How to Find Lucrative Niches in the Art Market

words by Marine Tanguy

Marine Tanguy, the founder of MTArt, explains how diligent investigation and thorough understanding of the art market can reveal new and up-and-coming artists, offering exceptional returns on investments.

If you decided at this very moment to invest in
your first work of art, where would you start? You
might begin by walking into a gallery in search of
an expert, or you might go online to gain an
understanding of the kind of works that are
appreciating in value. Yet for all that you might
research, art is still seen by many as an emotional
investment, driven by aesthetics rather than
being motivated by a clear strategy for securing a
financial return.
However, if you know what to look for there are
plenty of opportunities to make a profit in a
thriving global market. More exciting still is the
fact that artists are constantly finding new ways to
commercialise their work, meaning there are
more ways to invest in art than ever before. It is
easy to get caught up in a work of art, but the
artist behind it is just as important.
Understanding which artists to invest in will give
you the best chance to secure works that turn a
healthy profit. If an artist lacks ambition, vision or
a strong work ethic, you are better off avoiding
investing in them.

We live in a new age of art investment, and a new
era of art investors. And it is for this reason that
millennial collectors descended on a Sotheby’s
auction in Hong Kong and acquired $28 million
worth of art inspired by The Simpsons television
show. We need to take Bart Simpson seriously.
This is indicative of the direction of the new
digitised art market. The astronomical sales and
intrinsic opacity of the art sector can intimidate
outsiders, but if you know where to look, who to
invest in, and when to sell, there are more
opportunities to make money in the sector than
ever before.
The best way to mitigate your risk is through
research and diligence. This can be challenging,
while there is plentiful data available on the most
renowned artists, there are fewer information
points for those in the upcoming bracket. The art
market still lacks transparency, and this represents
the greatest challenge to entry point investors.
Strong long-term investment
Investing in big-name artists such as Damien Hirst
or Banksy might appear safe because their
growth is steady, but as an entry point this end of
the market is almost completely inaccessible for
everyday investors. Hirst pieces can sell in the
$5m – $15m range. Even Banksy, who made his
name as an underground street artist, has sold
works well in excess of $1m, and that is excluding
those that have been shredded immediately

Art has shown itself to be a strong long-term
investment over the last eighteen years,
outperforming most of the equity indices. Sales in
the global art market have steadily increased over
this time, evidenced most recently by an increase
from $63.7 billion in 2017 to $67.4 billion in
Rather than focussing on the high end of this
lucrative market, the opportunities for aggressive
growth in return on your investment are with
upcoming artists, who are on the cusp of a
breakthrough. The challenge lies in identifying
those with not only the talent, but also the
character to make themselves a financial success.
Investing into an artist before their first museum
show, or before they sign a deal with a major
brand that will cause the value of their works to
increase and their support base to rapidly expand
is the ideal scenario. As with any investment, the
more guesswork you are doing, the higher the
risk. The best way to mitigate this risk is through
extensive research and due diligence. A Venture
Capitalist makes up to 10 calls of reference on
both the entrepreneur and the recent successes
of the company: a VC would ask to speak to a
client, competitor and a journalist. When
someone wishes to invest in one of our artists, we
offer the same references.


MTArt Agency
I founded MTArt Agency, the first talent agency
for upcoming visual artists, to respond to this
untapped opportunity in the market, and to
provide financial support to the best new talent in
the art sector. We have found that for the more
successful artists you can expect an increase in
value of works of over 150% year-on-year. We
receive around 200 portfolios from artists each
month, and our selection committee then selects
the best and most commercially viable to sign
with us.
When we sign an artist, commercial viability is an
important factor. The two key categories within
this are technique and vision, the combination of
these are what make an artist successful.
Art is about expression and individuality, and it
follows that artists with a particularly unique
technique will have a greater USP. An artist also
needs a strong narrative thread that runs through
their work and makes their personal brand
recognisable. There are artists who are producing
amazing work through technology and other
innovative mediums, and these are worth looking
out for. Those who push boundaries always have
the highest ceilings.
Adelaide Damoah is a perfect example of this.
Having signed with the agency little over a year
ago, her work rate and adaptability are
incredible. In twelve months, she has partnered
with UCL, with luxury brand Chloé, more than
doubled her highest sale and seen the average
sale of her works increase by 436%. This is
testament to the rate of acceleration that is
possible if you invest into an artist who
personality is driven and relentless.
The art world is expanding beyond the traditional
gallery model, so don’t be fooled into thinking
that a lack of gallery representation precludes an
artist from being profitable. As a fledging investor
myself, I have already been fortunate enough to
benefit from Adelaide’s phenomenal growth.
Having signed at a point when she had no
institutional recognition or major partnerships, in
the space of two years her sales have increased
from £3,000 per piece to £11,000, which shows
the rate of acceleration that is possible.
When you uncover that rare mix of artistic talent
and personality, there is no better time to invest
in an artist and join them on their journey than
just before their big break.
Getting to know artists
Framing personality in the context of investment
is also crucial. An artwork can be beautiful, but
why does that mean it will be valuable? Bear in
mind that the artist will need to keep reinventing
themselves to stay relevant, keep challenging
themselves to move forward, and keep creating
new works to make themselves profitable. If
possible, it is worth trying to get to know an artist
before investing in them. Speaking with them and
understanding their journey and vision will give
you an idea of what their trajectory will be.
An artist we have worked with for several years,
David Aiu Servan Schreiber, has done this very
effectively. He has built up a large and loyal pool
of collectors with whom he has personal
relationships. The fact that these investors follow
his career so closely means that his works sell
quickly, and their value appreciates quickly. Social
media is useful in this regard too. It is not just a
means to ascertain how busy an artist is and how
prolific they are in producing work, it is also a
medium through which an investor can look to
build a rapport with the artist.
The art world is incredibly competitive, and
before signing any artist we want to be certain
that they have the hunger, drive and passion to
pursue a career over the next forty years. Success
is predicated on ambition, an exceptional work
ethic, and the resilience to deal with the setbacks
this industry throws at you. It’s therefore worth
spending time researching an artist to ascertain
how prolific they are in producing work, and to
see whether they are working in partnership with
various brands and stakeholders.
An investor also needs to be creative in choosing
which artist to invest in. The art world is bigger
than museums and galleries. We partner artists
with brands, government bodies, hotels, airports
and a wider pool of private collectors. Some of
these partnerships are incredibly lucrative, and
lead to greater mainstream exposure than a more
traditional gallery relationship might.
If you look in the right places, there are hidden
gems in the art world. There is no better feeling
than uncovering the perfect and rare combination
of artistic brilliance and personality. The journey
of an upcoming artist is fantastically exciting and
to accompany them on that path is always worth
the investment of time and money.