Art Investors Blog

Whether you simply love art, are a casual art collector, or are an avid art investor, you’ll enjoy educational and interesting facts about art culture, investing, collecting, evaluation, events and more here in our Art Investors Blog.

Artist Interview | Hari Lualhati

Become acquainted with perhaps a few unknown dimensions – thoughts, ambitions, wisdoms, life changing moments – of this inspiring artist.

What do you do and what inspires you?
My artworks are inspired by powerful lessons I’ve learned from life. My paintings emphasize the value of life and incorporate elements like nature and animals to show that we are all connected. Layers of expressive brush strokes can be observed at each painting, together with my rich devotion to details. I paint with my heart. For me, a painting is successful if it can make anyone who would look at it feel the emotion that it’s supposed to give. It is like delivering a clear message by touching the hearts of the viewers.

What project are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a new series of paintings. Very interesting theme, and I’ve also incorporated new techniques that were never seen in my earlier paintings. I’m also preparing for an upcoming solo exhibition soon. I will post more details on my Facebook Artist Page.

Why do you do what you do?
Ever since I was a kid, I have always been interested in art. Although I used to work as a graphic artist, product designer, and illustrator, I still painted in my spare time. It was only during 2012, that I decided to follow my heart, take this huge step, and only concentrate on my painting career. For me, this profession is a calling, you must have the dedication and must really love to paint in order for you to survive in this field.

How has your practice changed over time?
I’ve always strived to develop my skills by trying different techniques but making sure to have a distinctive style. When it comes to the themes of my paintings, they also change, as they are the reflections of significant memories in my life.

What is your strongest childhood memory?
My strongest childhood memory would be all those times when I competed for on-the-spot poster/painting contests. I remembered other events when I represented my school and, most of the time, I received an award. These are the things that developed my interest in art at a very young age.

What is your scariest experience?
One of my scariest experiences was when I had a dream that I was dying. I was being buried alive, and all I saw was black. Then, I suddenly struggled to breathe. I prayed and thanked God for everything, and surprisingly, after my prayer, I woke up from that bad dream and everything was all right. That dream has made me appreciate life more.

Describe a real-life experience that inspired you.
There would be a lot of experiences that inspired me, but the ones that inspired me the most are those that were struggles which I experienced in life. The lessons I’ve learned from these life trials have always inspired me to create paintings about them and to be a better person.

What superpower would you like to have and why?
I’ve always dreamed of flying with the birds. I think it would be a very good way of meditation and can be an easy escape from all the noise and business in this world. I also want the power of reading other people’s minds. I think life would be easier if I could immediately know the genuine intentions of a person without any pretentiousness.

What is your dream creative project?
It would be the project I’m working on right now, a series of paintings. but with a much bigger budget and being able to exhibit them all over the world.

Which place in the world do you find to be the most inspiring?
For me, the environment is really not a big deal. Any beautiful place would do as long as I’m happy inside,; then I’m sure I would be inspired.

Do you make a living off of your art?
Yes, but I also do accept illustration jobs.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Follow your heart.

Hari Lualhati was born in 1985 in the Philippines and is currently based in South Africa. Visit http://harilualhati.yolasite.com

Artist Interview | Jane Dickson

Become acquainted with perhaps a few unknown dimensions – thoughts, ambitions, wisdoms, life changing moments – of this inspiring artist.

When it comes to your art/writing, explain what you do in 100 words.
I am a self-taught mixed media painter, Nature Spirit photographer, and aspiring poet. Whether it’s on canvas or camera lens, I approach my art with the same intention – to create or capture magical scenes of endless possibilities, and to offer insight and inspiration. When I start a painting, I work intuitively, building an abstract base of colour, working with brushes and fingers until I see images start to emerge in the paint. As the scene unfolds I follow along, developing the characters and bringing them to life! My Nature Spirit photography originally portrayed the “faces” I saw in the rocks, clouds, and trees, but more recently I have started working with a mirror image effect and the Nature Spirits that now appear are so fascinating!

What project are you working on now?
I am now working on a series called “The INKspirationals” using mainly acrylic ink and pen on art board. Like all of my paintings, I approach the blank page intuitively. With these pieces I drop inkblots on the board and see what images start to emerge in the paint as I play with it. I then use pen and marker to further develop the mystical creatures that have started to take form. I try not to censor any image that begins to take shape and, as a result, these scenes are often quite surreal! Usually, a few uplifting words or an inspiring poem will come forth to go with these pieces.

You Hold Infinite Possibilities

How has your practice changed over time?
Although I have always painted intuitively, much more detail has emerged in my art this year. The scenes and stories are taking on an even greater life of their own as I gain more experience with drawing and developing the characters.

Why do you do what you do?
During a time of grieving, I discovered intuitive painting, and it was such a balm for my soul. From that first painting I was so fascinated with the process of laying down paint on canvas and watching as magically faces and figures would start appearing in the abstract base. It was such a delightful experience during a difficult time, and that joy has remained with me each time I paint a new piece. I never know what or who will show up, and that keeps me completely engaged in the process and my mind open to new possibilities!

What is your strongest childhood memory?
I asked my mom one time what I loved to do as a child, and she said I loved to colour. I said, “All kids like to colour, don’t they?” She answered, “No, you REALLY liked to colour.” Then I remembered how I loved to draw the mountains with the sun peeking out from behind them. It was so surprising to me when I remembered that because it wasn’t until I was living in British Columbia, surrounded by the beautiful mountains, that I started painting and finding my way back to art.

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Describe a real-life experience that inspired you.
It was 2011, the first year that I really started painting in earnest. It was also a period of much grief and turmoil for me. I was going to meet someone at the Vancouver Art Gallery for The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art exhibition. My date never showed up, but it didn’t matter! I was so completely thrilled and moved by the work of Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, Leonora Carrington, and others. I left the gallery feeling excited, inspired, and determined to continue focusing on my painting.

What is your scariest experience?
When I was twenty, I was in a motorcycle crash that claimed the life of my boyfriend. Regaining consciousness, I discovered that I had landed in the middle of the road, and I could see headlights approaching. That was a scary experience… and a life-changing one.

What superpower would you like to have and why?
Well, flying would be marvelous! Can you imagine? At a moment’s notice being able to take off for Indonesia, Italy, or India to experiment, explore, and experience! Or maybe soaring into Paris, Panama, or Peru to paint, play, or pray!

