In 2016, the art market generated an estimated $56.6 billion in sales, and 23% of that came from art fairs such as Art Basel Miami Beach. 1 Since its inception in 2002, attendance at the Florida-based offshoot of the famed Swiss art fair has more than doubled; it now attracts more than 75,000 visitors from all over the world each year.2 In 2017, 268 galleries from 32 different countries will be open for business at the four-day event, giving collectors and enthusiasts ample opportunity to see a wide variety of works from some of the most vibrant and exciting artists on the market today.3

The massive crowds, limited time and sheer number of works on display is dizzying and can put a lot of pressure on potential buyers fearful of missing out on their most wanted pieces. (For instance, in 2016, Bridget Riley's “Rose Gold 2" was sold for $800,000 in the first 30 minutes of the first day.)4 Brian Lang, curator of BNY Mellon's extensive art collection for over two decades, has some tips for collectors looking to make the most of their visit.

Identify Your Passion

With so many different artists working in a multitude of styles on display, collectors should start by identifying the type of art they're passionate about. “Think hard about what it is that really interests you," says Lang. “Over a lifetime, we may go through a dozen couches, but collectors may hold art for a very long time — you want to be sure that it's something that is interesting to you in the long term, that you find joy in or learn from each time you look at it." It could be that you prefer particular themes, such as landscapes or abstraction, or a particular era or movement. In any case, buying what you love is a better bet than purchasing something simply because it's trendy or seems like it might be a good investment.

Do Your Research

Though the sale happened quickly, the collector who purchased “Rose Gold 2" probably didn't do so impulsively. Rather, the speed with which the transaction took place is likely the result of thorough research prior to the opening of the fair. “To be successful as a collector," Lang says, “you need to do your homework. If you're interested in a particular artist, look at a number of their pieces and understand how an individual piece fits into their entire body of work." By educating yourself, you give yourself the proper context that allows you to make smart decisions, rather than impulsive ones.

“Some collectors go to a fair, see a work and buy it on the spot without considering whether the artist might have other works that better suit their taste. Serious collectors look at as much art as they possibly can — at galleries, at museums, in magazines and online." That way, when they do come across that perfect piece of art, they can act with confidence.

Be Practical

As the curator of a collection with roughly 5,000 works that are constantly rotating between busy, high-traffic locations in 16 countries, Lang has to be practical when acquiring new works. “The bulk of our collection is made up of contemporary works on paper: printmaking, drawing and photography. Because the collection moves so frequently, works on paper — properly framed and glazed— are easier to maintain and protect than paintings on canvas."

Though most collectors won't face the logistical challenges that Lang must contend with, it is important to consider the practical side of owning and displaying art. Environmental considerations, such as humidity, exposure to light and other aspects of the local climate should be taken into account. “Certain works may react differently in Boston than they would in Miami, because of the humidity, for instance. Certain works are more susceptible than others, as well. You might not want to place a wood sculpture next to your indoor pool, or put a watercolor in a place that gets a lot of sunlight."

Take a Long-Term View

Once you've begun to build a collection, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you and your family are able to enjoy it well into the future:

  • Keep a detailed inventory. Capture important details about your artworks, such as where and from whom they were purchased and for how much, as well as any distinguishing features. Having a clear record of the artwork's history and provenance can be critically important in determining its value. Keep invoices to document your acquisitions and the amount of tax that may have been paid.
  • Preserve the value of your collection. Take steps to safeguard your artworks by getting them appraised by a certified expert and purchasing specialized insurance. You should also make accommodations for proper, long-term storage, whether in your home or in a professional storage facility, should the need arise.
  • Don't forget your collection when planning. Your art collection isn't just something you take pleasure in – it's also an asset. Failing to take this into account when making decisions about your wealth and estate plans can have serious financial consequences.
  • Think about your legacy. What do you want to happen to your collection after you're gone? Perhaps you want to pass it on to the next generation, or donate it to a museum or charity that you care about. Having a well-documented plan in place is essential to ensuring your wishes are carried out properly.

