Investments: Later is More Expensive!

Hiding Money from Inflation: Artrovert Gallery’s founder Siim Raie discusses the opportunity to invest in art. With courage and the right advice, this decision can prove to be very beneficial, both financially and emotionally.

Siim Raie’s article was published in the newspaper KesKus.

In 18th-century Europe, the only accessible option for purchasing art was through annual salons or commissioned works, limited to the privileged few. By the beginning of the 20th century, art sales galleries had become a common phenomenon in major capitals. In the early 21st century, there is a plethora of visual culture available under the name of art, both online and offline. So why do our home walls remain empty?

The first significant barrier that comes to mind is accessibility, both in terms of price and physical and mental availability.

The price barrier is often perceived as laziness because it is possible to find good contemporary Estonian art at reasonable prices. Those who desire it can find such art at auctions like “Osta Noort Kunsti” (Buy Young Art), exhibitions, and galleries. And just like in construction or most other fields, the rule “later is more expensive” applies here too. Who wouldn’t have wanted to be Peggy Guggenheim, the first to dare to buy early 20th-century modernists?

Generally, the price of art and the frequency of acquisitions are related to the growth of prosperity, and the Estonian art market also indicates that we are doing well. A little courage to experiment is also beneficial. Since the spring auctions of 2021, living artists have made price leaps with longer strides than the deceased classics, but even they do not become cheaper.

Regarding mental accessibility, contemporary art has two aspects in my opinion. Firstly, the Estonian art world is very centered around art history specialists and their language. There are many exhibitions and art museums, and the art scene is buzzing with viewers and critics. However, the language used is often so complex that the average viewer fails to establish a connection with the artists or their works. Unfortunately, only scandals related to the art world tend to stick in people’s minds, while the artworks themselves remain in the background. Few can name their favorite contemporary Estonian artwork.

The second aspect is the museumification or confinement of contemporary art to gallery spaces. If we want to see art, we have to leave our homes. What we see in the white cube fascinates us and brings us back, but it doesn’t create the thought of “I could have something like this at home.” Some art will always remain exhibition art, but a significant portion should reach our lives—our homes, offices, and as gifts.

This brings us to physical accessibility. The truth derived from business school, that you can only buy what is on the shelf, applies to art as well. Today, the only competition for gallerists is the artists themselves because most of them sell directly. However, they need to be found by potential buyers.

Those potential buyers who do not undertake this journey, both physically and mentally, find solutions to their needs in construction or furniture stores. However, these products cannot be called art, and they do not appreciate in value over time.

The main motivation for creating my gallery was precisely to create this platform for art enthusiasts like myself. It’s about providing a halfway solution for those who want to find opportunities to give meaning to their lives and adorn their surroundings with contemporary art. It’s a way to save them the trouble of traveling around and searching through studios to find something meaningful and suitable for their homes. Many people who have already made the decision to purchase art still have a small fear of making the wrong choices: Is the artist and the artwork I’m buying truly valuable? Is it professional and contemporary art?

The role of a gallerist is to mitigate these risks and make not only tasteful but also conceptual and artist-related choices. After all, no one wants to hang a painting on their wall and hear a guest ask, “Did you paint it yourself?”

You don’t have to become a full-fledged art collector and compete with the Kunilas and Manitskis. However, if each of us had two or three contemporary art pieces at home, with prices not falling below the cost per square meter of a new development, it would give Estonian artists the motivation and foundation to conquer the world. Many of them have the talent to captivate larger audiences. The long-standing maxim that Estonian art is the most expensive art in Estonia could finally be broken at some point.

The Dead and the Living

Both the spring and autumn auction seasons reveal the preferences of participants and organizers. In the spring auctions of 2022, 71% of the works for sale were from deceased artists.

Now, after the deaths of Lapin and Arrak, those numbers are increasing even more. It’s logical that the limited supply (since they will no longer create new works) is sold through auctions. However, this could also determine a fair price level for contemporary artists.

Nevertheless, living artists still need gallery sales. There are several advantages to purchasing their contemporary creations. It eliminates concerns about authenticity and provenance, and in addition to the artwork itself, you can also get to know the artist. It’s the most common question every gallery owner has to answer every day: “What did the artist intend with this?”

Don’t Overanalyze

In general, we tend to overanalyze art. Buying art doesn’t have to be the same as other purchasing decisions. You have to consciously leave room for subjective enjoyment and initial emotions and allow the artwork to have an impact on you. A work purchased purely based on rationality or calculated market value growth may not bring as much joy when displayed on your home wall as an emotionally resonant piece.

The same applies to buying a “suitable” artwork purely for decorative purposes. If, years later, the art on your home wall has become mere wallpaper, it’s time to go out and find something that resonates and, ideally, provokes you to look and think every day.

Everyone should calculate the equation art = life = art in their own homes, as proposed by proto-curator Szeemann. The absence of contemporary art can also mean the absence of contemporary life.