What is your pet peeve about the art world?
Being self-taught and finding my artistic passion in mid-life, I’ve never really felt I was part of the “art world.” I am mildly frustrated when an art degree is required or there is too much emphasis on technique over expression, but I realize quite quickly that is not the direction I’m meant to go. Apparently in some languages the word for “human” and the word for “artist” is the same. I do believe that artistic expression is our birthright, and I’m happy to see our cultural attitude changing with regards to art.

What is your dream creative project?
I have discovered that I’m really smitten with live-painting events! Although they can be somewhat nerve-wracking, I also love the excitement of them and being able to engage with onlookers and encourage participation from the audience. It would be amazing to be commissioned to paint a huge outdoor wall with a group of both emerging and seasoned artists of all ages. We would create a mystical scene of grand proportions that would be viewed by thousands and an inspiration to many. I can think of so many dream projects!

Which place in the world do you find to be the most inspiring?
Although I have only been there once, Italy was a magnificent experience! I travelled there almost thirty years ago and have never forgotten the art, architecture, and the richness of their culture. Closer to home, I absolutely fell in love with White Rock when I lived in British Columbia. That little ocean-side town in western Canada captured my heart with the sun twinkling off the bay, the boardwalk, and the little shops of art and treasures. There is an energy there that is truly inspiring and revitalizing for me.

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What’s the most indispensable item in your studio/practice?
Myself! This is a good example of the adage “just do it.” I must show up to make and create or the vision to inspire is wasted! As far as tools and supplies go, it’s so hard to choose just one item! With this current series I’m doing, I absolutely love working on Canson watercolour art board with Liquitex acrylic ink and Pigma Micron pens so these items feel indispensable at the moment.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “Done is better than good.” In other words, don’t let procrastination and perfectionism (different sides of the same coin) keep you from making and creating. The satisfaction of completing a work of art or project is priceless. Chances are that as your craft evolves, you won’t be satisfied with older work anyhow. So start now, keep creating, and your work will just naturally improve over time.

What are your hobbies?
In addition to the visual arts, I have a lifelong passion for the healing arts, and a great interest in spirituality and shamanic work. Recently I have been into vegetable and herb gardening and continue to be interested in foraging for mushrooms and edible plants. I love hiking the woods and around waterfalls searching for faces in nature and taking mirror image photos.
I also enjoy expressive dance. I am a lifelong reader too and currently gravitate to travel and art memoirs.

Creatively, where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I envision living closer to nature and fully supporting myself with my art. I see myself engaged in collaborative work with other artists and I have a vision of being involved in large-scale work. I am the creatrix and facilitator of “Art From Your Heart” intuitive painting play-shops, and I would like to take these events “on the road” to continue sharing my love of intuitive painting.

Jane Dickson was born in the 60s in Dunnville,
Ontario, Canada and is currently based in
Beamsville, also in Ontario, Canada.
Visit http://www.mysticalspiritstudio.com

Studio Spotlight on Rusty Sherrill

A loft to get lost in | Rusty Sherrill

After graduating from art school in Tampa, Florida, I worked briefly in my home state before moving to California. I worked as an artist in the clothing industry for 25 years before striking out on my own. Now I am painting full-time, showing in galleries, and working on my novel, Kid Nitro and the Sinister Slorp.

My studio space is a loft. My wife and I moved to the mountains four years ago for the peace and quiet, and because it’s a lot cheaper than Orange County! All of this helps my creativity. My studio is a place where I go to lose myself in my own world and thoughts.

My creative vision allows my imagination to run wild to see what happens. I draw from a childhood love of monsters, aliens, superheroes, finks and weirdos. Combining those images with my arguably adult mind, I convey different perspectives on very serious subjects. I aspire to make people think in a way they might not have before by reaching out and grabbing them with powerful images. Then I pull them into my world where they are free to find their own way, explore and discover new things, wallow around in this place for a while and see what happens.

By Rusty Sherrill
Rusty Sherrill was born in Lakeland, United States in 1962 and is currently based in Big Bear City, United States.
http://dropr.com/portfolio105028

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Artist Interview | J Howard

Become acquainted with perhaps a few unknown dimensions – thoughts, ambitions, wisdoms, life changing moments – of this inspiring artist.

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When it comes to your art, explain what you do in 100 words.
I could tell you how far I have come and what I have come from. I could share with you my journey as a mental health physician and how art has healed many through its use. But what I would like to share with you is how I identify myself, not just with my art, but in it and through it, that my purpose is to reach individuals deeply and spiritually. To share not just a visual, but an emotional experience. I am not a young artist by age or training, but I am emerging with a message.

What project are you working on now?
I am currently working on a series entitled, “Voices of Humanity.” In addition to this project, I am compiling pieces for the Women Painting Women Exhibit in Clarksville, Tennessee, and a solo show the first of 2017 in my home state of Texas. It is entitled, “Texas Speaks.”

Why do you do what you do?
Art plays many roles in society and, at different times, can speak to issues in areas such as religion, science, politics, and history. No matter what venue, my art can provide thought-provoking commentary and innovative perspectives on a vast array of ideas. People often forget the significance of art in the discourse of social, cultural, and global concerns. Art clearly has the power to spark ideas and challenge prevailing opinions, and as an artist, I become the point of delivery.

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How has your practice changed over time?
Although I began my training at a very early age, my practice as an artist has had two lives. Trained in oils with a rich background in drawing, I have evolved into someone who really must get their hands “in it.” I first began as a studio artist with the responsibility of recreating life and movement with inanimate objects. Through the observation of reality, I became a lover of Photorealism, which has given substance to my art career’s second life. As a pastelist, I can draw on my strong illustration background while really using my hands to apply the colour and create rich images that have a sense of storytelling.

What are your hobbies?
Cooking and hunting for antiquities.

What is your strongest childhood memory?
Traveling and seeing things creatively and always having a sketchbook.

What is your scariest experience?
Nearly dying… twice.

Describe a real-life experience that inspired you.
Each time I travel to a new destination, I am inspired by the people, food, entertainment, and environment. I think the beauty of Kona Hawaii last year moved me creatively more than anything. As a mental health physician, I am inspired by the many survivors I encounter on a regular basis who give me a purpose and a mission that drives my voice within my art.

What superpower would you like to have and why?
I would like to have the superpower of speaking every language in the world and communicating with anyone, no matter where they are from, to have fluent conversation and share stories.

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What is your pet peeve about the art world?
Unfortunately, the art scene is quite fickle and trendy with judging in a realm of subjectiveness that is beyond comprehension. It has an air of snobbery that makes an emerging artist’s attempt at becoming known and favored very difficult. Art as a whole is rooted in cultural diversities, but seems disjointed at times. With my grounded sense of reality, I feel that, for the moment, there is no place for me, but I have a voice that will one day be heard.

