First, buy contemporary art. Some of the older carvings can be a good investment only if you are sure that they will increase in value over time. The thing is they are already old and expensive, so they won’t grow in price as much as contemporary art. On top of that, there are many old Inuit carvings that simply don’t worth anything, you really have to be an expert in older Inuit art to buy it or you are at a huge risk of overpaying. With contemporary art, there are comparison, so you can check similar carvings by the same Inuit artists at different galleries and make sure you are paying a fair value.
The best place to shop for Inuit art is online Inuit art galleries. You will see that prices at online galleries are lower than at brick and mortar galleries. Actual stores have to pay rent, utilities, employees’ salaries and they have to mark up their prices a lot. Online Inuit art galleries buy sculptures directly from the artist and don’t have any additional expenses, they are just a middle man between you and the artist.
You may be curious to find out if there is a way to eliminate any middle men and buy Inuit art directly from the artists. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy, virtually impossible. You would have to go to a Canadian northern community yourself. You cannot drive, there are no roads, the only way to get there is by airplane. The airplane ticket alone will cost you at least 2,000 dollars. Now, once you arrive to Cape Dorset, Sanikiluaq or any other Inuit community, you need to rent a room in a hotel, that would cost you 200 dollars a night. Then you would have to rent a truck because there is no public transportation, you would have to eat something and food is expensive too. And even after all these expenses there is no guarantee that you will find any carvings to buy. There are times when Inuit communities are completely dry, carvings wise, because it’s not a season or somebody else just bought everything before you. The best time to go on a carving adventure is in fall, because Inuit artists get their stone in late spring and summer and there are usually many carvings for sale by fall season. The worst time to travel would be in early spring, you are at a high risk of not finding any carvings for sale.
Another tip is to look for well known artists. Buy Inuit art by internationally recognized carvers like Nuna Parr, Jimmy Iqaluq or Paul Kavik. Although their art is already quite pricey, you can be sure that it will appreciate over time even more, especially when they retire from the trade. There are many younger artists whose art is much less expensive than art from master carvers, but it may be a better investment opportunity to purchase from them. For example, if you acquire a dancing bear by Noo Atsiaq, who is a younger promising artist, you will pay only a fraction of the price as compared to Nuna Parr’s bear. However, in only about ten years Noo Atsiaq will be as famous if not more as Nuna Parr, and you will be able to get a good return on your investment.
One last thing, make sure you like what you are buying, After all, Inuit carvings, as any art, are all about perception. If people don’t like the particular Inuit sculpture, no matter how famous the Inuit artist is, you will have a hard time selling his carving for big profit.