How to find ‘sleeper’ investment art

15 March 2018|investment |James Nicholls

How to find 'sleeper' investment art

Now and then, truly incredible sales become the talk of the global investment art market. However, beyond the media headlines, it’s possible to find fascinating industry trends. For instance, the recent record sale of “the last da Vinci” painting highlights a growing interest in ‘sleeper art.’

‘The last da Vinci’

In November 2017, the Leonardo da Vinci painting Salvator Mundi sold at Christie’s for $450.3 million, the highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction. Having been bought in 2005 for less than $10,000, unrecognised and in poor condition, this recent sale makes the artwork one of the most spectacular “sleeper” pieces in history.

In 2005, the overpainted and unrecognised Salvator Mundi was bought by a dealer at a small auction for less than $10,000. Its true value was officially recognised in 2011, when shown by London’s National Gallery as part of a Leonardo exhibition. The show’s curator acknowledged that while the work was aggressively over-cleaned and damaged, it did appear to be an original Leonardo painting from around 1500.

Once validated by a prestigious museum, the buying frenzy began. The painting sold in 2013 for $80 million, and immediately resold for $127.5 million. It was then offered in a Christie’s contemporary art auction in 2017, dubbed “the Last da Vinci” painting in private hands. Finally, Salvator Mundi sold for $450.3 million, breaking all records for art auction sales.

The sleeper art trend

A sleeper is an art term, referring to any work by a major artist that goes unrecognised and sells for a low cost, only to be resold at a far higher value, amassing the seller a huge profit.

Sleeper sales, such as that of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, often enjoy a significant amount of media attention precisely because they represent all the excitement of the investment art market. It’s proof that it is possible to find hidden gems at incredible prices, with the potential to make huge profits in the future.

Doug Woodham, former Christie’s executive and managing partner of Art Fiduciary Advisers, claimed the Salvator Mundi sale would “create a whole new generation of people trawling low-end auctions and garage sales for undiscovered masterpieces.”

Emerging investment art

In contrast to sleeper art, which is an unrecognised work by a major artist, emerging art is work is produced by an up and coming artist whose market potential is as yet unrecognised. While emerging art is often available at affordable prices, it can also sell years later for much larger amounts, if the artist in question continues to rise up in the art investment scene.

It’s crucial to remember that every artist was an emerging name at one point in time. I’ve previously discussed how Andy Warhol’s first exhibition of 32 Campbell’s soup canvases was purchased by gallerist Irving Blum in 1962 for just £1,000, after he hosted Warhol’s first solo painting show (which failed to impress local critics). In 1996, Blum sold the works to the Museum of Modern Art for $15 million.

Similarly, in 2017 Basquiat’s Untitled (1982) sold for $110.5 million at auction. According to Sotheby’s, the piece had been purchased at Christie’s for just $19,000 in 1984, when Basquiat was just beginning to attract the attention and praise of the art world.

While these instances are peaks in the broader art market, they do represent a truly astonishing return on investment. However, Maddox Gallery has seen the value of certain emerging artists rise steadily over the course of just a few months, as a result of growing exposure and increasing demand.

We’ve seen clients resell investment art less than a year after making a purchase, and enjoy a significant profit. In fact, between the 1st January 2017 and 31st December 2017, Maddox Gallery clients saw an average percentage profit of 29.8%.

Find investment art with Maddox Gallery

There is an expertise associated with discovering valuable investment art by previously unknown artists, and recognising their true value. I am immensely proud to act as Chairman at Maddox Gallery, and identify exciting new artists who have the potential to explode in coming years.

If you are interested in purchasing investment art, but don’t know where to start, pay a visit to one of our galleries. Expert Sotheby’s-trained art consultants are on hand to tell you more about the emerging artists we represent, and our predictions for their futures.

Written by James Nicholls, Chairman, Maddox Gallery.

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