What is your dream creative project?
To have a solo show that speaks to the world in a very profound way, shown in a prominent gallery, in a well-respected art community.

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio or practice?
My purely organic soft pastels. Having an autoimmune disorder means that commercial grade soft pastels are life threatening. The other would be natural light.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Degas once said, “It’s not what you see, but what you make others see.” A very good friend recently told me that the most important thing I can do is be true to myself in my art. To make sure that above all else, my voice is heard over the judgment of others who feel that art should be traditional in how it is created. I also have to remember that just because someone or some gallery tells me “NO,” it does not mean that I cannot do it; it just means that I am not going to do it with them.

Creatively, where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In two years I see myself retired and a full-time artist showing everywhere. In five years I hope to be able say I won the Hunting Art Prize and the Dave Bown Project. I also hope to be able to say I was a winner in the Art Comes Alive competition which is sort of an Academy Award for an artist. I plan to establish my own gallery where I can support emerging artists in a very loving and supportive manner. But most important, I plan to just experience real joy for the rest of my life.

J Howard is a US citizen, was born in Houston, Texas, and is currently based in Alvin, Texas.
www.organicpastels.com

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Artworks in series

Many art consultants encourage artists to create their works in series. Advantages of creating artworks in a series include building a recognizable, cohesive body of work and having art dated to a certain period.

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Picasso had his Blue & Rose Periods where he produced first the series of paintings that were predominantly blue. Then he created a series of paintings that followed the Blue Period and they were predominantly done in rose (shades of red). In a strange sort of a way, understanding a series is quite similar to that of a courtship process.

Allow me to explain:

  1. Boy Meets Girl | You see the artistic process from the beginning to an end. From Genesis to Completion. How the idea is originated and how it triggers other successive ideas.
  2. Getting to Know You | You begin to understand and appreciate how the artist defines his/her idea by saying everything without using any words. In other words, a story emerges.
  3. Experiencing Intimacy and Deep Connection | You become intimately familiar with the subject matter and experience a Eureka! moment. The journey that leads to a destination. The mystery is resolved bringing forth a sense of contentment.

At first glance, one series by an artist may not look much different from their other works. You are perceiving their branding, their style and overall consistent quality.

A series, however, has a special focus in regards to subject, size, colour, or concept. To illustrate, Red Delicious apples are different from Granny Smith’s. They both are apples and similar in size but both belong to different class or variety. In other words, a series exploits different perspectives and angles of the same thought, subject, or theme.

A full body of work of an artist may have some overlapping elements, but each series will have a special uniqueness that distinguishes them from the others.

By Roopa Dudley
Award-winning artist and an author of A Strategic Painter: Mastermind Your Craft.
www.RoopaDudley.com

Appropriation art: concept or theft?

Every few years, appropriation art “bad-boy” Richard Prince releases a new body of work that pushes the boundaries of what constitutes an original artistic concept and what constitutes theft of ideas. Every time, the controversial works prompt a discussion as to what legally defines appropriation art, and what ethically defines it on a cultural level.

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At its most basic, appropriation artists take another artist’s creative product and transform it into a new piece. As opposed to referencing works cited or quoted in a written work, appropriation artists are typically in no way required to make reference to the original piece’s context or artist.

Legally, appropriation of a creative work must meet several requirements, which often depend on local laws. First of all, the transformation element is essential. In the U.S., if the new work transforms the original piece, it falls under “fair use.” This means that the original work is used to create a new work, therefore, the appropriation artist is protected from prosecution. Essentially the piece has been re-contextualized to hold new meaning.

Often, this is accomplished by adding something to or changing the original artwork’s presentation. In Prince’s notorious “Canal Zone” series of 2008, the artist took photographer Patrick Cariou’s published photos, blew them up to large-scale, and added additional painted and collaged elements on top of the photos. Cariou sued, claiming that his original works were being used for pieces that were being sold for millions of dollars, but the court found that Prince’s work met the requirements for fair use.

While Prince has been pushing the envelope when it comes to appropriation since the 1970s, many famous artists have used the technique in their works – some even finding themselves faced with lawsuits, like Prince. Barbara Krueger, whose large-scale text works often use collage images for the background, won a 2000 case filed against her by a photographer, and Jeff Koons was victorious in a 2005 case brought against him, also by a photographer.

In fact, appropriation goes back even further into art history. In the early parts of the 20th century, Marcel Duchamp made waves in the art world with his readymade objects. In his works, Duchamp would use objects like bicycle wheels and shovels, and present them as artistic concepts, essentially transforming them by presenting them in a new context, and signing them as he would a traditional painting or object.

His contemporaries working in cubism like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque also experimented with collaging existing items into a work – without necessarily even altering the original objects. Surrealist and Dada artists continued this experimenting with using appropriated objects in different media.

By the mid-20th century, artists like Robert Rauschenberg used silkscreens of texts and images in collage and paintings in addition to repurposing objects like beds for installations that predicted the trend that would re-emerge in the 1990s. In the 1970s and 80s, artists like Elaine Sturtevant recreated original artworks like Andy Warhol’s Flowers (1965) by hand painting them.

While the legal definitions of appropriation offer some guidelines, there is still a split in the art world as to whether appropriation art is ethically acceptable. For example, Prince’s most recent series of others’ Instagram photos on large format canvases incensed many who were featured in his works in addition to a number of art critics, because he didn’t ask for permission to use their images while selling his versions for six-figure sums. On the other hand, Sturtevant’s work was celebrated in a 2014 career retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

It’s likely that whether appropriation is acceptable or not will be debated for years to come as technology allows for even more ways to access and manipulate others’ creative products. That being said, these works tend to do just fine in the global art market, and many are highly sought after by collectors in some ways because of their controversial nature.

By Rachel Cohen, LCAT, ATR-BC

Pictured above (frame excluded):
Apple and Bag #1 by Glenn Leung

Collecting in the postmodern context

As contemporary art forms challenge traditional methods of productions, collectors are faced with how to purchase and display hard-to-show-artwork. Performance art, video art, and large-scale installations are at the center of the discussion on the topic, as all three formats are often well-represented in today’s galleries, institutional shows and even at art fairs. Many collectors are interested in acquiring these pieces, but how do you hang a performance on the wall?

