Apart from a few idealists (who rarely buy pictures) whom we hold in great esteem, there are those who want a (short, medium or long-term) return on their investment, and they are many. What follows will interest them.
First, some simple arithmetic!
Around a thousand landscape painters produced something like a thousand pictures each. The Liège school of landscape painting is manna from heaven, a goldmine in the province of Liège. Both its quantity and its quality make it worthy of close attention and it could prove a nice little earner for our region.
For years we have been witnessing successive and destructive events and scenarios; shifts in fashions, changes in socio-political contexts, conflicts around the world, the introduction of the euro; the oil crisis, etc. All of these factors contribute to the instability, isolation and stagnation of our cultural heritage. The value of these artworks has not appreciated as it might because the (crisis-ridden) market has closed in on itself. To realise the true value of these works, large-scale events must be organised in order to raise awareness and so widen the market.
A significant factor behind the decline in the regional art market is the current popularity of auction houses. After the plethora of art galleries, which have closed down one by one in recent decades as a result of increases in VAT (when taxes are too high, even dealers in Liège - despite their steely character - shut up shop), what we see now is a proliferation of small regional auction houses.
With the system they operate, auction houses seek to give the impression that they offer a better deal than anybody else. This tends to play on the optimism of investors. Depositors, on the other hand, do not as a rule get the price they might expect for good works by the (too?) numerous, little-known painters. Paradoxically, this is the principal feature of the Liège market. But in buying a painting at an auction house the buyer is supporting a system that prevents works from appreciating in value!
When a well-known work is up for sale, it is more than likely that art-lovers from all around, whether art dealers or not, will be present. Conclusion: sought-after paintings fetch the same price in an auction house as they would anywhere else, but the risk of getting a bad deal is higher. This is because poorer works by good artists are generally put up for sale without appropriate warnings, and this in the end can go as far as adversely affecting the artist's reputation, to say nothing of the loss the buyer may incur. But the same holds true for auction houses and art-dealers alike: there are good ones and there are bad ones.