Art: A New Inheritance Plan

A recent acquaintance with a flair for history and a passion for art told us of her unique method for developing an inheritance for her and her husband’s children.  Over the course of each year, they put aside a bit of extra money in a special fund.  At the end of the year they take all of the fund’s savings – sometimes it’s a little and sometimes it’s a lot – and invest it in a single piece of art.  The art is not stored away in some temperature-controlled vault but rather is hung around the house to be appreciated by all.

We were instantly and utterly drawn to this idea and thought it laudable to share! After all, it’s much more than a mere trust; When they pass along this investment to their children, they’ll not only be imparting an item that has (ideally) matured in value, but they’ll also be passing on some of their own personal style and interest to their future generations. We all know that an individual’s preference in art speaks volumes to who they truly are.

Granted, investing in art isn’t for the faint of heart as it can certainly pose a risky endeavor and, unlike stocks, offers little rationality in the form of equations or economic rationale.  Likewise, it can be easy to become intimidated by the vastness of the art world or to make chancy ventures on a whim of misinformed advice.

However, art investment offers an exciting hobby of which the fruits can be hung on the walls and the education is never-ending. Whether you once strolled through an art gallery or have extensive formal education in the area, the dynamics of the market indicate that there is always something further to learn. It’s also a considerable bit of fun and has the potential to bring about some rather stunning returns.  Some of our recommended sources for what’s happening in the investment art market are the Mei Moses Fine Art Index and the ARTnews periodical. However, regardless of the market trends, we strongly recommend investing in works that you personally fancy – that way, you won’t mind holding onto it while it grows in value (which may take a number of years) and, in the end, you can’t really lose.


The Benefit of Benefit Auctions

Organizations that rely heavily on fundraising are continuously looking for innovative ways to reinvigorate their donors’ attitudes.  Relying on the same organized events year after year can quickly become mundane for both planners and attendees alike and when such events become stale, fundraising naturally plateaus.

Frequently, non-profits will incorporate silent auctions into such events as a way to offer something additional for guests and to generate additional funds.  While silent auctions are excellent for smaller value items, typically those between $50-$250, they tend to fall flat for more exclusive lots.  Likewise, if there is an abundance of low value items, the bidding can become burdensome for attendees, but given that they are guests and already offering support, in addition to their time, the subtle yet pawing feeling that they must purchase something is a far cry from the desired impression any organization hopes to impart.

Live auctions, on the other hand, offer an exciting and entertaining occasion for attendees to become active participants and for organizations to increase their fundraising with select, value-ambiguous items.  A professional auctioneer uses a rapid, upbeat chant while working cooperatively with the audience.  Attendees enjoy interjections of humor as they are offered the rare opportunity to engage in friendly, yet competitive bidding wars publicly.  Furthermore, auctions can prove as ideal transitions between entertainment acts or phases in the event’s agenda.

While some organizations continue to utilize traditional methods of fundraising, including silent auctions, many are employing live auctions as supplements, particularly for large annual events, to boost both interest and funds.  In the past four or five years, especially, we’ve seen this trend begin to trickle down from the larger, national organizations to more of the regional and local non-profit groups.

The Changing Tides of Antiques

Many are under the false assumption that if an item is old, it must be valuable.  In fact, we frequently encounter a misperception of a positive correlation between age and value.  “If it’s a century old, it’s worth this much, but if it’s two centuries old, it’s worth double!” However, this is not the case…at all.

The markets for early American and Victorian furniture have dropped off considerably.  Of course, top end antiques have maintained and, typically, will continue to mature in worth, but everything else in these genres are valued at a small fraction of what they were even only a decade ago.

However, it’s not all the economy’s fault! It’s also a result of the changing times.  The generation of “new money” that came into their wealth during the late 1990’s and early twenty-first century has a completely different approach to spending than the generations that came before them.  “Odds and ends” and “knick-knacks” are not only uninteresting, but completely off-putting. “Provenance” means little unless they are already enticed by the item’s design features. Such characteristics are not undesirable, but are directly linked to the massive shift in the antique world.

Now, rather than placing a high value on items that are two or three centuries old, the focus is on those contemporary pieces only two or three decades in age.  The boxy, vibrant features of mod-era ‘60’s furniture and artwork, as well as the chrome-detailed furnishings of the ‘70’s have grown rapidly in value recently.  Names like Eames, Nakashima, and Hirst create instant lust. Emptiness in the home or office space is now preferred to the previously appreciated organized chaos.  Some speculate this this trend, too, shall pass, but we’re willing to venture this is one swing in the markets that won’t be reversed anytime soon.

Repurposing the World

The term “repurposing” has changed dramatically over the past few years, reengineering itself from a word that refers to frugal, albeit dingy recycling to a concept that is both trendy and edgy.    From posh galleries in LA and New York to the smaller, more enchanting shops that line the streets of smaller locales like Hudson, New York and the Ocean Beach District outside of San Diego, repurposed furniture has taken the antique and furniture world by storm.

The ability to repurpose is now a cunning characteristic in which one blends old, rustic charm with hard industrial materials.  In addition to providing an afterlife for items otherwise destined for the landfill, the idea is to cross boundaries between the organic and the man made, between art and functionality.  Almost poetically it unites the world of manufacturing with the pleasantries of life.  The work, which truly is beautiful, can be worked into many an interior design and certainly, it serves as (a) conversation piece(s) for any home or office.

Lifetime’s television show “Picker Sisters” depicts the process of repurposing in its most ideal form.  However, for much of the rest of the world, there are no such luxuries as time lapses, crafty assistants, or network financial backings.  Rather, it is a lengthy and skilled practice that requires both creativity as well as a flair for trial and error.  That’s not to say the average person shouldn’t give it a try – of course you should! Just be forewarned that there’s a reason repurposed furniture tends to be accompanied by a substantial price tag.

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