Performance Art

Traditionally, performance art has been sold and archived through photography and video. Marina Abramovic may be best-known for her feats of endurance and personal expression, but it is the photographs of her performances that sell in the marketplace. Now, artists like Tino Sehgal have revolutionized the way performances can be commoditized by selling instructions to how the pieces need to be performed. Granted, not everyone can hire someone to continuously perform a piece on loop in their living room, so there is always the question of what the purpose of acquiring such work is. Instead of buying an object, the purchaser instead owns the rights to the piece’s concept. The benefit? A number of exciting artists are producing work in this medium, and as museums are becoming more interested in exhibiting and acquiring performance pieces, many
find this to be a solid investment.

Video Art

Video art is a bit easier to collect than performance art since a purchaser is getting a piece of work more tangible than a concept. That being said, the logistics of displaying video art are a bit more complicated than hanging a painting. Typically, collectors will receive the video in a playable format – once tapes, then DVDs, now often digitally – which can then be displayed on a device of their choosing. Some dealers who specialize in new media provide video work to collectors on limited-edition flash drives, which sometimes are a work of art themselves.

Installation Art

Installation art again gives purchasers a tangible object to acquire, but displaying and storing the work is a challenge. Because of their size and display requirements, large-scale and site-specific installations are often collected by institutions with the resources to accurately recreate the original pieces. Some gallery owners embrace this, knowing that most collectors will not purchase installations, but will rather seek out smaller works by the artist, and focus instead on getting larger pieces into museum collections. However, others are creatively working with artists to break down installations into individual pieces that are then sold off to collectors. This practice is a bit controversial, as critics believe it weakens the intention of the original piece.

Artists like Sol LeWitt creatively solved the issue of selling ephemeral installations like wall paintings by creating instructional guidelines for reproducing each work, which constituted the collector’s “art object.” Similar to purchasing performance art, the collector owns the rights to the work and is the only person who can recreate it authentically.

It remains to be seen what new boundaries will be pushed in contemporary art, and collectors will likely find themselves faced with new challenges in displaying purchased work. That being said, the difficulty of showing a piece of work shouldn’t be a discouragement from acquiring it; there are new ways of sharing art thanks to technological advances, and many dealers are finding new ways to assist collectors with their new pieces.

By Rachel Cohen, LCAT, ATR-BC

Framing the masters: Behind the scenes of frame restoration and curation

It is early morning in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. In a few hours, the corridors of this national gallery will be filled with thousands of visitors who flock daily to witness the works of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh, among others. But, for now, the museum is empty, but for two people who carefully lift a painting — ‘Landscape with Rocks and a Waterfall’ by Gustav Courbet, 1872 — down from the wall.

They work quietly and carefully. It is not a sinister scene, but more of a Cinderella story. It is Hubert Baija, senior conservator of frames and gilding at the museum, and an intern from the University of Amsterdam. They have come to see whether a frame in their possession fits the painting.

“We suspected it was the painting’s original frame,” Baija says. “And not only did it fit, but we also saw that a strip of paint on the inside of the frame matched an old damage on the painting. So we knew the painting had been framed in this very frame before it was fully dry.”

Baija, 61, is tall and angular, calm in demeanor and very softly spoken, but the gleam in his blue eyes as he recounts this incident reveals what a thrilling discovery it was. “It was very exciting,” he says.

Getting the frame right, according to Baija, is an essential part of experiencing a painting authentically. “A frame can tell you many things about a painting,” he says. “Among them, when it was created, where and for what purpose.”

Appreciation for frames is relatively recent in the art world. “There was a period up until about 50 years ago when the frame was simply what the painting came in,” Baija says. “But now the frames are art pieces in their own right, and acquiring a new frame is just as exciting as acquiring a new painting, and all the better if you can reunite a frame with its original painting.”

His work demands that he be part art historian, part scientist, part artist, part matchmaker. “With framing, we try always to display paintings in their original frame,” he explains. “And we have many paintings in the museum that we know are together with their original frame.”

With works from the Middle Ages, Baija explains, it’s more likely to find an original frame with its painting. It’s in the later periods—starting in the 17th century—that it becomes more problematic. “Until then, paintings were mostly religious works, and would not trade owners and be reframed,” he says.

Changing owners and framing styles make it far more challenging to find paintings in their original frames. “When we can’t, we try to find a frame from the same period and geographical location as the painting,” Baija says. “If we can’t do that, sometimes we commission a new frame to be made.”

Baija came to be passionate about art and frames in particular in a rather indirect manner. “I wanted to be a geologist from a young age,” he says. “I was fascinated by dinosaurs. I spent hours preparing fossils, labeling and naming them. And in fact a lot of that work actually trained me for my current profession.”

He is a lecturer, author and speaker of six languages, and studied chemistry and physics before beginning a successful career as a painter and illustrator. “In the end,” he says, “art won.” For 25 years, he has worked with restoration projects at Holland’s national museum, including consulting with curators specifically about frames.

Some of his work can be done with the naked eye, if you know what to look for. For example, two paintings by Cornelis Engebrechtsz hang side by side in the Rijksmuseum: to the right, ‘Christ’s Second Visit to the House of Mary and Martha’ (c. 1520) is still in its original frame; to the left, ‘Christ Taking Leave of His Mother,’ is not.

“You can see this because the painting on the right no longer exactly fits,” Baija says, indicating that the painted wooden panel is now slightly narrower than the frame due to shrinkage over time. “The other painting fits perfectly, so we know it’s a newer frame.”

Other times, he says, initial appearances are deceiving, as is the case with Lucas van Leyden’s triptych, ‘Worship of the Golden Calf’ (c. 1530). The frame is made of oak and covered in black ebony. Its condition is perfect.

“At first everyone thought this must not be an original frame,” Baija says. “But we had dendrochronology [dating an object by using the characteristic patterns of annual growth rings in timber] performed on the wood and indeed the tree was felled as little as seventy years after the painting. This meant that we have a very valuable early reframing of Van Leyden’s work.”

Such realizations are very satisfying, he says. “It’s a mystery to solve, and it is really a great feeling to make this kind of discovery.”

The Ateliergebouw—the conservation lab of the Rijksmuseum—is where Baija spends most of his time. From the outside, the building—which faces the museum—is unassuming, but inside is a vast, six-level space with two towers. It is filled with lab equipment, studios and workshops, and underground storage areas with a passageway to the Rijksmuseum across the street.

