Modern Art of Investment; Ahead of an Event Aiming to Get More People Interested in Collecting the Work of Artists from the West Midlands, Anna Blackaby Looks at the Reasons People Buy Contemporary Art

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Byline: Anna Blackaby

As the cold, dark evenings start drawing in and Government spending cuts bring an icy midwinter chill to the economy, the timing seems perfect for an event entitled The Witching Hour.

Taking place from November 11 to 14, it aims to prise open what to many can seem like the daunting and exclusive world of collecting contemporary art.

The event celebrates the talent based in the region - including names like Hurvin Anderson, Richard Billingham and Gillian Wearing - and also offers a chance for visitors to acquire their own slice of contemporary art.

Midland collector Paul Cooney has been interested in contemporary art his whole life and since taking retirement from car giant Jaguar, his passion for collecting has intensified.

Among his varied collection feature several drawings - he particularly likes non-figurative pieces - as well as a great deal of glassware.

"I enjoying having the pieces on the walls," he said. "I tend to buy quite a lot direct from the artists - I always find it fascinating to have a conversation with the people who actually made the piece.

"And it's also great to know I'm rewarding talented local people." As well as the pleasure gained from owning a piece of artwork, for some, collecting contemporary art can be an investment in the same way as putting money into bricks and mortar or stocks and shares. According to the last RICS survey of the art market, the value of art and antiques continued to rise despite the economic downturn, driven by price increases at the higher end of the market.

Silver and jewellery remain the most popular sectors, rising in value in line with precious metal prices.

But Alex Reynolds, associate director of the Birmingham office of investment specialists Smith and Williamson and board member of the Grand Union gallery in Digbeth, said it was rare to find people collecting art purely as an economic investment.

"It's quite a specialist area - the people who do it focus a lot of attention on it. You've got to really know what you are buying," he said "If somebody becomes critically acclaimed for some reason, these things jump in value but it's very hard to predict who is going to become critically acclaimed. The reality is that most people start off just by buying a picture they like. …