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Investing in art; choosing an artwork

At the present time, the art market is particularly lively.

Investors diversify their investments: besides real estate and stock capital, they are also interested in works of art, seeking the advice of experts.

Normally the investment consists of buying an art object by an established, well-known author; or else, the collector follows his own taste or aesthetic requirement.

However, it can happen that one specific artwork is bought, without knowing its lastingness. What happens to the investment in such case?

Will the artwork stay reasonably unaltered in time? and consequently, will the investment keep its value?

It is essential that these questions are posed, especially when the choice is mainly oriented by the buyer’s aesthetic taste, because he expects to really enjoy the beauty of the artwork for which he spent a (sometimes sizeable) part of his wealth.

How disappointing and how embarrassing would it be, if the buyer should find out he chose a work of art that after a short lapse of time starts showing signs of decay and degradation?

Unfortunately, this happens quite frequently, when the only parameter of evaluation is the artist’s rating.

Of course, nothing is fully resistant to time; however, the artist should make sure, in his creative process, that his work is as resistant as possible, even without diminishing his creative and artistic impulse.

Sadly, not always things go this way; concentrating on his creative action, the artist forgets to take notice of what materials he is using, whether they will resist to light, sudden changes in temperature etc.

Will an artwork, which was bought out of purely speculative reasons and quickly locked up in a vault, never being exhibited, resist to time?

What a bitter surprise would it be, after time has gone by and the artist’s assessment has risen, finding out that the artwork cannot be sold because it deteriorated to the point that it lost its artistic meaning, its integrity, and the artist’s trace is unreadable!

We should take a page off the Romans’ book: they left us not only with their passion for beauty, but also with a lesson on how to make artworks that outlast time.

In Switzerland, Romans left an outstanding legacy: about 410 pavement mosaics have been assessed, made between the end of the 1st century BC and the 4th century AD.

Mosaik des Jagdes
Mosaic of the Hunt – Photo: www.museevallon.ch

These works are over 1’500 years old, some of them over 2’000; what modern artworks can boast such resistance to time?

Beauty, style, colour, elegance together with usefulness and durability.

Just what anyone would wish, in exchange for the investment made.

However, the durability element is not a creative impediment for the artist; conversely, it could help him to improve himself, and to explore better opportunities, out of respect not just for himself, but for who invested their money to acquire the resulting artwork.

Experts in restoration and preservation of artworks witness how hard and expensive it can get, trying to restore the original readability and beauty of a work of art.

The following excerpt, from the book «Il Parco della Pace a Ravenna, Esperienze di restauro del mosaico contemporaneo»(*) by Dr Cetty Muscolino(**), makes the matter even clearer.

«There can be no doubt to that the destiny of all artworks is tightly bound to that of the elements that constitute them, but at the bottom much depends on the technologies adopted by artists, who should be reasonably directed to a greater awareness in their choices, when they move from planning to creation…»

«The first signs of decay showed themselves with surprising, but quite predictable, earliness; these were mainly connected to materials used for the making and the assembly…»

«It is worth mentioning that most of the problems appear to be connected to structural aspects, bound to construction defects…»

«Many artists believe they have no responsibility in the preservation of their artworks in the future, because their activity is focused on the creative action during the execution process.»

«Whenever the creative intuition takes shape, and lowers itself in the space-time coordinates, it is unavoidable that it subjects itself to the laws of matter. Therefore, the artist must reckon with the reality of matter, or else accept that his creation, given its ephemeral character, goes irretrievably lost in a short delay of time.»

Maybe the artist can accept this. But how about his client?

(*) Cetty Muscolino, «Il Parco della Pace: conservazione e restauro»; da AA. VV., «Il Parco della Pace a Ravenna, Esperienze di restauro del mosaico contemporaneo», Ravenna, October 2009, pp. 37-47.

parco guell2(**) Prof. Dr Cetty Muscolino, Art historian, director of restoration sites, lecturer, author of several papers, former director of the National Museum of Ravenna and of the School of Restoration of Mosaic at the Art Preservation Authority of Ravenna

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