Posted: Wednesday, 17-02-2010
Anyone can buy and collect art intelligently. That's right; I said anyone. No previous knowledge of the art business, experience collecting art, or degrees in art history are necessary. All you need is a love and appreciation of fine art, a desire to collect, and a willingness to learn a few simple techniques that will allow you to evaluate any work of art dating from any time period by any artist of any nationality.
Even though the following article contains specific recommendations and suggestions relating to particular works of art, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong art and there is no right or wrong way to buy or collect art. Anyone can collect whatever they feel like collecting and buy whatever art they feel like buying, wherever and whenever they feel like buying it, for whatever reason they decide to buy it, and for however much money they feel like spending on it.
Consequently, these techniques are not for everyone, but they are designed for people who like to spend their money wisely and who prefer to pay fair prices for quality art. If that happens to be you, then what you're about to read will help you to become a better collector.
Suppose you see a work of art for sale that you like-- a painting, a sculpture, a print-- it makes no difference. If you like it so much that you think you might want to own it, begin your decision-making process by asking and answering four basic questions.
(1) Who is the artist?
(2) How important is the art?
(3) What is its provenance, history, and documentation (or more simply, where has the art been and who's owned it)?
(4) Is the asking price fair?
For the answer to the first question-- "Who is the artist?"-- you rely on two basic sources of information-- spoken and written. The spoken part usually comes from the artist, dealer, or gallery who either represents or sells the art. Verbal information can also come from friends, collectors, and others who are familiar with the art or artist in question.
Written information comes in a variety of forms including gallery exhibit catalogues, artist career resumes, exhibition reviews, and art reference books like dictionaries of artists, art indexes, art or artist encyclopedias, monographs on artists, and art surveys or histories. In the great majority of cases, these publications (or photocopies of relevant artist listings contained in these publications) are available from whoever is selling the art.
In all cases, you want to both hear and read about the artist you're interested in. Do one at the expense of the other and you can easily come away with inaccurate or skewed ideas of how significant the artist really is. The types of information that you come across during the course of your readings and listenings, no matter what artist you are learning about, include facts like those listed below.
* The artist's birth date and death date (when applicable).
* Where the artist lives and works.
* Where, when and with whom the artist studied.
* Organizations the artist belongs to.
* Galleries, museums, or institutions where the artist has exhibited art either in one-person shows or in group shows with other artists.
* Awards, prizes, grants, and honors that the artist has received.
* Public, private, or corporate collectors who own the artist's art.
* Positions the artist has held (teacher, lecturer, writer, and so on)
* Publications that mention the artist such as books, catalogues, newspapers, magazines, and so on.