One of the things people want to know when they purchase my fine art landscape photographs is, “Will these stunningly beautiful prints increase in value over time?” I’d like to think so. Why else would I own so many of them?
Who doesn’t dream, after all, of finding that dusty old picture in the attic that turns out to be an original Ansel Adams print, or plucking the work of an unknown artist from a street fair who becomes the darling of international critics and buyers? On a practical level, there are a number of ways in which a photographer’s work could escalate dramatically in value, so let’s explore a few of them.
- The artist has a sudden burst of fecundity. He takes advantage of the new digital technology and creates a startling new portfolio. He becomes a cause célèbre in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. His photographs become sought out by museums, galleries, chi chi restaurants and international conference centers. Okay, next…
- The artist re-introduces a much-praised trilogy of mystery novels. The books become an e-book phenomenon, bringing long overdue attention to the artist. The artist/author then releases heretofore unpublished work, much of which is set in the same beautiful settings as his landscape photography. The photographs begin to garner international attention as the author’s fame spreads like wildfire. HELPFUL HINT: You, as an art collector, could accelerate this process by acquiring the trilogy and spreading the word to friends both actual and cyber, thus helping to build the clamor for the artist’s upcoming fiction.
- The artist’s independent film, Remembering Phil, becomes an international underground cult classic. The sudden surge in publicity brings attention to the film’s writer/producer. The world soon discovers his stunningly original work in fine art landscape photography. HELPFUL HINT: You, as an art collector, could help stoke this worldwide phenomenon by acquiring the DVD and soundtrack to Remembering Phil and extolling it to friends. That is the great thing about the artist’s Omni-cultural Experience. There are so many ways to win!
- The artist could suddenly and unexpectedly die. This is, of course, a mixed blessing, depending on whether you are the artist or the collector. But it would create what we MBA’s call a market scarcity. HELPFUL HINT: As a general rule, in order to take advantage of this value technique it is a good idea to invest in the work of artists who are older than you. Other than that, I would suggest maintaining a hands-off policy in this regard.
Mark Twain famously wrote a short story, later turned into a play, called Is He Living or Is He Dead? It was about a trio of starving artists who decided that one of them should tragically die. They feverishly spent months turning out canvases, then drew straws to see who would expire. The unlucky one signed all the paintings and then retired to the French countryside, while the other two spread word of his heroic battle with illness and subsequent death. In the story, all three became spectacularly wealthy.
I’m not sure if this would work in real life. Though I am willing to spend a couple of months in the French countryside trying.