Collecting now! Smart investment in the global and local art markets

Exciting times are ahead for art investors and collectors, or even those looking to dip a toe in the sometimes opaque waters of the art market.

Aspire Collecting now
Still life with magnolias, apples and bowl, Irma Stern, 1944

     Since 2000, European-based company Artprice has run the Price Index for the global art market. This is calculated on the basis of global auction results, and shows that the market has grown by +36%. The index is composed using the same general principles for its construction as with most other reputable financial indices: it focuses on the art market’s fundamental artists and takes into account their relative weight and importance.
     In comparison, the S&P 500 has gained +86% over the same period, the FTSE 100 is up +2% and France’s CAC 40 is down -19%.
     As Artprice puts it: ‘The art market – taken as a whole, and including all periods and price ranges – is, therefore, a competitive form of investment and an alternative to traditional financial assets. Over the last 20 years, the art market has massively increased in liquidity and has grown to now be widely appreciated as a genuinely efficient market. It proves that a relatively well-diversified art portfolio, constructed on the basis of a simple and non-aggressive acquisition strategy, has a genuine economic raison d’être, quite apart from the non-pecuniary benefits of collecting art.’
     One of the main areas which attract many people to the art world is the spectacular prices achieved for individual works or individual artists. 2017 saw plenty of examples of exceptional capital gains. Artprice namechecks the performance of Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose prices have risen exponentially. In 2017, a work called Jim Crow, from 1986, sold for $17 680 936, having first sold in 1992 for $136 367 – a multiplication in value of 130 times!
     At the other end of the market, the same principle applies. A collector first paid $680 for a small still life by Helen Funke in 1995. The same work was recently sold for $38 000 – a percentage return of over 5 000%.  

Exciting times are ahead for art investors and collectors, or even those looking to dip a toe in the sometimes opaque waters of the art market.

Aspire Collecting now
Untitled 1.5, Zander Blom, 2010

     Aspire Art Auctions’ June 2018 sale in Johannesburg is a perfect example. The presence of highly collectable artists in the traditionally strong historic and modern market takes its place alongside an increasingly diverse and broad offering, both from previously under-represented artists and from younger and mid-career contemporary artists.
     While most fine art auction houses can offer a range of work in these segments, Aspire’s strategic focus on contemporary work is demonstrated by the high quality and variety of the lots they bring to auction. In this approach, it is taking advantage of global growth in the segment, where, in less than two decades, contemporary art has gone from 3% market share to over 15%.  Aspire’s recent sales have seen world and South African record prices fetched for work by artists as diverse as Louis Maqhubela, Dumile Feni, William Kentridge, Angus Taylor and Willem Boshoff. A newer market is also opening up for more cutting-edge contemporary work, exemplified in the recent Johannesburg sale by the presence of the likes of Zander Blom, Brett Murray, Sandile Zulu and Andrezj Urbanski.
     Aspire Art Auctions Winter 18 auction is held at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, 26 Melville Road, Illovo, Sandton on 17 June. Go to for more.  

To find out which four South African artists appear in Artprice’s so-called ‘Global 500’ and to learn more about the diversification of the contemporary market around the world, purchase our June 2018 issue here or continue supporting the arts and culture sector by subscribing to our monthly magazine.