Collecting Contemporary Art

by Mark Roe
JPMorgan Chase Art Collection

Jason Brooks, Sylvia, 2014, acrylic on canvas, JPMorgan Chase Art Collection.

Collecting contemporary art is an adventure. Exploring the venues where it lives and breathes can be exhilarating, mystifying or mind expanding—sometimes all three at once. The best way to discover what all the excitement is about is to plunge right in and see for yourself.

Fortunately for aspiring collectors, there are many entry points for investigating the contemporary market. And while the internet and other sources can provide guidance for appropriate venues and a preview of what is on offer, seeing art in person is critical to understanding the physical presence of an artwork and the experience an artist is trying to create for the viewer.

Be in the same space

It is essential for an art buyer to know if an artwork resonates with personal intellectual interests and passions. Being in the same space with the artwork is the best way to know if it satisfies your needs and objectives.

Museums, galleries, biennials and art fairs all offer great opportunities for the neophyte collector to come into contact with new art. Museum staff, dealers and art advisors can provide in-depth information about artworks and their context within current art trends, as well as art historical lineages. The best artworks have layers of meaning and history, and the more you know, the more there is to appreciate.

Take chances

Creating a contemporary collection can be highly rewarding, but you must be willing to take chances. There are ways to mitigate risk with thorough research, but one of the exciting elements of searching out the most interesting contemporary art is that it is new and to some extent unknown. Acquisitions of a new artist’s work become part of the story and record of that artist.

You should be aware of the art market, but not let it dictate taste: High prices don’t necessarily equal important art. Auctions are not the best place to start since you would be competing with experienced art buyers, who have various agendas.

Look to emerging artists

One way to minimize financial risk is to invest in emerging artists. First of all, costs are lower. And this is how many large collections first started. For example, the JPMorgan Chase Art Collection was built by focusing on artists whose careers were still developing. Some of those artists became well known, and others did not. As long as you concentrate on quality and art that fit your aspirations, the enjoyment of the work persists even if monetary values do not increase, or even if they decrease. You should buy art you want to live with.

“Emerging artists are more likely to want to engage with a collector.”

Sometimes, an artist’s work can take decades to be noticed and celebrated. Emerging artists are also more likely to want to engage with a collector—they want to know who is interested in their work, and where it will go when it leaves their studio or gallery—and studio visits may be easily arranged. The connection between collector and artist can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of collecting art.

Stay informed

If you are investing in high-value artworks, you should seek advice from an expert. Art dealers and gallerists who specialize in blue-chip art, secondary market sales and auctions can provide guidance on values, although you should consult with more than one dealer or gallerist.

Professional art advisors can help direct you to the artists who align with your ambition, and can identify opportunities and assist in obtaining the right price for artworks. There are also databases, such as Artnet, which show auction results for artists. As with other investments, the more information and educated advice you have, the better you are equipped to make good decisions. Knowledge is power.

Evolve your goals

Once you have embarked on forming a collection, art passions crystalize, and it is important to establish curatorial goals. The focus, future size and spending parameters for acquisitions need to be considered, as well as practical matters such as where the art will be installed or stored. You will need to identify who will oversee the care of the collection, including framing, conservation and maintaining an inventory. Appraisals of all works need to be made periodically, both for insurance purposes and for tax and estate planning.

The JPMorgan Chase Art Collection has a team of art professionals dedicated to acquiring new art and caring for more than 30,000 artworks now in the collection. With age and scale comes an understanding of the needs and responsibilities of managing a large art collection over time. As an individual collector, you may need help as your holdings increase beyond the confines of your homes. Experts can assist not only in finding the right art and negotiating prices, but with installations, storage, insurance and financing. Once you cross the threshold from being an occasional art buyer to collecting as a more serious endeavor, responsibilities multiply, but the pleasure and excitement remain.

The JPMorgan Chase Art Collection began as a commitment to contemporary art, both as an appropriate complement to modern architectural design and as the best way to intellectually invigorate a new kind of corporate environment. Today the Collection’s more than 30,000 artworks are cared for by a team of professionals, who are also dedicated to acquiring new art. The same philosophy that inspired our founding remains a driving force

We welcome the opportunity to speak with you about how your collection fits into your overall wealth plan. Please contact us, and a J.P. Morgan representative will be in touch with you.

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