Buying Art Wisely or Research, Research, Research

Anyone can buy and collect art. . . . Anyone! You don’t need an intense knowledge of art, art history, or art styles. Having a love and appreciation of fine art, a desire to collect, and a willingness to do research is necessary and essential.

The following instructions are to help people who like to spend their money wisely and who prefer to pay fair prices for quality art.

Your research starts with:

  • Who is the artist?
  • What is the importance of the art?
  • What is the history of this piece of art and who has owned it?
  • Is the asking price fair?

Who is the artist? Interview the artist, dealer, or gallery who either represents or sells the art.  Try and get information from friends, collectors, and others who are familiar with the art or artist in question.  Next research the artist’s websites, gallery websites, online artist database resources, gallery catalogues, artist resumes, reviews, and dictionaries of artists, art indexes, art or artist encyclopedias. In short, you want to both hear and read about the artist you’re interested in. These are the facts you need to glean:

  • artist’s birth date and death date (when applicable)
  • Where the artist lives and works
  • Where, when and with whom the artist has 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.

What is the importance of the art?

  • Reproduction or Original? Reproductions of originals,  no matter how limited or beautiful they are, are among the least important and collectible examples of an artist’s work.
  • Major or Minor? Determine whether it’s more or less significant when compared to other examples of the artist’s art that you’ve been looking at.  Keep in mind that major works tend to be more valuable, more collectible, and fare better in the marketplace over time than minor ones.
  • Typical or Atypical? Which subjects, mediums, sizes, and styles the artist is best known for producing and that collectors prefer or tend to buy the most. These pieces are referred to as typical. All artists also experiment, go off on tangents, and create unusual or one-of-a-kind items that they’re not that well-known for. These pieces are referred to as atypical. Stick with the typical and save the offbeat or unusual works for later.
  • Best period?All artists go through periods or phases where their art is more or less inspired, competent, appealing to collectors, and important in relation to their overall output. Experienced collectors, of course, prefer the best art from the best time periods. Learn what that means for your artist and how the art that you’re looking at stacks up in comparison.
  • Unique? Determine whether the art you’re looking at has any unique original qualities or whether it’s a re-do of styles or subject matters that have been produced over and over again for years. From a collecting standpoint, art with unique or original aspects tends to be more collectible over time than art that imitates or borrows heavily from other styles of art. Experienced collectors prefer buying works of art that reflect superior creative abilities as well as mastery of medium.
  • Good Condition? Archival quality, protected, certificate of authenticity?

What is the history of this piece of art and who has owned it? Biography of the art from the moment the artist completed it right up to the present day. A painting that was exhibited at an important art show, for example, is more collectible than a similar looking painting that wasn’t; a sculpture that won a prize is more desirable than a similar sculpture that didn’t; a watercolor that made the news because of its controversial subject matter is more interesting to collectors than a similar watercolor that didn’t.

  • Find out everything you can about the art you like. Find out where it’s been, what it represents, how it came into being, who’s owned it, whether it’s been exhibited, won awards, or been pictured or mentioned in any books, catalogues, articles, or reviews. Has it ever been discussed online or in print by experts or by the artist himself? Does it commemorate special events either within or outside of the artist’s life? Are any interesting stories associated with it? These are the types of questions you should ask. The answers are often entertaining, enlightening, and just plain fun. If the artist is living, ask the artist to tell you about it. If the art is for sale at a gallery and the artist isn’t available, ask the dealer whether you can make an appointment to speak with the artist either in person or over the phone.
  • Put together as much physical documentation as possible from online or printed sources such as those mentioned above. This includes printouts, copies or photocopies of entries in publications or online that mention the art, certificates or statements of authenticity, and, whenever possible, signed statements from the artist and/or dealer detailing what they’ve told you.

How to determine if the artwork is priced fairly in tomorrow’s blog article.

This information is from, “THE ART OF BUYING ART, SECOND EDITION

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About Art Collecting and Investment

Providing news about art collectors, collections and investments. Including the how to's, the why's and the where's of art collecting. Wanda Pepin, Christina Madden and Elaine Frenett are all professional artists who keep up on the world of art, while creating amazing works of art themselves.
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5 Responses to Buying Art Wisely or Research, Research, Research

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