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Navigating the art investment landscape

Growing up in Blackball, a small mining town on the West Coast of the South Island, the walls in Joan Vujcich’s house looked very different to her walls today.


“Dad was an engineer, he came out from Scotland as a small child with his parents, and they settled in the South Island. Which is where I was born.


“We always had music at home, we always had a piano, but certainly there was no art on the walls.”


Joan remembers baby photographs on the walls at home, and on trips to a local hotel or pub perhaps a photo of a bridge or a mountain, “but certainly nothing creative.”


Her interest in art was sparked by a meeting with New Zealand artist Richard Thompson twenty-five years ago.


“I really liked his work, but most importantly he got me involved, he was speaking at my level.


“Richard took an interest in what I liked and started pointing things out, I’d think ‘oh I really like that too’. It helped grow my confidence with art and ultimately my involvement in a wonderful community.”

Roy Good's 1972 piece 'Optical Diamonds'.

Roy Good's 1972 piece 'Optical Diamonds'.


Joan was working with property developers on interiors and quickly saw how art could change a whole room. She wanted to learn more and buy art for her own walls.


“I got involved with Scott Lawrie who had a gallery and was really focused on supporting emerging artists. I offered to help with openings and events, volunteering my time, and I got to know all of these incredible emerging artists. Many are still good friends today.”


Like most investment stories, hers started small.


“I’d buy from these emerging artists, some of the first works I paid a few hundred dollars for – the price is immaterial because I loved the work – and now the valuations are far from that.”


One of the first pieces she bought was Antarctica by Richard Thompson.


“I’ve had 25 years of joy from that work, and the lovely thing is my children and grandchildren now say, ‘oh that’s my favourite work, tell me about the artist, did you meet him?’ There is a story to each one.”

- Joan Vujcich


Regular trips to the Auckland Art Gallery with her seven grandchildren are a way to immerse them in art and creativity in ways she couldn’t growing up in a small town.


“I didn’t have that opportunity growing up, I started late.”


Her collection has grown to 150 pieces, including works by Grechen Albrecht, Milan Mrkusich and Roy Good which are particularly special to her.


She now has more art than walls to hang them on.


“I love changing it around, you change a piece of art and you change the room, I get to experience and enjoy these works over and over again.”


Joan continues to invest and is a passionate supporter of New Zealand artists.


“Watching artists grow, particularly through tough times like Covid, they’ll come out with different things. Their work changes, and that is what I like. They put their heart on the canvas, and it shows.”


Growth in New Zealand’s art sector was a silver lining of the pandemic, with galleries and auction houses reporting surging sales. However, the current economic environment means life is tough for many artists.


Events like the Aotearoa Art Fair, where galleries and artists showcase work and connect with collectors and investors, are incredibly important to the arts community.

Gretchen Albrecht's 1989 piece 'Voices'.

Gretchen Albrecht's 1989 piece 'Voices'.


An interest in art as an investment is something Verena Ruedi sees with many ANZ Private clients.


“We’re very much focussed on helping our clients manage and grow their wealth in ways that support their ambitions. That might be personal, intergenerational, or other areas – like art – that are important to them.


“Many, like Joan, are investing not only to grow their own portfolios, but also as a way to foster and support a thriving New Zealand art community.”


ANZ Private is the principal partner of the Fair and has been a major supporter of the event since its inception. This year over 180 artists from across Aotearoa and the Pacific Rim will showcase their work.


“The breadth of talent and work we see each year is testament to the outstanding talent and creativity of New Zealand’s artists, the Fair is an opportunity for ANZ Private to support these amazing artists and help them connect with a wider audience.”


This is something that resonates with Joan.


“Connection is important – look what has come from that connection I made with Richard Thompson all those years ago.”


She urges others not to be afraid to start investing in art.


“A good place to start is to find galleries that you like, join the community, find out what events are on and get involved. You’ll start seeing work you like, talk to people, find emerging artists, you’ll find you are able to pick up a piece of art you like which is quite reasonably priced.”


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