Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Your Couch is Irrelevant

It was recently suggested that I write a blog post about art collecting. I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I feel there is a serious shift happening in the way people buy and collect art.
Art does not  have to match your couch. Though this is an awesome couch.
In olden times, way back before 2004 or so, the first place that came to mind if you wanted to buy art would be an art gallery. In the past few years a lot of old Cincinnati galleries I considered local institutions have either gone out of business or undergone significant changes. Even, major galleries in New York and a lot of the artsy fartsy touristy hot spots like Santa Fe have closed. Uncertainty in the economy has had an affect for sure, but I think another reason for these closings is that the internet has taken a bite out of the art gallery market. Many online galleries have popped up, with even is selling original art. Now you can order a New York Times best selling book, a three pack of underwear and an original Picasso in one purchase.
 Major auction houses have moved online and are offering new ways to find and collect art. Finally, artists are using the internet and social media for their own promotion and sales.
I am not sure how this will all play out, but I believe we should see this as a positive. While it may seem like interest in art is waning as people become distracted by the latest electronic device, they are still buying art. In 2015 the global art market raked in over $53.9 billion..... an all-time high! Now, while much of this is the Uber-rich over paying for "art" treated as commodity, there is without a doubt, still a thriving market.

I still believe, the time tested model of the brick and mortar art gallery is one of the best ways to find art. You can believe any successful gallery owner has worked hard to find good artists. By visiting a gallery you can learn about the artist, hopefully see multiple examples of their work and discuss your decision with an expert. Even if you like what you see of an artist online, there is nothing quite like standing in front of the original.

If you are thinking of becoming a collector, even if you've already started, here are some of my thoughts on the matter I hope will be of some assistance:

The Library, by Elizabeth Shippen Green, 1905

Learn about art. Unfortunately this not a subject that is well covered in our public school system, if it's discussed at all. So most of us are pretty ignorant about the world of art. Most people can rattle off some names: Picasso, Van Gogh, and Bob Ross, but that's where their knowledge ends. If you want to learn about the history of art you are going to have to specifically take classes on the subject or begin the process of teaching yourself. It can be fascinating to learn what goes into producing a work of art and how great artists developed. Of course, I have my bias and find most of the 'isms' of art after Impressionism to be self involved and painful to the eye, but... just start reading!
There are many books on the subject, the best of those are typically over 100 years old and written by great artists.
You might even enjoy taking a few drawing or painting classes. Again, if you do this, find an artist you admire and see if they teach.
Go to museums. Seeing great art in person can be a life changing experience. Spending time in great museums can help cultivate good taste. While you can learn some history in a museum from those headphone tours or from a docent, I recommend going back through the galleries alone for some quiet reflection in front of your favorite works.

Edgar Degas, Visit to the Museum, c. 1877-80

Attend gallery openings and shows of living painters. Get to know artists if you can. We are often very entertaining and love to talk about our craft. When attending shows, keep in mind that you genuinely get what you pay for. There is a tremendous surplus of amateur artists showing mediocre work in fancy frames. This is not to say you can't occasionally find a hidden gem. It can be a way to get your collection started, but keep in mind, discount art is usually cheap for a reason.
I will also add, art openings can be fun. Galleries will usually have hors d'oeuvres, wine and even a musician or two. Plus, you'll probably meet other like minded individuals also admiring the art while drinking wine and eating cheese cubes. Think of it as a refined night out.
Being an artist is a job. There are romantic notions of artists that verge on the mythological. We are special creatures who get to do what we love, however we still need to make money. So, in addition to selling work in a gallery, many artists are willing to do commissions. A lot of people are afraid of offending an artist's sensibilities or artistic integrity by asking for specific work. It never hurts to ask. But, please don't ask an artist to try to be something they are not. Asking me to paint a Jackson Pollock style piece will likely start a fight!
Visit artist's websites or follow them on Social Media sites like Instagram, Twitter, Tinder and Facebook. (I just slipped Tinder in there to see if you're paying attention)
Online Galleries.  This can be a great way to investigate styles of art or groups of artists.

A few final thoughts:
Don't follow trends. Beautiful art is always beautiful. Buy what speaks to you. Great art is timeless. Trends often end up in thrift stores or the trash bin. Don't "money see, monkey do" your way into a Target to buy this years decorative posters. It's essentially  the "one night stand" version of art collecting. Have some self respect for goodness sake!
Art does not have to match your couch. Good painting should be able to hold its own. If you have to check with your designer or your Pinterest idea board, I think you may be over-complicating it. 
Buy original art. Or at least make that your goal. Prints of art you can't afford can be a "gateway purchase", but there is nothing like owning an original work.
Good artists tend to hang out with other good artists. If you find an artist whose work you admire but it is too expensive, that artist may know a younger, talented, up-and-coming artist whose work you can afford.
Buy work from living artists. Yes, some of the best artists are dead.  Many collectors buy art as one would collect baseball cards. They buy terrible paintings just because of the famous signature.
Instead of buying signatures, buy work you like by living artists who are on their way to becoming respected and famous.
Buy my art. Of course, I believe very strongly in this suggestion. Check out my website, follow me on social media (Click the icons to the left), read my blog (click the Follow Blog button below) and swipe right.

Most importantly, whether you're in galleries or online-
Promote the arts by buying original art from living artists!

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