Glossary of Art Terms

Like all markets, the art market has its own vocabulary and terms, which can make it more difficult to navigate for those new to art and investment.

Glossary of Art Terms

So, we’ve put together a list of key words that should make investing in art for beginners a lot easier and help you understand which artwork is the best artwork to invest in.

Blue-chip: Blue-chip art refers to high-value artworks by established artists. Like blue-chip stocks, these artists will have a solid reputation and strong historic track record, important indicators of a smart art market investment.

Catalogue Raisonné: An artist’s catalogue raisonné is a comprehensive illustrated and annotated catalogue of all known artworks by an artist. The catalogue raisonné is often produced by the prevailing expert in the artist’s field, which can range from their primary dealer to a leading scholar, or even a family member. This is sometimes divided into a particular time-period or medium (material) – Pablo Picasso’s catalogue raisonné spans 33 volumes!

Cataloguing: Cataloguing refers to both the primary and supplementary information associated with an artwork, from the title and dimensions of the work to what it’s made of and its exhibition history. Mintus provides the full cataloguing of all its offerings to all members of the art investment platform.

Composition: Composition refers to how the shapes, forms, and subjects of a painting are arranged on the canvas.

Contemporary: Contemporary art refers to art created by artists working from the late 20th century to the present day. The growth of the contemporary art market has made artworks from contemporary artists some of the best art to invest in now.

Decorative arts: Decorative arts, as opposed to fine arts, refer to arts or crafts whose objective is the design and creation of objects that are both beautiful and functional. Examples of decorative art forms are ceramics, metalwork, furniture, jewellery, and textiles.

Edition: An edition is a term used in conjunction with prints. It refers to the number of prints that were created of a certain image. I.e. a limited edition of 25 would mean 25 copies were made of an image, and in artworks, is expressed in the form of a fraction usually in the bottom corner of the picture, e.g. ‘1/25’.

Fine art: Fine art, as opposed to the decorative arts, refers to art forms primarily or solely appreciated for their visual or intellectual content. Painting, drawing, and sculpture are all examples of fine art.

Hammer Price: Hammer price refers to the price realised by an artwork at auction, before the auction house adds on its fees (the premium).

Medium: Medium refers to the materials from which an artwork is made.

Modern: Modern art generally refers to art from the late 19th century up until the end of the Second World War. It encompasses some of the most famous movements, such as Impressionism and Cubism, and artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso. Whilst growth in the market for Modern art has slowed over the past decades, it continues to drive interest and form the basis of major public and private collections, remaining some of the best artwork to invest in.

Multiples: Multiples is an alternative term to ‘Prints’, usually referring to objects and collectibles rather than visual images.

Old Masters: Old Masters refer to the great artists from before the mid-19th century. More specifically it tends to refer to artists from the 13th-17th centuries in Europe. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt are all examples of Old Masters.

Post-War: Post-War art refers to art made by artists primarily working in the decades following the Second World War. Pop artists, like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, are well-known examples of Post-War artists. Their contemporary imagery, combined established reputations and track records, make them some of the best art investments.

Premium: The premium refers to the additional fees added to the hammer price when an artwork sells at auction. Generally, it’s the price an artwork is advertised to have sold for and is reflective of the final price a buyer would have paid to acquire an artwork at auction.

Prints: Prints refer to any image-based artwork made in multiple iterations. I.e. there are multiple copies of the same image. There are many different types of print, such as screen printing, lithography, etching, and engraving, but all fundamentally involve a transfer process from one surface to another.

Provenance: Provenance is the ownership history of an artwork, and an essential part of the cataloguing. The provenance can have a significant effect on the value of an artwork, so is an essential consideration when deciding which artwork to invest in.

Sculpture: Sculpture is a three-dimensional art form, often made through carving stone or wood, moulding plaster, or casting metal.

Subject (matter): An artwork’s subject matter is what the artwork is trying to portray. This can be anything from an object or individual to a feeling or mood.

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