askST: To whom can I turn for advice if I am new to art collecting and keen to do so as a form of investment?

Reader Emily Chua wrote in to askST: "I'm interested to start collecting art for investment purposes and am wondering if there are professional individuals in Singapore akin to stockbrokers who can provide me advice?"

Arts correspondent Huang Lijie answered.

If you are new to art collecting, art gallerists, art auction houses, art advisers and art dealers can help you build up a collection and offer guidance on works that have a chance of appreciating in value over time.

Many of these art industry professionals, however, will caution against collecting art for the sole purpose of financial investment because it is an illiquid asset and its value is influenced by changing tastes and trends in art and collecting.

Ms Alice Zou, art adviser and gallery owner of the Asian Art Platform, says: "When it comes to art investment, we always tell our current or potential clients to focus first on buying art that they love as this is the only way to ensure they avoid disappointment."

So do not expect to be handed a list of artists and works to collect for a promised return-on-investment.

A Christie's employee carrying a painting entitled Francois Flameng And Paul Helleu by Italian-born artist John Singer Sargent during a media preview of the Impressionist and Modern Art sale at in London, Britain, on April 11, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

Christie's Asia vice-president Wang Zineng says: "We don't have buy calls or sell calls. The works that pass through Christie's are collectibles."

The international auction house, however, does cater to those new to art collecting and investing, and he recommends they speak with one of its art specialists at a preview show, held twice a year in May and November ahead of the Spring and Autumn auctions.

If you decide to go with an art gallery for advice, opt for one with a good track record of promoting the artists it represents and selling works that appreciate in value over time, says Mr Cruz Phua, managing director of the gallery The Art Fellas.

Or if you prefer help from a neutral party that does not stand to gain directly from your acquisition, consider art market indices and databases, which typically track art auction sales. They are available online and provide information on an artist's market performance and art market trends. Go to websites such as Artprice and artnet.

To make sense of the data, it may help to have an art specialist, art consultant or fund manager interpret it, says Ms Lindy Poh, a partner at Silver Rue Art Consulting.

These indices, however, are not without bias. They do not, for example, take into account private sales or works that do not sell at auction.

For eager investors, art may be an alternative asset class but to collect art for the sake of investment, one may find himself short-changed of the priceless pleasure of enjoying a thing of beauty.

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