Tuesday, April 05, 2011

That’s what I want

Can you make money from art? Well, yes you can, although if you read the perennial can-you-make-money-on-art features in mags and newspapers, you’ll find most commentators prefer to front foot with don’t-buy-it-unless-you-love-it. 

Forgetting the all-you-need-is-love line for a moment, how much money can you make? Over the last twenty years, to use a technical term, lots. Quick resales of works by Bill Hammond and Shane Cotton in particular have reaped some very large rewards for people who didn’t want to live with their art for more than 10 to 15 years and, in many cases, as few as three or four.

Of course you have to sell at the right time as art is not very liquid (another technical term), but when you consider the amount made on Don Binney’s Kotare over the Ratana Church, Te Kao ($270,000 over 47 years from a purchase price of around $125), there is money, good money, delivered from the right works (i.e. best looking typical work - preferably figurative - of the highest reputation artists).

Take, for example, Colin McCahon’s He calls for Elias up in the next Art + Object sale. The painting was offered up for £12.12 (aka 12 guineas) at its first outing in 1959 and it is still in its original frame. Now auctioneers Art + Object reckon it will sell for somewhere between $500,000 and $700,000. 

And what is £12.12 worth in today’s inflation adjusted dollars? $497.00 that’s what. So you definitely stand to make a fair bit over the under-the-mattress method, even if it sells under the lower reserve. 

If you put the £12.12 into the bank and went with compound interest at 6% over the 52 years (you’d be lucky), you’d only be rolling in 5,768 dollar bills. 

So could some smart investor parlay £12.12 into $600,000 over 52 years? Sure they could, but we’d all be super impressed. Art at auction. Gotta love it.

Image: the back of McCahon’s He calls for Elias illustrated in the Art + Object catalogue. You can download the fully illustrated catalogue here