwork is going to be displayed and the artwork itself”. Snyman’s company, Wessel Snyman Creative, offers home consultations “in which it is easy for us to look over the collection, identify potentially problematic frames, spot the pitfalls of improper placement of the artworks in the home and advise action to prevent damage”. He says that clients can also “send artworks to us before they purchase for inspection to check that the framing is top grade and there isn’t hidden damage” thus helping to “ensure that the collection is preserved and stands the best chance to yield the highest possible returns”.

“When you purchase a home or property, maintenance is part of the future plan to maintain your portfolio. The same principles need to be applied to an art collection,” says Duncan.

Restoring

Gerda Engelbrecht, who has worked in paper restoration for 27 years, advises collectors who purchase works on paper to carefully examine pieces — preferably out of their frames — before purchase and to be mindful of the quality of paper used by artists. “If the artist used good linen or cotton paper and stable media, good results can generally be achieved during restoration treatment”, says Engelbrecht. Changes in paper such as “the introduction of wood pulp paper, the use of synthetic pigments combined with unconventional techniques such as collage during the 20th century are all factors that limit the intervention by the conservator”. She also advises that when storing works on paper, “the storage area should be dry, well ventilated and temperature fluctuations should be avoided”.

Storing

Of course, if you don’t have the wall space to hang your collection, or the temperature-controlled basement necessary to pristinely preserve valuable artworks, you may need to investigate alternatives. Storage facilities specifically tailored for art collectors are offered by companies such as Aspiring Logistics, which provides temperature-controlled, fire-protected, high-security art storage in Cape Town. In Johannesburg, Knox Vaults, located in the former US Consulate building in Houghton, offers a specific art-storage safety deposit box for collectors.

Organising and tracking

When it comes to keeping an eye on art investments, Dale Sargent, the founder of ArtVault, offers two online tools for collectors to organise and track the value of their works. The first of these is ArtVault, a tool originally developed as a more user-friendly and efficient means of tracking collections than something basic like an Excel spreadsheet. Its sister site, AuctionVault, Sargent explains “is a database of over 80 000 South African art auction results from the top South African auction houses. Subscribers are able to search any artist who has been through auction in South Africa and see how they have performed over time”, Sargent believes that AuctionVault “is a great tool for anyone looking at buying or selling South African artworks or just wanting to find out what a particular artwork is worth on the secondary market”.

Another company specialising in the important and often overlooked area of collection management is Luckyman Art Management. “We come in and clean up your art data and catalogue the collection into a modern software system,” CEO and founder Justin Glickman explains. “Data tracking is the Achilles heel of many significant collections. Collectors, big and small, often have only a vague idea of their works, the value, and where each piece is! The result? Forgotten art loans, underinsurance and purchasing decisions that are not value accretive.” In addition to this, Luckyman, provides collectors with acquisition strategy advice as well as assistance with art showcasing opportunities. A chartered accountant by qualification, Glickman is deeply passionate about art. “Each day I get to bring order to art collections and help collectors leverage more value from their collections.”

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