Emerging Artists: Worth Investing?

By , Columnist

Saatchi Gallery, Painting from the 2009 New Sensations Collection

It takes five years in the UK to train a doctor, six to train an artist - that includes a Foundation year, a BA Honours degree, followed by MA or MFA at a top art school. A friend of a friend once bought a painting from a then unknown young artist called David Hockney: some years later the collector bought a house on the proceeds.

What links these two seemingly disconnected points is that emerging artists are actually a good investment. Anyone who wants to be formally trained in a UK art school has to present a portfolio of work alongside academic attainments, and entry standards for BA courses are high. Those who go on to train at MA/MFA level are competing with the best of their peers. Some make several attempts before gaining entry at this level to a prestigious art school.

damien_hirst.jpgAfter that, there is the tricky business of trying to establish a career as an artist. For every Damien Hirst (left) or Tracey Emin, there are hundreds of young artists each year taking on day jobs to make ends meet in the hope that one day their talent will be recognised sufficiently to make a living out of their art.

So how does a collector decide what is worth a gamble? One indicator is the reputation of the art school, especially at Masters level. Arguably, the big three in the UK are the Royal Academy, Royal College of Art, and the Slade School of Art - although others will say they are equally highly-rated.

Then there is the influence of the Saatchi Gallery’s New Sensations annual competition, which is only open to those completing a BA or Masters that year. A winner and three finalists are named and sixteen shortlisted. All twenty are chosen across different disciplines of art, (e.g.painting, sculpture, photography) so for example, it is possible to spot the four or so top emerging painters within the list.

Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin (below) were among the first crop of Saatchi Sensations in 1997 - and look where they are now! Since 2007, the Saatchi Gallery has worked in partnership with TV’s Channel 4 to gain greater attention for the project. Interested collectors can check all the finalists since then online;  scroll to the bottom of the opening page for 200, 2008, 2009, 2010.


With the volatility of the stock market and the unreliable returns in some areas from property, many investors are putting their money into gold. I suppose they can caress their gold bars nightly, but having a great painting or sculpture to admire must be so much more rewarding and eventually might actually prove the better investment.

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Margaret Holder has been writing about the Royal Family in newspapers and magazines for thirty years. She also broadcasts frequently on the BBC, both radio and television. She reckons she has now written more royal documentaries than anyone else in the world. Some are still being shown on channels in…

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