Investing in art

Pamela Dickerson of Tudor Galleries in Norwich offers expert advice.

Frame and fortune


Knowing how to keep your savings safe has been difficult in the past year, so is art the answer? Artist, gallery owner and collector of fine art Pamela Dickerson, of Tudor Galleries in Norwich, offers expert advice.


Who buys art? Avid collectors, art lovers, investors, corporate institutions for presentations, personal gifts, home interiors and design.

Where can I buy art? Galleries, artists’ exhibitions, the internet and auction houses. Galleries offer the best and safest way to purchase, as expert knowledge and advice is on hand, whereas the purchase of art on the internet is not advisable as no purchaser should consider investing in an original piece of art without seeing the item first hand.

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Do you need to be an art expert to buy art as an investment? Not necessarily an expert in general art, but knowledge of the artist is beneficial. In most cases gallery staff can act as your expert.

Which are good areas to begin collecting now? From my own experience, dealing in paintings of historic interest and quality from selected artists of the early 20th century.

Are there some Norfolk artists to look out for? There are several from early to late 20th century, including: C H Harrison (1842-1902); S J Batchelder (1849-1932); W E Mayes (1860-1952); C M Wigg (1889-1969); C A Hannford (1887-1972); Ronald Crampton (1905-1985); A E Davies (1893-1988); Leslie Moore (1907-1997); Owen Waters (1916-2004); Jack Cox (1914-2007).

What makes a piece of art a good investment? Renowned artists, subject matter, quality of work, condition of the painting and rarity value.

Should I always buy art I like, or is it worth buying something I don’t but that would potentially make money? I would advise to buy art for personal enjoyment.

Do I need to have a lot of money to buy art as an investment? All works of art could be potential investments; some can be acquired for a lesser amount than others.

Should I buy the most expensive piece I can afford? Purchase for appeal and enjoyment, and not always the most expensive.

Is it a good idea to set a budget and why? It is advisable to set a budget in advance, especially if purchasing through auction houses with the risk of over-zealous competitive bidding.

Is it less risky to spend your budget on one piece by someone well known or spread the cost by buying several pieces by lesser known artists? I would recommend spending a budget on one piece by a well-known artist.

How do I know a piece isn’t overpriced? Research and gaining advice before purchasing from a knowledgeable source.

How do you estimate the value of a work of art? Prices are dictated by present day artists and guidelines are set by previous sale value achieved for both contemporary and antique works of art.

What drives art values? Popularity and availability.

Can the frame affect the price? If the art is unframed, is it a good idea to get it framed and if so, who by (is there are a local framer you would recommend)? A well framed picture would increase the resale value; it is also advisable to have it professionally framed for protection, conservation and hanging purposes. There is a number of excellent local framers offering advice and good service.

Can you give an example of art that you have bought (or that was bought from your gallery) and years later sold for a healthy profit? Twenty years ago I purchased at auction an oil painting by the famous flower artist Cecil Kennedy (1905-1997) of white roses and later sold it privately to a collector who travelled from the Home Counties to Norwich in his helicopter solely for the purpose of purchasing this painting.

Is it best to focus on one particular area/subject and get to know it? Generally, from my experience, purchasers are already familiar with the area and subject, and seek out their preferential paintings depicting their requirements.

What is the best way to research it? Books, magazines? Gaining valuable information and advice from experienced professionals in the art business, backed up by reference books and the internet. If time allows, visit some auctions and make note of selling prices but always remember buyer’s premium could add as much as 20pc to the hammer price and in some cases VAT may apply.

Can you go to a gallery or auction house for free advice? Most good galleries and auction houses are only too happy to offer free advice.

Does the work of art need to be signed? In my opinion I would only purchase original paintings which are signed or monogrammed.

Please demystify some of the language – primary market, secondary market, provenance, condition report, an appraisal. What does a red dot on a painting mean? What about a half dot? Are there any other terms used? Primary market is the first sale of a work of art. Secondary market is the returning of a work of art to the market for resale. Provenance is the history and verification of authenticity, while a condition report tells the present state of the work of art. An appraisal is the evaluation and assessment. The red dot means sold, while a half dot shows the piece has been reserved. All this terminology is frequently used within auction houses and art exhibitions, but personally I do not use any other references.

Can I get an artwork valued by an auction house or gallery and decide not to sell it? In most cases a verbal valuation can often be given without further obligation to sell or at any cost to the owner.

Is it okay to buy an edition work? There is a value associated with edition work, especially if the reproduction is a signed limited edition by a renowned artist; sometimes a Fine Art Trade Guild stamp is embossed.

How should you look after your art? Watercolours should be hung out of direct sunlight, framed and protected by glass. Early works benefit from acid free conservation mounts to avoid foxing (small brown spots). Oils need to be lightly varnished to protect the painting from grime and dirt in the atmosphere. Avoid hanging in direct sunlight and above radiators which could cause a high level of drying out.

Are there any questions you should ask the gallery? And do you have a top tip such as keeping the paperwork, insuring the work of art or checking it fits in the area you intend it for? Always feel free to ask any questions or concerns. My top tip is to look at the market trends. And yes, it is recommended to keep all paperwork. Regarding insuring the work of art, this depends on its value as it may be covered under general household insurance policies, while those pieces of a higher value could require separate insurance cover. And certainly check that the piece fits the area you intend it for, being sure to include the frame in the measurements. A gallery will be happy to supply the dimensions of the overall size to assist in positioning the work of art.

Tudor Galleries was formed in 1987, when Pamela Dickerson acquired one of Norwich’s 16th century historic buildings to sell quality paintings. She soon established her reputation as a fine art dealer specialising in traditional paintings by both selected present day artists and early 20th century East Anglian and Broadland painters. In 2000, Tudor Galleries relocated to its present location in Theatre Street, exhibiting a wide choice of works ranging from miniatures, silhouettes, pastels, watercolours and oils. Pamela and her staff are happy to offer guidance and advice on investing in art, whether to the first time buyer or the avid, experienced collector.

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