After passing through strict security—you can only visit the Ateliergebouw by appointment—you enter into a clinically bright, quiet corridor that is like a medical facility for art. It’s hospital white and temperature controlled, with labs full of surgical microscopes and lamps. In the paper restoration area is a small incubator that would not be out of place in a premature baby ward.

The silence is one of reverence and concentration, but is occasionally broken by an excited whisper or friendly hallway encounter. Baija is truly in his element. “We have fascinating conversations in the personnel restaurant,” he says. “Everyone is working on something interesting, and making new discoveries. We are a close group.”

There is high-tech equipment for pigment analysis and imaging solutions, including a digital microscope that can produce 3D images, much like Google maps, of the topography of an object. “So you see,” Baija says, “how my early interest in geology fits in.”

What can be revealed through this relatively new technology has had a major impact on restoration knowledge. “It is really amazing,” Baija says. “We can make an X-ray based analysis at an exact point of an artwork, and see what elements it contains. In combination with other information we can deduce which materials the artist used.”

And like a forensics scientist, Baija has used technology to make new discoveries about gilding practices of hundreds of years ago. “There was an early period of Auricular framing in the Netherlands where the work wasn’t very durable,” he says. “In the same period in France you saw very delicate carving work and sophisticated gilding and texturing that held up very well over time—and in the Netherlands you couldn’t see the carving in such detail because the deteriorated frames were so often regilded.”

This, he uncovered, was because early Dutch Auricular frames were gilded using only glue as a primer, no chalk, and eventually the glue would crack and break off. It is a finding that may be hard for someone not sharing Baija’s passion for frames and art history to fully appreciate, but for Baija and his peers it is groundbreaking, and one of the reasons Baija is the most respected framing expert in Europe.

Outside of work, Baija acknowledges that sometimes it’s hard for him to give a lay explanation when someone asks him at, say, a dinner party what he does for a living, and he must fight the urge to get too technical. “Indeed,” he says. “That can happen.”

There are special labs for every walk of art—paintings, metal, glass, furniture, textiles—in which scientists in lab coats labor delicately and scrupulously. It offers a visitor a rare view of fine art, one that Baija delights in. “It is wonderful to see a tapestry from the back,” he says. “The fronts have all faded, but the backs are so colourful.”

Still the function of art restoration is not to make everything look brand new again, and like the doctors they emulate, restorers must pledge to “do no harm.” Baija says they cannot “make things back to how they originally were, because we can’t really know for sure. You can get very romantic ideas, but we do not do anything unless we are certain that we are restoring and not editing.”

Meticulous records are kept of any kind of work or treatment given to frames in the Rijksmuseum collection. “We work very diligently to record everything that we do, everything that we touch, so that people who come after us have a clear record.”

Sometimes too much historical accuracy is the wrong approach, he says. “Frames that have been gilded to look as they would have in the time the paintings were made now look too shiny, too new—the frame and the painting should look the same age.”

Other times, the choice of frame can add to the essence of a painting, even if the period is not technically correct. Such is the case, according to Baija, with ‘Willem I, Prince of Orange, also called Willem the Silent’ by Adriaen Thomasz Key, 1579. Although physically the antique frame is probably a pastiche, combining elements from different centuries, Baija thinks it is a fitting match psychologically. “He has such a tight expression, and the frame has these sorts of bolts on it, keeping the viewer at even more of a distance. It works very well.”

Baija is an encyclopedia of frame history, but his relationship to the frames is also quite personal. As a restorer, he has had the opportunity to work on many pieces, including restoring a gilded section of ‘Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata,’ Lorenzo Monaco, c. 1420. Baija is pleased with his work, but deeply privileged by the opportunity. “To do something like that,” he says, “is really amazing. Truly wonderful.”

And he finds wonder in far more subtle contributions. While dusting “The Massacre of the Innocents,” [Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem, 1590] one morning,” he says, “I saw the tiny handprint of a child on the bottom rail of the frame. And that is something really poetic.”

For twenty-five years, Baija has been a protector of the Rijksmuseum’s rich collection, and it’s work he takes very seriously. Concern for art—for preserving these historical expressions of humanity—is inherent in mankind, he says. “Even at the onset of World War II, fine art was a priority—the Rembrandts were all rolled up and hidden away in 1939.”

The strict security measures in the Ateliergebouw and the rigid research and careful labour of restorers like Baija speak to the collection’s worth. “The value of what we have here is far greater than money. You cannot say, for example, ‘Okay, I guess we will have to buy another Milk Maid by Vermeer.’ No. We have to take care of it.”

By Tracy Brown Hamilton

Tracy Brown Hamilton is a freelance journalist based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, Salon, The Irish Times and Time Out Amsterdam, among other publications.

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Alternative markets: An introduction to art brut and self-taught art

These days, it seems everyone is talking about the art market, as celebrities try their hands as curators and even past political figures put paint to canvas. From the staggering auction prices to the ongoing social to-dos of the art fair, the art market has created a verifiable social subset and cultural scene.

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However, as prices continue to soar, more and more people are looking to alternative art markets to acquire original art from notable artists at prices that are more attainable (a relative term if ever there was one). Some markets focus specifically on one medium, such as prints and reproductions, while others, like the art brut or outsider art market, are defined by the context in which the works are created.

Art brut, or outsider art as it was presented to the American market in Roger Cardinal’s seminal 1972 work, has long been celebrated in Europe, but has become much more popular in recent years in Asia and North America as an emerging market, both as a subset of contemporary and modern art and as a category within itself. It is typically defined as the artwork of individual creators who are removed from mainstream society and traditional art influences, such as individuals with mental illness or those who are imprisoned.

Folk art, while often being grouped under the outsider umbrella, has a bit more of a history as an established market. Different regions around the world have tangible objects that represent a socio-cultural history, whether they are sold to tourists as trinkets or collected in major museums. However, scholars in both folk art and art brut are quick to distinguish what actually differentiates the two on a technical level; folk art is intrinsically tied to an audience and the inherited processes of a community, whereas the outsider artist is celebrated for his or her individual process of creation, unique to his or her idiosyncrasies.

While certain examples of regional folk art have been demoted to kitsch, there has been a move in the last century to incorporate this artwork under a fine art umbrella. Starting in the early 20th century, modern artists looked to “primitive” forms of artwork found in regions considered “tribal,” but the surrealists were really the first major group of art historical figures to champion art brut.

In some ways, surrealism is known for its distortions and otherworldly representation, but the surrealists were actively looking to represent an inner man, and turned to psychoanalysis and psychiatry as fields for inspiration. While not associated with surrealism, Jean Dubuffet was a contemporary and friend to many of the most notable artists of the time, and it was through them that he became aware of art being created in psychiatric institutions.

