A lot has been written about collecting art, usually from the perspective of a historian or curator. However, I think I can offer insight on the subject, not only because I’ve been a professional artist for over 20 years, but because I am a collector of fine art as well.
Why collect original art? Think about the time and effort that you’ve put into your home. You’ve hunted long and hard for a house that suits your needs and tastes. You’ve purchased fine furnishings, or perhaps filled it with special pieces that you’ve collected over the years. Maybe you picked the land, and designed the home yourself. You’ve painted, landscaped, fluffed, and fussed. Why would you put any less attention into what you display on a table or hang on your walls? An art collection can begin at any time in your life and at any budget. I think you’ll find once you’ve brought the first piece home, you’ll never shop for wall art at Costco again.
So where do you begin? Local art fairs and galleries are excellent places to begin your collection. You can also check the websites of the artists you love and find out more about their work. An emerging artist or mid career artist’s work will be highly collectable. Another good resource is a publication like American Art Collector magazine. The magazine features the work of artists from all over the country as well as pricing. You can compare current values to what the work was selling for in years past. Unlike most things in life these days, art is still appreciating. In 1997 I sold my 24×24 originals for $200. Today that size sells for about $2000 (wow, I just shocked myself!). So, if you buy what you love, from a reputable working artist, your piece will appreciate and your kids will be fighting over it after you’re gone, not only because of it’s value, but because it reminds them of you!
How do I choose a good piece of art? Well, you must love the art first. The old adage is true, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Ask these questions; Does it make my heart leap? Bring a smile to my face? Or take my breath away? Maybe the subject matter is near to your heart, and it makes you feel nostalgic. Maybe the piece memorializes a happy moment, or trip. The bottom line is there should be an emotional response to the art. Collecting this way will always produce a cohesive collection, and at the end of your days, your art will reveal something about you that is true and consistent. If , however, you have purchased art solely because it matched your decor (always a bonus, don’t get me wrong, but NOT a requirement) after your couch wears out or your design changes course, your art may loose it’s appeal to you. A great way to design your interiors might be to start with a piece of art that speaks to your soul and let that be the inspiration for the fabrics, materials, and shapes you use in your space. A good designer can help with art selections too. His or Her experience and resources will multiply your opportunities.
Ok, so we’ve established that you must love what you purchase, but what about the cost of the artwork? Go to your local art district’s ‘art walk’, and look at the prices in the galleries. Compare the prices of oil paintings to acrylics, to watercolors. If you love glass or sculpture compare those prices too. One of your best resources is the gallery itself. The gallery owners, directors, and sales people are in essence the agent for the artist. They can supply you with all sorts of information about a piece. If you love something, ask for a photo, and ask about the background for the piece. Is there a story? What inspired the artist? If you have an opportunity to go to a show opening and meet the artist, ask her which painting is her favorite and why. Often, the artist herself will lead you to the most quality piece, for only she knows the time, effort and angst that she invested in the art.
A great point of entry for any collector is to purchase a limited edition giclee on canvas or paper from the artists you love. The price will be very affordable and you can live with the work in your home before you make the leap to purchase an original.
Now, a word about quality. Choose art that is well painted or sculpted, and made of quality materials, but keep this in mind: you are purchasing original art. It was not mass produced and did not pop out of a laser printer. A real person (flawed at that) poured their heart and soul into creating something from nothing but inspiration. Perfection is unattainable. Landscape painters often create their work in ‘plain air’ so you may find traces of the great outdoors (dust, bugs) in their work. Even the artist who works in the studio will not attain perfection. There may be blobs of paint, paint brush hair, or other anomalies in the work. I often joke that I should charge more for a painting if it has a special surprise hidden within the work. Can you imagine what a Monet, Singer Sargent, or Maynard Dixon would sell for at auction if the painting was imbedded with the hair of the artist? DNA! A gift with purchase!
The point I’m trying to make here is that art is messy, and smelly, and created by people who are desperately trying to convey their sense of beauty to the world. The fact that any of us are willing to sell what we have birthed is generous. And just so you know, we never take your purchase for granted. We could not do what we do if it were not for our patron saints, so to speak. Embrace art for what it is, and if your love it, take it home.
You’ll find a wall for it, I promise.