1 UBS, “The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report," March 2017.

2 Heidi Mitchell, The New York Post, “Art Basel by the numbers," December 2014.

3 ARTnews, “Here's the 2017 Art Basel Miami Beach Exhibitor List," September 2017.

4 Gareth Harris, The Financial Times, “Sales highlights: Art Basel Miami Beach," December 2016.

  • Disclosure

    This white paper is the property of BNY Mellon and the information contained herein is confidential. This white paper, either in whole or in part, must not be reproduced or disclosed to others or used for purposes other than that for which it has been supplied without the prior written permission of BNY Mellon. This material is provided for illustrative/educational purposes only. This material is not intended to constitute legal, tax, investment or financial advice. Effort has been made to ensure that the material presented herein is accurate at the time of publication. However, this material is not intended to be a full and exhaustive explanation of the law in any area or of all of the tax, investment or financial options available. The information discussed herein may not be applicable to or appropriate for every investor and should be used only after consultation with professionals who have reviewed your specific situation. The Bank of New York Mellon, Hong Kong branch is an authorized institution within the meaning of the Banking Ordinance (Cap.155 of the Laws of Hong Kong) and a registered institution (CE No. AIG365) under the Securities and Futures Ordinance (Cap.571 of the Laws of Hong Kong) carrying on Type 1 (dealing in securities), Type 4 (advising on securities) and Type 9 (asset management) regulated activities. The Bank of New York Mellon, DIFC Branch (the “Authorised Firm") is communicating these materials on behalf of The Bank of New York Mellon. The Bank of New York Mellon is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation. This material is intended for Professional Clients only and no other person should act upon it. The Authorised Firm is regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority and is located at Dubai International Financial Centre, The Exchange Building 5 North, Level 6, Room 601, P.O. Box 506723, Dubai, UAE. The Bank of New York Mellon is supervised and regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services and the Federal Reserve and authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority. The Bank of New York Mellon London Branch is subject to regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and limited regulation by the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details about the extent of our regulation by the Prudential Regulation Authority are available from us on request. The Bank of New York Mellon is incorporated with limited liability in the State of New York, USA. Head Office: 225 Liberty Street, New York, NY 10286, USA. In the U.K. a number of the services associated with BNY Mellon Wealth Management's Family Office Services– International are provided through The Bank of New York Mellon, London Branch, 160 Queen Victoria Street, London, EC4V 4LA. The London Branch is registered in England and Wales with FC No. 005522 and #BR000818. Investment management services are offered through BNY Mellon Investment Management EMEA Limited, BNY Mellon Centre, 160 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4V 4LA, which is registered in England No. 1118580 and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Offshore trust and administration services are through BNY Mellon Trust Company (Cayman) Ltd. This document is issued in the U.K. by The Bank of New York Mellon. In the United States the information provided within this document is for use by professional investors. This material is a financial promotion in the UK and EMEA. This material, and the statements contained herein, are not an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any products (including financial products) or services or to participate in any particular strategy mentioned and should not be construed as such. BNY Mellon Fund Services (Ireland) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland BNY Mellon Investment Servicing (International) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. BNY Mellon Wealth Management, Advisory Services, Inc. is registered as a portfolio manager and exempt market dealer in each province of Canada, and is registered as an investment fund manager in Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland & Labrador. Its principal regulator is the Ontario Securities Commission and is subject to Canadian and provincial laws. BNY Mellon, National Association is not licensed to conduct investment business by the Bermuda Monetary Authority (the “BMA") and the BMA does not accept responsibility for the accuracy or correctness of any of the statements made or advice expressed herein. BNY Mellon is not licensed to conduct investment business by the Bermuda Monetary Authority (the “BMA") and the BMA does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy or correctness of any of the statements made or advice expressed herein. Trademarks and logos belong to their respective owners. BNY Mellon Wealth Management conducts business through various operating subsidiaries of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation. ©2017 The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation. All rights reserved.