For the rest of his life and career, Dubuffet devoted his efforts to collecting and promoting artists living in institutions from all over Europe, and he established the Collection de l’Art Brut, which is currently located in Laussane, Switzerland, and remains the preeminent resource for art brut.

It makes sense then, that in some markets, the work of patients or eccentrics that inspired modern and surreal artists is now being featured alongside those works both in exhibitions and in auction houses. As prices continue to rise for modern masters, there is a definite move toward finding alternatives for both investment purposes and to acquire original work. Auction houses around the world, from Christie’s in New York to Tajan in Paris, now feature some of the best examples of art brut, both in dedicated sales and in larger regional or modern sales. This work continues to hold appeal both for its raw nature and for its expression of unfettered creativity.

By Rachel Cohen, LCAT, ATR-BC

Pictured above (frame excluded):
A Little Glitter Never Hurt by Whitney Trisler Causey

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The changing role of galleries in the current global art market

For as long as people have been collecting art, there have been galleries and dealers deciding the tastes of the day, ready to cater to full wallets and empty walls.

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Both emerging and established artists often rely on galleries to expose their work to collectors – for a fee, of course – with industry standards ranging from 30 to 50 percent. Yet, as the global audience for art grows, and prices soar, both artists and collectors look to new platforms to connect with each other as galleries find new ways to stay relevant.

The Internet has obviously played a major role in this change, as now people from across the globe can share ideas and products via the click of a button. Major online retailers, such as Amazon (amazon.com/art) and eBay (ebay.com/Sothebys), have launched platforms for art sales in the last several years. Many art world industry insiders are responsible for backing Artsy (artsy.net), a website that provides art world content, artist-specific information and a sales platform for existing galleries who want an online presence. Artist-focused sales websites, such as Saatchi Art (saatchiart.com), allow artists to upload their work and set their prices with the hopes of catching the eye of a collector or curator. While this accessibility provides new opportunities for artists and consumers around the world, many professionals lament that despite developments in technology, it is still nearly impossible to recreate the experience of a work’s scope, color, and technique on a monitor; we engage with a piece of art differently when we are standing in front of it. Furthermore, while online sales sites typically target new collectors – those who may be intimidated to approach a gallery or those restricted by location – they may lack the ability for personalized knowledge and expertise that a dealer can use to help a collector develop a personal taste. Curated online and print magazines (including ArtAscent www.ArtAscent.com) offer an alternative to both online gallery sales and artist-direct sites, in that they typically hold an open call and have a judge or panel select works to be featured – ensuring a curated selection – while referring potential collectors directly to the artist to deal with sales, minimizing commission splits and fees.

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Art fairs now take place year-round and around the world, and have solved this problem of accessibility and viewing experience for many collectors and dealers. Established galleries apply – and pay heftily – to participate in prestigious events held in major cities (London, New York, Hong Kong and Dubai, to name a few), which allows them a physical presence for a week in a variety of locations. In recent years “affordable” (for the collector and dealer) versions of art fairs have cropped up, both as satellites for the major fairs and as regional or media specific, presenting lower-budget collectors the opportunity to purchase original art. This combined with the immediate nature of technology means collectors are able to physically engage with a work before purchase, and dealers can maintain relationships via the immediacy of technology. These fairs are all open to the public, so for the price of an admission ticket, collectors and art lovers can experience hundreds of works from around the world with the ability to engage dealers in more informal and neutral settings.

Real estate values continue to rise in major cities, and so the future of galleries as actual brick-and-mortar spaces remains to be seen. However, enterprising dealers are finding new ways to connect with a growing audience of collectors utilizing the Internet and international art fairs as a way to maintain an active, global presence, and collectors have more resources than ever to engage with work in any context they desire. With art prices continuing to rise, there is little doubt that art and its surrounding industries will continue to evolve as the audience grows.

By Rachel Cohen, LCAT, ATR-BC

Pictured above:
Eagle-Pawn Trap | Wolf-Headed Mirror (frames excluded) by Ilie Vaduva

Quality and investing in art

The more you travel, the more you visit commercial and public galleries and gain greater exposure to the world of contemporary art, which leads to more reliable judgement of quality. Looking at a large quantity of fine art is a necessity for the astute collector as an investor.

When you are ready to acquire a work of contemporary art, making a final decision is often a challenge. First, you have to like what you choose to buy. Even though you have exercised your eye by examining many contemporary art works, you may want to assure yourself that your choice is a work of high quality and thus likely to continue to appeal to you over time and, in the best of all possible worlds, increase in value significantly.

It is no secret that great works of art command the highest prices at auction today and will likely do so tomorrow. At the top end of the art market, a great work can be had for a large – sometimes unbelievably large – sum and, overtime, it will deliver abundant capital gains. It seems to be almost a no-brainer to buy a work by an art star such as Damien Hirst, Peter Doig, Gerhard Richter or Jeff Koons and be guaranteed serious capital gains over the next few years. This is, of course, not absolutely true. Some of the works by these artists will appreciate more than others. In the more earthly end of the art market this also holds true. Some pieces by emerging and established artists will appreciate in value more than others they have created. Your goal as an art investor is to determine which ones these are.

There are no hard-and-fast rules for evaluating whether a work is great or will be seen as great in the future. Just because there may be diverging opinions on quality in art does not mean that there is a complete absence of criteria for establishing quality. Because you have acquired over time a trained or experienced eye in looking at contemporary art, you should, to some extent, trust your own judgement. When one advises a knowledgeable collector, “buy what you like,” this trust is implied.

Almost invariably, a collector will be attracted by a work that has impact or strength. It will be unusually powerful. This is what causes it to stand out. It will stack up with the rest of an artist’s work as the strongest and – in comparison with all the other contemporary art one has seen – it will shine as among the best. Before one can conclude that a work is among an artist’s best, it is necessary to determine the goal that the artist has set for himself or herself. The best or strongest of an artist’s works will be the ones that achieve these goals.

Strength in art is not necessarily connected with strong colours, bold drawing or bravado in composition. Some of the strongest works of art are subtle. It may take time to appreciate their strength or superiority. If there is a possibility that this is the case, a collector will take a work home on approval, look at it over time, compare it with other works in their collection and test it in various places in the home or office. If the work of art looks better over time, if its impact increases, it is undoubtedly a strong work of art. If over time it vanishes from one’s consciousness or loses attraction to the eye, then it is a work of lesser quality. It must be accepted that all of the works created by great artists are not of the same quality. Some works achieve the artist’s goals and others don’t. Some have visual impact and some don’t. Your mission as an investor in art is to buy only the strongest of artworks for those are the ones that will enjoy the greatest appreciation in both the aesthetic and monetary spheres.

