The Art Market – Selling Original Art

When it comes to art investments, timing is all that matters!

by Tanya Singh

In an interview with The Telegraph, an English art critic Brian Sewell said, “No one should buy works of art for investment as art is for pleasure and enlightenment”. Even though we don’t completely agree with Sewell, we do think that the art market is trickier than it seems.

selling original art
Sotheby’s, one of the largest multinational corporations of brokers in fine art.

On the surface, it might look like a win-win situation. After all, when have we ever heard anyone saying that a masterpiece sold for anything less than an exorbitant amount? But as it turns out, art as a commodity or an investment is one of the last things to go up when inflation is rising and the first thing to be depreciated in times of recession. Nonetheless, all in all, devastating results are very rare and original art still remains a sought after investment.

But just in case you do fear a loss coming your way, here is all the information you need on selling original art.

Selling Original Art

Buying and selling original art has become a full-fledged business. Gone are the days when collecting art was a hobby of the elite. It is increasingly becoming an appealing commodity for investors due to the rise in statistics at alarming rates and relatively lower risks. According to Art Market Research, the price of art has risen more than 1000% in the last four decades. Collecting art today does not only mean having a large number of original works of art in your possession but also building your collection and eventually benefitting from it.

Useful Article: The Art Market – Investing In Original Art

As an art investor, selling art for a profit is obviously the goal. However, as just an art collector, too, you need to consider this in order to gain access to more valuable pieces or to replenish your collection. Using art as an asset is also not the sole reason for collectors to decide on selling their art. A tricky financial situation, location change, or even family feuds can be the cause of this. Whatever the reason may be, selling your art is also as essential and as involving a process as buying an original work.

When To Sell Art?

In simple words, an investment can be defined as a ‘buy low, sell high’ commodity. A work of art too is something you invest in with the hopes of it appreciating in the future. However, the only way you can make a significant profit is by getting the timing right. Therefore, you have to keep the fact that you need to sell your original art in mind at all times and watch the market closely.

When it comes to art investments, timing is all that matters!

selling original art
A graph showing the rise of original art as an alternative asset (1970 – 2014).

Art advisors use indices to estimate the worth of a work or to sell art. The AMR 100 Index of Fine Art Sales has shown an average annual increase of 8% over the past 25 years. This is truly an exciting time for the art market. Naturally, with all the hype and the prices rising day by day, you get the urge to take advantage of the situation and sell your investment. However, if history has taught us anything, it is that the more you wait to sell an art investment, the more rewarding it will be for you. According to Mohammad Kamal Syed from Coutts, UK, art investments must be held on to for at least five years. “Art collections are built over time and are not recommended for investors interested in quick returns,” he said.

Useful Article: Why Buy Original Art?

Therefore, as with any asset, there is no fixed time, but there is a right time to put it back on the market. If you’re an emerging art collector or investor, be prepared for a trial and error period while you’re learning the ways of the art market. Eventually, however, timing and patience are the keys to success in this fluctuating and yet exciting business.

selling original art
Gallery guest discussing art with Director, Angella Di Bello at Agora Gallery

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Where To Begin?

Once you have the timing in control, the next step is to actually go through with the task. There are a number of places you can sell your original art, like art galleries, auction houses, and even private sales. We recommend getting it professionally appraised before committing to any organization. It is important for you to consult a professional who can help you benefit the most from an investment and tell you whether it is the right time to go through with the sale or not.

As far as venues are concerned, there is a wide range of options to explore. Art dealers and galleries have the advantage of a large clientele. Taking their help can make the lengthy process much less tiresome and time-consuming for you. The same goes for auction houses but they charge a much higher commission than a gallery or an art dealer would. Auction houses are usually recommended for those with a high-value art collection. Online platforms are also becoming increasingly popular and can be great venues if you are willing to invest some of your own time in the process.

Things To Consider Before You Sell Your Art

selling original art
Source: Art Market Outlook 2016
  • Art Is Not A Liquid Asset.
    Although the basics of making any kind of investment are more or less the same, original art is not a liquid asset like stocks and bonds. You cannot readily sell it and convert it into cash with a few clicks or phone calls. It is more like property or real estate, a long-term investment that involves an extremely demanding and time-consuming process.
  • Don’t Get Caught Up In The Hype.
    The art market is prone to fluctuations and the process usually involves a sharp rise or dip in the statistics. Naturally, every time the market is booming there is a lot of excitement and readiness to sell among collectors and investors alike. It is very easy to get caught up in the hype. However, as we have already established, timing is everything when it comes to selling original art.
  • Protect The Art.
    Another very important aspect of this entire process is the protection of your art both on paper and in physicality. A damaged painting is worthless and so is one without the proper paperwork. From the moment you acquire the work of art till you sell it, it is your responsibility to keep it safe and in the best condition possible.
  • Seek A Second Opinion.
    Your understanding of the art market trends might have convinced you that it is the right time to sell. However, art is not a cheap investment. Taking a professional second opinion before making any final decisions is always a good idea.
  • Do Not Make Rash Decisions.
    Hasty decisions and rash judgments are not good for investments like art. It is a high-value asset. You should consider all the aspects, including when and how you are going to part with it, very carefully.


Art is a long-term investment, not just financial but also in terms of an emotional attachment. Making the decision to sell your original art can be a tough one. However, if done properly, putting your art back on the market can not only result in gigantic returns but also give you and your art collection space to grow and develop. Either way, whether it is your emotional connection with the work or your close involvement with the processes of acquiring and selling it, the work of art is surely going to leave its mark in your memories. Like Glen Helfand, an art critic said, “the art piece you buy is something you’ll experience repeatedly – it’s worth considering why it speaks to you, and how long it might continue to do so”.

Ultimately, the final question is – Are you ready to part with your work of art?


Need some specific advice regarding your art collection or help in starting afresh? Benefit from our curatorial services! To know more, contact us at [email protected]

Tanya Singh is a budding art historian and writer. She is currently pursuing her postgraduate studies at the LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore. With a versatile portfolio, she has over three years of experience in writing as well as editing.


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