According to consultancy group Knight Frank, art was 2023’s top luxury investment, outperforming cars, watches, jewellery, rare whisky, diamonds and coins. Most collectors we know however, rarely speak of art in the sterile language of a financial investment firm. Collecting is a passion, not a long-term “luxury investment strategy”. 

That said, it is perhaps this sensitivity to the poetic power of art that can leave space for its investment potential to deepen. Collectors buy something they love and hold onto it, envisioning handing it to their children. When circumstances change, they find that in the years it’s been with them, its value has grown. They are, in other words, inadvertent investors – driven by a love of art but grounded by a pragmatism which asks, is there interest in this artist beyond me? Can it find a new home if I decide it’s time to part ways? 

How to Invest, Inadvertently 

‘Inadvertent investment’ is perhaps the most fruitful way to conceive of art and investment. Yes, there are stories of collectors flipping paintings for huge profit, but these are rare – and driven by pleasure and luck. For instance, consider one of our collectors who acquired an early painting by Ben Quilty from us purely because they were captivated by it. Despite its substantial increase in value since then, they still derive joy from it and have no intention of parting with it.

Rather than speak to a magical buying strategy however, this case speaks to the truism that unlike most other investments, art can be bought for pure pleasure then become a primary asset. For something to grow exponentially in value, the collector must be blessed with the right eye, intuition and more importantly, good luck. Any art market professional spruiking a theory of who will be the most lucrative artists in the future, is more clairvoyant than mathematician. Beware. 

For those looking to make reasonable investments in art, common sense is vital. Buy from reputable sellers, do your research, ensure the work is signed and accompanied by documentation like a Letter of Provenance. As your level of experience grows, you may be able to identify soft sectors of the market – modernist women artists, for example – and purchase fine examples that will accrue in value. Again however, don’t lose sight of your passion for art – in our experience, it is collectors who lead with love that find the journey most rewarding.

Reg Mombassa 'BBQ'

The best part of collecting art is getting to live with the fruits of your passion. It’s inadvisable to act on pure financial motives, but if done thoughtfully, collecting art can align with economic prudence making you an inadvertent investor. Knight Frank’s finding is not a guarantee that art will make collectors money; it’s a reminder that art’s value can go beyond the personal, emotional and culture, to find reflection in the market.