By Dr. Alan McNairn

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The benefits of travel for an art investor

One of the greatest pleasures of art collecting is that it benefits immeasurably from travel. A trip to nearby cities, a tour of rural studios or a major overseas expedition all contribute to your knowledge as a collector. The more you look at fine art, the greater the likelihood of earning a substantial return on your investment.

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Among the most efficient art expeditions a collector can make is to visit to an international contemporary art fair. Many of these are held around the world in places such as Toronto, Abu Dhabi, Chicago, London, São Paulo, Miami and Zurich.

Nearly every major city with a lively visual arts scene has one. The novice collector could include in a travel itinerary an Affordable Art Fair. They are recent, worldwide phenomena that have arisen in Mexico City, Singapore, Brussels, Stockholm, Bristol and several other cities. A full list is available at affordableartfair.com. Attending an art fair permits a collector to inspect a vast array of fine art in one place, talk to a virtually limitless number of gallerists and consider the commerce in art generally and in detail.

If your travel plans don’t correspond to the dates of an art fair, you can effortlessly visit galleries dealing in contemporary art. In most major cities, these are clustered together, so if you find one, you are likely near many. A free, commercial art gallery guide is invariably available in tourism offices and in commercial galleries. A day visiting commercial, contemporary art galleries in cities, such as Rome, Paris, London, New York, Taipei or Buenos Aires will be very rewarding even if you do not acquire a work of art. If a piece strikes you strongly, as a cautious investor, you will probably not buy a work on first sight. You will take time to think about it for a day or more.

While pondering your potential purchase, you will find it helpful to visit a local non-commercial gallery or museum of contemporary art. There you will be able to get an idea of how the work you are thinking of acquiring stacks up against those chosen by a curator for a particular show or installation. Many urban museums and galleries now have an information centre in which you can peruse publications, videos and websites on the artist you are considering. If you need help, be sure to ask. Don’t be shy, because your money is going to be on the line and you want to do everything you can do to ensure that you are making a good investment.

If you go ahead and buy a work abroad, you should be aware that, in most cases, the largest future market for the work will be a local one. When you are ready to divest yourself of the work and presumably reap good capital gains, you will most probably have to send it to a distant auction house. This problem is diminishing in importance with the growth of a truly global art market through increased travel and marketing of contemporary art on the web.

The benefits of travel for an art collector cannot be overstated. Commercial and non-commercial premier galleries of cutting-edge contemporary art are essential components of an art investor’s education. Include as many of these as possible in your travel itinerary, or make visiting them the sole purpose of your travel. What you learn at, for example, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Saatchi in London, the MAXXI in Rome, Mass MoCA in North Adams, or the New Museum in New York and MOCA in Los Angeles, will contribute substantially to your skills as an investor in art just as will a jaunt to a city or a drive in the countryside on a studio or gallery tour. Travel is important whether it be a modest exploration close by or a more ambitious expedition abroad.

By Dr. Alan McNairn

PICTURED ABOVE:
Vegetarian Nude (frame excluded) by Jim Baab www.jimbaab.com

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Knowledge of art and risk reduction in investing

Like all investing opportunities, art collecting will produce increasing financial return, if you systematically expand your knowledge. Here are some helpful steps to keep in mind.

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The first rule in acquiring a work of art is to buy what you like. This is important, but it must be kept in mind that what you like will depend on knowledge and familiarity with a wide range of works of art. For example, if you are not fond of abstract works, this might be due to your lack of understanding of how to take in what might at first seem confusing. Your taste may change if you read about abstract art, go to lectures at a local gallery on the works of abstract artists or talk with a commercial art dealer. One thing to remember is that your tastes can and will change as you become more familiar with the world of fine art.

Acquiring knowledge about art is a two-fold process. The first step is to look, look and look some more. There is no substitute for studying art firsthand. As you visually take in more and more, you will begin to refine your skills at picking out aspects that make a picture, print, photograph or sculpture work. Inspect a series of pieces by a single artist and determine the details that indicate that they are all by the same artist. You will discover a lot on your own, and you will discover even more by talking with someone about a work of art.

The second step in acquiring knowledge about art is much broader. The more conversations you have with experts, curators, art dealers and other collectors the better. Don’t be afraid to ask about whatever comes to mind. Investing in art is not for the timid, not for the shy and not for the overly self-conscious. Everyone has to begin somewhere. As a novice, you will necessarily ask simple questions at first. Sophistication can come later. Always keep an open mind. You never know what you will discover.

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When you are not acquiring knowledge through discussion with those more knowledgeable than yourself, you should read as much as possible. You could start with the fascinating autobiographies of collectors, such as Thomas Hoving’s books on colleting for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Peggy Guggenheim’s Out of This Century, Confessions of an Art Addict. You can find any number of entertaining books on collectors and collecting. For reading more along the line of what you should know specifically as an art investor, you could dip into Ian Robertson’s book The Art Business or Ron Davis’ Art Dealer’s Field Guide: How to Profit in Art, Buying and Selling Valuable Painting. This kind of general reading will give you a good idea of the ins and outs of your chosen field of investment.

Successful investing in art is predicated on making acquisitions appropriate to your purpose. Because you want the dividends of pleasure in looking at your collection, you should try to acquire as much knowledge as you can about the works you acquire. Read as much as possible about contemporary art and contemporary artists and peruse as many magazines as possible – like this one – to familiarize yourself with work in
various media.

There is no substitute for attentive study of what is available on the art market. Talking, reading and – first and foremost – looking will ensure that you make your decisions on acquisitions for investment from an advantageous position. After all, one of the goals of investing is to reduce risk. This can only be achieved by making an effort to understand what you are investing in and the systems of commerce in art. The more you know, the less the risk.

By Dr. Alan McNairn

Pictured above (frames excluded):
Gokarna Main Street India | Rama Temple India by Stuart Meyer-Plath
www.stuartmeyer-plath.wix.com/stuart-meyer-plath

Preserve your capital in art investment and get your proper dividends

The regularly delivered dividend of investing in art is its presence in your home or office. Looking at your investment as it hopefully increases in value should be a continuous pleasure.

