‘I once bought a work of art for N20,000 and sold it at N200,000. You don’t make that kind of money, except you are selling drugs’ .

Okechukwu, 44, saw the vacuum and is filling it. The entrepreneur and publisher dived into commodity investing, and it’s not in gold or barrels of crude oil but collecting fine art. He says there is growing demand for the product with almost no middlemen during transactions.

Art comes in numerous forms, sculptures, photography, paintings and installations with prices that are often not affected by dealings in the financial market. This product appreciates with time. 

Okechukwu explains that the value of art is affected by prevailing trends, interests and tastes.

‘You need to know what is collectible, if you do not know, you will end up collecting trash’

 How To Break In

Okechukwu says it is important to appreciate the aesthetics provided by visual art. This can be done by socializing with art collectors and artists. The aim is to recognize profitable deals and to know the right time to ‘pounce’ on rare opportunities.

“It starts with your interest. For all I know, you can collect cars or clothes, but I prefer to collect art. After I developed a passion for collecting art, I started hanging around artists and art collectors. First, you should be sensitive to what they do and always praise what they do. They might be moved to give you their works for free as a gift” he said.

Over time, Okechukwu has learnt to leverage on the desires of the bigger art collectors and the despair of the artists.

“I help the artists who are now my friends. Whenever they are broke and need to maybe pay their children school fees, house rent or just need money to change their car tyres, they will sell their works to me at a price less than the actual value. Over the years I have gotten different art works like that.

I tell the artist that I cannot borrow them money, but I can help them because they are my friends. They are artists, and you can only convert art to money by selling it”

Okechukwu never loses an opportunity to make a bargain at art exhibitions and during personal negotiations with both established and upcoming artists.

“I once negotiated for a small size art work of an established artist, which normally sells at N750,000, and paid N250,000. I hung it on my wall at home, and when an art collector saw it, I sold it to him at N500,000.  I have also sold a piece that I got for free for N750,000 and even got another art work as part of the deal. Normally when they meet me, I say I don’t not want to sell it. Refusing at first is part of reaching an agreement” 

Okechukwu once collected 10 works from an upcoming artist, and promised to sell them. He sold them to a Lebanese man for N2million, explained to the artist that he sold it for N1million added another N50, 000 for the artist and lined his pockets with N950,000 from just one deal.

“I am doing him (the artist) a favour and satisfying myself. It’s not like prostitution where the man is satisfied and the woman is only interested in the money”
Presently Okechukwu has 250 art works in his care, and the financial possibilities seem endless.

“Don’t just keep the works, it is important to document them. Know the ones you can sell now, and know the ones you will sell later.

Be Cautious

Even with Okechukwu making a killing in the art field, financial analyst, and art market expert, Tayo Fagbule gives a very stern warning, “The typical thing you will hear is don’t go into art because you see it as an investment, because you could get your fingers burnt. The typical thing that will happen is that you will go and buy what everyone is buying, and what everyone is buying could be out of your range, and what everyone is buying could also be fickle, at the end of the day what you will have is nothing, just a painting in your hand”

He advises that one must first build tastes for what is good or what can be termed an ever-green painting.

“My advice is don’t go for the things you think will sell, because you will probably make the wrong call, it’s good to go for what moves you especially in a country like Nigeria, unlike abroad where they have a lot more history and you could tell which works move and which ones don’t”

“Buying blue chip art is a good hedge against inflation…if you look at the data of last year the sales at the auction market was above inflation, it grew at a percentage higher than inflation, so we are talking about above 19%”