Man stood looking at paintings


The death of the artist and the value of your collection

So you’ve spent time building a collection of your favourite artist’s work, but what happens to the value of those pieces when that artist dies? Whether it’s a single painting or a collection of work, the death of an artist is something to take notice of, especially as any spike in value might mean a need to re-evaluate the work and your insurance cover.

The death effect

Of course death can cause an artist’s stock to rise, but in truth it’s a rarity unless they are already a celebrated figure in living times – a la the likes of Warhol. In the case of most artists it is likely that their death will have little impact on selling prices or value. Even in the case of Vincent Van Gogh, he died a penniless artist and it was only years after his death that his work became truly valuable.

Artists grow old by nature, and with it their production levels tend to taper off, if not stop altogether. But while they are still alive they can still be considered to have the potential to produce something great. As a collector, this means you can see the value of their existing work hold steady, if not increase if their output is small. However, when an artist dies they can only be judged on the work they’ve left behind, and in light of art history their star may or may not continue to shine brightly and their prices rise or fall accordingly.

Be wary of the flood 

The value of your collection will naturally increase if the artist is already in demand and their pieces are limited. And if they’ve died suddenly or prematurely then you will also likely see a quick spike in value. But don’t be fooled. Spikes can be based on profiteering, greed, panic, ignorance and impulse, and may not reflect where the true value finally settles. 

Also be mindful of an artist’s work flooding the market after death. If you’re lucky enough to own art by a famous artist and can see the potential to make money on your investment, you could find yourself as one of many collectors looking to turn a profit. But if everyone wants to sell and nobody wants to buy then the market can bottom out rapidly. 

Take your time 

Ultimately, it all depends on the type of collector you are – one who collects to enjoy the work privately or one who invests with the view to making a long-term profit. Wherever you sit in the spectrum, enjoy the works you have for as long as they bring you pleasure. And, in the wake of an artist’s death, take your time to see how the art world and auction houses react. While prices might spike in the short term, seeing a slow, sensible rise in value is always the safest bet. 

If you do see  the value of your collection rise, don’t forget to contact your NFU adviser about increasing the value of your insurance cover to match it. If you are unsure of the value of your collection, NFU Mutual offers access to a panel of expert valuers which  can, for a fee, provide a guidance.