To be assured that your investment is safe requires periodic attention. Insurance is essential. Take photographs of all your works of art, record their measurements and media, and collect in a file as much information as you can on your purchases, including invoices and printed material on the art and the artists. Put your photographs on two computer disks. Send one to your insurance agent and keep the other in a safe place. Remember to update your photograph inventory regularly so that it records everything in your collection, including recent acquisitions. Depending on the contents of your collection, you may need to modify your insurance valuations every couple of years so that your insurance coverage is adequate.

Artworks retain their value and are subject to potential increase in value only if they are preserved in excellent condition. Works on paper should be kept from direct sunlight and framed using ultraviolet filtering glass. When they are unframed, works on paper should be stored in acid-free portfolios and, ideally, in archival boxes. Most oil paintings should be properly framed to protect their edges. Works of art should be properly secured to a wall and carefully hung taking into account potential accidental encounters, most commonly with pointing fingers and less commonly with unusual, accidentally flying objects. This might sound ridiculous, but it is not unknown for oil paintings to be damaged by pets and wild interior activities.

If a work of art is damaged, it will require restoration before it is sold. This may involve a considerable expense, which will be added to the base cost of your investment. It will offset some of the gains when the piece is sold. If you do not restore your work, sell it at a discounted price. All serious collectors are intensely concerned with the condition of each work of art. The closer a piece is to what it was when it left the artist’s studio
the higher its value.

To get the most of your collection – either for your own pleasure at home or for you and your client’s pleasure in an office – it is worth considering employing a consultant to assist you with installation. Many dealers and gallerists offer this service. Others will direct you to where you can hire help. An installation professional will take into account the safety of a work of art in your environment as well as arranging the display of works so that they are seen to the best advantage. Some art shines in isolation while other pieces attain their greatest impact by being viewed in relation to other works or features of interior design. However you wish to arrange your collection of art, it is imperative that it be secured in a manner appropriate to its setting. A variety of techniques are available that are suitable to deal with risks, such as earthquake and theft.

It is well worth re-hanging or re-installing your collection on a regular basis. A collection of art will appear to be entirely new and you will suddenly be able to re-evaluate the quality of a work and renew your pleasure in viewing it, if it is seen in a different context. At the end of a day either at the office or at home, you might close your eyes and ask yourself whether you really looked at your collection or a single work of art that day. If the answer is no, then perhaps it is time to re-hang the works, have them moved around or, if you have a large collection with works in storage, to replace the tired ones on the walls with fresh faces.

Your collection is an investment where the dividend is pleasure. If you are not getting this on a daily basis, you must consider doing something about it. Some collectors tire of a particular type of work or tire of a single piece. This is the time to sell. This is a no fault situation. You shouldn’t blame yourself. You didn’t make an error in acquiring a work or a whole series of works. Even the finest art can cease to elicit interest or delight. When a work or art does not deliver the dividend of enjoyment even after re-installation or a period in storage, divest yourself of it. Buy another piece that does deliver a daily dividend.

By Dr. Alan McNairn

How to minimize risk by purchasing art wisely

In bygone days it was common for investors to frame, matt and hang, as cautionary mementos, valueless stock certificates from bankrupt companies. Turning these into art-like interior adornments was a way of bravely facing up to one’s folly. For an investor in art an equivalent might be a wall of fakes and forgeries and otherwise valueless artworks. Avoiding such a wall of shame is not easy for the collector. Even the most skilled make mistakes.

Gazing into a crystal ball is not the best way to predict whether a work of contemporary art will increase in value over time. Chance plays a role in the monetary appreciation of art to be sure, but there are ways to increase the probability of capital gain in art investing. The most important of these is to acquire your work from a dealer with a good reputation. How do you evaluate this?

The business of dealing in art depends on commission sales. Like all good entrepreneurs, art dealers or gallery owners want to complete as many sales as possible. The most successful dealers assemble a stable of artists whose works they consider saleable in the specific market they have chosen. This might be local, novice art collectors, interior decorators or experienced high-end consumers.

Before buying a work of art it is advisable to consider the vendor’s business. Try to get as much information as possible about the stable of artists and their sales. Go to an opening at a commercial gallery and look for the red dots indicating that a work has been sold. Look carefully at the price list. Return to the gallery at the end of the show. Look again for the red dots. This will tell you a lot about the gallery and the market for works of individual artists. Although it is far from invariably true, it is more likely that art that finds a market today will have a market in the future.

An art dealer or gallery owner will allocate a percentage of their commissions to advertising and promotion. An indication of the success of an art dealer and what they consider to be the potential for sales of the work of a specific artist is the amount and quality of publicity and promotion allocated to an individual artist.

Buying a work of art from a dealer or gallery rather than directly from an artist has significant advantages for the collector. Such a work of art has the dealer’s stamp of approval. A dealer, if in business for a long time, will have developed an eye for quality and a nose for commercial success. The degree of a dealer’s commitment to an artist’s works is an indication of what might happen in future years with respect to the value of the work of art you buy. It is no guarantee, just an indication.

Another way to reduce the risk of investing in art is to educate yourself by regularly attending public auctions. Note what sells and what is bought in or unsold. Note what works in the catalogue have a provenance that stretches back to specific commercial galleries. Where a work of art was bought by a collector often has a significant effect on the knock down price. Again – although it is not a hard-and-fast rule – what sells today will sell in the future. What works against this rule is change in taste.

The apparent fickleness of taste is one of those pesky unknowns that confounds every investor in art. Some kinds of art or styles of art have cyclical popularity among collectors and the public. Like fashions in clothing, there are periodic revivals of earlier styles. A revival of a style, technique or medium among contemporary artists has the consequence of increasing the value of similar works created by previous generations of artists. Predicting future taste is extremely difficult; however, the rewards for collectors in getting it right can be significant.

In 1839, when photography was in its infancy, the French painter Paul Delaroche said “from today painting is dead.” Of course he was wrong. If a collector at the time stopped buying French academic painting they missed an opportunity. When mid-20th century critics, collectors and art historians – blinded by their infatuation with modernism – turned up their noses at 19th century academic art, prices for it plummeted. For those who could anticipate a change in taste, this was a great opportunity to buy. It is not unheard of for high-quality French academic paintings, which could be had for a song in the 1950s, to sell today for well over a million dollars. The current revival of taste is connected to a re-evaluation of 19th century academic art and a movement contesting the tyranny of modernism by contemporary artists.

Collectors who consult a crystal ball before making acquisitions are doing themselves a disservice. There are much more reliable ways to determine the likelihood of success in investing in art.

By Dr. Alan McNairn