By Eden Carswell
For many of us black folks, seeing “art” and “investment” is one long head scratch. While real estate, stocks, and other kinds of assets are becoming more popular in our community, art collecting is still relatively untapped. It’s not surprising; art investing and collecting have been associated with wealth and whiteness for centuries, and our access to the market didn’t exist until late in our history. Black art itself wasn’t seen as profitable to us either; while we see a lot of white faces in museums and art galleries, black faces were on the walls in graffiti, being sketched or painted in the streets of major cities, or taught to us in class for free. Now that society has changed and we’re able to actively participate in buying of black art, not having the resources and knowledge to navigate it can make it seem daunting.
Well, to take some of the pressure off and give some much-needed advice to prospective investors, we reached out Lex Marie, a DMV native and self-taught painter widely recognized for her use of personal subjects in her work—both people and found objects. It’s the nostalgia and thoughtfulness in her art that stand out to artist enthusiasts and supporters alike; her vibrant, colorful portraits of herself and her son convey vulnerability and bravery, while also evoking reminiscence and sentimentality in those who see them.
For Lex, art has been a place of both happiness and refuge, even at a young age. Her path was charted early, with Lex admitting painting and drawing were “the only things that I really enjoyed doing” growing up. It’s this passion that gives context to why she feels art investing is just as worth it as real estate or stock investments; she’s a strong proponent of art as joy. “There’s sentimental value to it, and that art bringing you happiness every time you look at it is really an investment in yourself,” she noted. Additionally, she pointed out that art investing and collecting is an unregulated market, which means less rules and restrictions on how you buy and sell. It’s also worth it for the culture and tracking our history. Because our stories weren’t captured in art for such a long time, the representation we needed wasn’t normalized for us. Per Lex, “Now that it’s there, we need these stories to be told in art and passed down. It’s so important for us to archive these stories for later generations.” Passing that art down requires that we fight that fear and invest.
So what are Lex Marie’s tips on investing in art for the first time?
- Know what you want to do with the art. Do you want to resell it? Do you want to keep it and pass it down? Having that understanding before you buy will help determine your budget, the theme of your collection, and the artists you should be looking for.
- Buy work that you love. Lex adds, “It’s not a money thing. It’s about connection. Do you connect with the work?” Moreover, art isn’t always guaranteed to accrue value. If there’s a chance you don’t get to profit from the art you buy, keeping your investment will mean having art in your home that you truly see beauty in.
- Purchase from artists you support. An artist’s career only goes as far as support for their art does. Buying from artists whose work you believe in provides them resources to keep doing what they’re doing; profits from sales pay for paint, brushes, canvasses, and other supplies they need to create. If artists receive consistent support, the longer their careers last, and the more likely it is that their work will appreciate.
- Pay the artist what they say the value of their work is. Though it might be tempted to barter and trade circa the Mesopotamian era, pay what the price tag says. Time, labor, and supplies it takes to make one piece of art have to be factored into the cost; depending on what kind of work it is and how the creative process goes, it can take months or even years to finish. That alone can up the price on prospect investments. If you trust the artist’s vision and believe in the quality, spending is just par for the course. To help cut costs, seek out artists that are earlier in their careers, as they may have great pieces that are priced more reasonably than the Kehinde Wileys of the world.
When asked about her own collection, Lex divulged that she and other artists often trade pieces rather than buying from each other, as this is a common practice in the artist community. In addition to those traded works, much of her collection is also portraits of herself and her son that she’d never sell. “As an artist, you have to keep something for yourself. I wanted to keep a few pieces from each collection so I can pass something down to my son, and have something for him to pass on later,” she added.
For more info about Lex Marie and her artistic journey, follow her on IG at @thelexmarie and check out her out on the innnanets at https://www.lexmarie.com/. If you’re seriously considering investing in art, heed her advice and buy from the heart, not just with profit in mind. As Lex Marie put it, “Investing in art is investing in the culture.” Whether you resell or keep it in your home, you’ll have a piece of history that will bring joy to your home and a valuable story to life—things you can’t put a price on.