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Fine Art of Investment When it comes to sinking your money into the art market, caution is critical.

By Rosalind Resnick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Which is the better investment--a $100,000 Jasper Johns acquired at a prestigious Manhattan art gallery or a $1,000 painting purchased from an undiscovered artist on a SoHo street corner?

With the recession battering prices of everything from luxury homes to exotic cars, it's tempting to think that great art is out there waiting to be snapped up at bargain prices. And, to some extent, that's true: Annual sales of contemporary art plunged 75 percent at Sotheby's and Christie's evening auctions in 2009, Bloomberg reported, down from $1.97 billion in 2008 and a record $2.4 billion in 2007. (Recent auctions, such as the Sotheby's sale in February that saw a Giacometti sculpture fetch a record-setting $104.3 million, indicate that the art market may be starting to recover.)

Buying art can be tricky because every painting, print or sculpture is unique. "If you're buying art as an investment, you need to investigate the artist and his work before you buy," says Alan Bamberger, a San Francisco art consultant, appraiser and author of The Art of Buying Art. "It's no different from doing due diligence on a stock."

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