A Guide to Purchasing Art

A Guide to Purchasing Art

By Sebastien Laboureau, International Art Consultant, CEO and Founder of MoonStar Fine Arts Advisors

The Art market is showing more strength than ever, supported by a growing international demand, as notably demonstrated by the increasing frequency of art fairs all over the world. This is further seen in the record high sales achieved recently at major auction houses in New York, London, and globally for modern and contemporary works. In fact, the global fine art market is now reaching historical peaks with numerous records broken at auctions. The results of the most recent NYC fall auctions confirmed that trend.


Miami has seen a radical transformation since the creation of Art Basel Miami Beach that has had a considerable impact in our community. A record of over 75,000 international visitors attended ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH at the Convention Center in 2013. It is estimated that, what has become one of the most important art fairs in the world, now injects over $500 million per year into the city’s economy.

Nowhere in the world can one find more peripheral art fairs; we have counted more than 20 this year. Many pop-up exhibits and various quality artistic events will be featured throughout the week! However, Miami has an exciting art scene to offer all year-round, including the Wynwood Art District and its now famous Wynwood walls, covered in artwork by some of the most important urban artists. There are also more than 40 art galleries and private collections, as well as the revamped.

Design District, with an impressive line-up of the most important luxury brands. Add to that the revival of Downtown, notably with the world-acclaimed new PAMM museum, and so much more. Miami has truly become a global cultural hub.

That being said, it is never easy to purchase art at any level. There are many ways to purchase works of art (at auction, from art galleries, at art fairs), and prices always include different kinds of fees and commissions, depending on the origin of the artwork. Therefore, it is important to know how to navigate the art world and to apply a few simple rules in order to make the right purchase at the right price.


This is the most important rule of all. You must be ready to live with the artwork you purchase for a long time, and ultimately, if you love the artwork you purchase, you can never go wrong. You will be astonished at the impact a piece of art can have on your own life.

Art is an intimate inner journey, but also a journey that you can share with your family and friends. Knowledge is key, and to acquire this knowledge, one has to visit museums, go to art fairs, galleries and attend auctions as frequently as possible. The more art you see, the more you will understand what you like and ultimately be comfortable with what you purchase. There are also numerous publications online that can help you better understand the world of art and art history.

It is critical to know exactly what you purchase, who the artist is, who he/she has exhibited with, who he/she is represented by, who he/she is collected by, etc. There is no harm in asking the seller as many questions as necessary. There are also many ways to check the price: through comparable sales at auctions, or through research online. More importantly, you must obtain all the relevant documentation and paperwork pertaining to the artwork you purchase (certificates of authenticity, provenance, bill of sale).

It is difficult for a novice to know where to start and how to choose the right artists and art pieces; it is not only a matter of taste. It is critical to seek advice from well-qualified and experienced professionals to navigate the world of art. Price is not the most important parameter. There are many additional parameters to take into account when purchasing art, including authenticity, provenance, and condition.


Art is now seen as a viable alternative investment. While it remains an aesthetic and intellectual investment, it is one that can also result in strong, positive returns in the mid to long term. Numerous studies are showing investment in major “blue chip” artists is worthwhile. However, the art market is still not an investment market, as it notably lacks liquidity, and transparency. Only savvy and experienced buyers are able to generate investment returns through diversification over time. An investment in artwork also involves hidden costs” that you need to take into consideration, such as insurance, shipping, framing, or potential restoration.

Even though art is now seen as somewhat of a “safe investment haven,” buying art is, above all, satisfying and fulfilling. Living with an original work of art is a way of seeing the world differently, of seeing oneself differently, of stimulating our senses and our minds, and of sharing with our loved ones. With its multitude of art fairs, and presence of so many art professionals, artists, and artwork from all over the world, Art Week Miami provides just that!

This is why the Around Town Arts & Culture Magazine’s 2014 | Guide to Art Week is so important, as it provides a guide to all the art fairs, and highlights the most important events to attend, featuring some of the most impressive artwork. Not only will there be works of art from well-known artists on display, there will also be art from emerging artists, as this week provides the opportunity for new and exciting discoveries.


Sébastien Laboureau holds a degree in Civil Engineering from Ecole des Mines de Paris and a Master of Science in Accounting and Finance from the London School of Economics. He benefits from an international experience in Management Control (at AXA Group) and Investment Banking (Mergers and Acquisitions at Goldman Sachs). A long-time, art enthusiast and an experienced art collector, he is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of MoonSar Fine Arts Advisors, an independent art consulting agency located both in Miami and Paris, with partners in Latin-America and Asia. Laboureau is a trusted advisor to private collectors and various institutions all over the world. He is the Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Arts and business Council, and sits in the Creative and Design Committee of the Beacon Council, in Miami. He is a regional representative for Continental Europe of the Art Fund Association, and serves on its Best Practices Committee. He is notably the Strategic Art Advisor of Institut Van Gogh, in Auvers-sur-Oise, of Barnes International Luxury Real Estate and Sofitel Group. Laboureu is also the Street Art Specialist for Fine Arts Auction Miami, the leading auction house in Miami. As a respected and independent expert on the art market, he is a keynote speaker to various private banks, family trusts, public institutions, and conferences. He travels around the world giving lectures on the art market, and offering interviews to prestigious newspapers.


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