Fine art is both an investment and a way to beautify the home or office. Buying art, especially as an investment, is something of an art itself that shoppers need to learn, but the beginner can get started by keeping track of a few simple principles, such as the popularity of the artist and the condition of the piece.
Consider the Artist
Buyers interested in fine art as an investment need to consider how stable the market for the artists' work is. For example, an artist whose work has recently become trendy might be able to command very high prices, but trends can go as quickly as they arrive and today's expensive painting could be worth nothing tomorrow. Artists whose work has been popular for decades are a much more reliable investment.
Determine Whether the Painting Is Original
Even completely legal and ethical copies of artwork can trip a buyer up because copies are worth only a fraction of the original. While it is easy to spot the difference between traditional paintings and prints, some artists use printmaking as their primary medium. In such cases, "original work of art" means a print authorised by the artist. These are typically limited-edition runs that are numbered and hand-signed, but there are exceptions. There is nothing wrong with a legally made and an honestly labelled non-original copy, but their value as an investment is usually minimal.
Consider the Price
Prices can vary a lot, even for pieces from the same artist, depending on who the seller is and what his or her expenses are, as well as the quality, desirability, and framing of the individual painting. Yet, there are limits, and an absurdly low price is a sign that something is wrong. It takes some experience to learn what a reasonable price-range is for a given artist, such as Andrew Wyeth, but a good place to start is to look up work by the same artist from other dealers. If one seller asks an unusually high or unusually low price, ask why. There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation.
Stains, rips, or a poor or damaged frame can lower the price of an otherwise desirable painting, as can poorly done restoration work. That does not mean a painting with condition issues is never a good buy, since the new owner can have the piece cleaned and repaired, but the asking price should be lower and the investment value might also be less.
Finally, paintings should stir the mind and soul. A painting can be a great investment, but a painting bought only for its resale value is a bit of a waste. Buyers should not be afraid to follow their own taste, whether that is watercolour landscapes or oil paintings from a certain period or subject.