The Controversy that is Christo and Jeannne Claude

I recently came across a controversial article about art fighting nature in Colorado. The essence of the article is about 2 artists, Christo and Jeanne Claude, who are in the process of getting approval to do an art installation on the Colorado River. See the article called: 

Froma Harrop: ‘Art’ fights nature in Colorado.  The essence of this argument is that the art installation is not environmentally friendly and would do more harm then good.

After reading this article, I decided to research Christo and Jeanne Claude so I went to their website. What I found was entirely contradictory to this article. It seems those who are arguing that the artists’ works are NOT eco friendly are misinformed. One of their most famous works of art is the Surrounding Islands in Florida.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude Surrounded Islands, Miami, Florida 1980-83

In reviewing this project, it seems to me, far more was done to improve the environment than take away from it. “The marine and land crews picked up debris from the eleven islands, putting refuse in bags and carting it away after they had removed some forty tons of varied garbage: refrigerator doors, tires, kitchen sinks, mattresses and an abandoned boat.” Only after a significant cleanup was the art project started. Many many precautions were taken to make sure that the environment was not damaged during the installation, during the time the art coexisted in the environment and during the removal. See Surrounded Islands for more information.

Many misconceptions have been formed about these artists and their artwork. I found interesting reading on their website: Common Errors. Bottom line. . . controversy can create great marketing and allow for more people to learn of their techniques and of their art installations. I hope the controversy doesn’t stop the installation of these wonderful pieces of art. These are NOT artists who are clueless to the environment. They take great care to improve the environment and coexist with it.  My hat goes off to them!

Christo and Jeanne-Claude The Umbrellas, Japan - USA, 1984-91

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Ohio Plein Air Society (OPAS) Competition

Where: Lakeside, OH at the Lakeside Pavilion

When: September 17 – September 19, 2010

2009 Best of Show Winner, "Catawba Island Peninsula" Oil by Nancy Hawkins


Artists of the Ohio Plein Air Society (OPAS) will congregate in Lakeside, Ohio, for the Seventh Annual Ohio Plein Air Society Competition, September 17-19.  Artists are encouraged to paint throughout Ottawa County, but will meet in Lakeside for special events. Wanda Pepin, internationally collected artist, from southern Oregon will be one of the many talented artists to participate in this event.

The weekend will include a variety of events for plein air painters and onlookers to witness.  The public is invited to view the artists at work during the weekend competition and “Quick Paint” event.  Artists may also have other completed works over the three-day period that the public will be able to view, many of which will be for sale on Sunday at the Lakeside Pavilion.

Plein air artists will select one painting completed during the three-day event to enter into the competition.  Judging will take place from 12-1 p.m. on Sunday.  At the same time, artists will compete in a “Quick Paint” competition.  Judging of the “Quick Paint” event is slated for 1-2 p.m.  At 2 p.m., the award ceremony will begin.

Previous competitions have been held in Nelsonville and New Philadelphia, Ohio.  The competition will return to Lakeside in 2010, before heading to Athens, Ohio, in 2011 and 2012.  The OPAS is a non-profit organization “dedicated to education, awareness and advancement of fine art painting in the plein air tradition.”   The society consists of approximately 200 artists from Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, working in a variety of media. It is one of the most active groups in the nation.  Monthly paintouts are scheduled throughout the year.

For more information, visit

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Fair Pricing of Art

How to determine if the asking price of a piece of art is fair:

Sometimes art is overpriced. An artist or dealer may tell you that every piece of art is unique and that the price of the piece you’re looking at is priceless. This logic doesn’t work with experienced art collectors. Art can be compared with real estate, every piece may be unique, but plenty of other pieces are similar or comparable to it. Just like similar houses in the same neighborhood, you can compare similar types of artwork before buying it  Art prices are not mysteriously pulled out of thin air, although sometimes you might wonder that.  You can compare and contrast between the art you’re thinking about buying and records of public and private sales of similar works of art that have already sold.

You can actually research art prices from previous sales records. Not only do such price records exist, but they exist by the millions and the great majority of them of are available in online databases or published in art price guides, auction record compendiums, CD-ROMS, and art dealer catalogues at the rate of about 200,000 new sales results per year. You can find these sales records in the art departments of most major institutional and public libraries, on the Internet, and at specialist art reference bookstores.

Begin your price research with the artist or seller. Ask to see recent sales results for art by whatever artist you’re interested in. Make sure that the artist has a track record of selling works of art similar to the piece you like for amounts comparable to what you’re being asked to pay. Most dealers have this information on file and will talk about it with you. Online databases that the artist may be a member of may help as well. Such as where artists can register their artwork and it can the certificate of authenticity can be validated by the owner or seller.

The other part of evaluating prices is to find out what’s happening outside of the gallery or artist selling the art. Where else does the art sell and how much does it sell for? Try googling the artwork and the artist to see other places both online and off they may have their work for sale. These sales may take place at other galleries, at auctions, online secondary art market websites, or at all of the above, and once again, you should look for consistency in selling prices that are comparable to what you’re being asked to pay.

Checking auction records is easy– anybody can do it. All you have to do is look up the artist’s name in online art price databases (most of which are only accessible by subscription), price guides, books or CD-ROMS of auction records to see whether any of his or her art has sold. Each sales record you find tells you information like what type of art sold (painting, sculpture, etc.), it’s size, title, when and where it sold, and how much it sold for.

When an artist has auction records, that indicates that the artist has achieved a certain level of recognition and respect within the art community and generally speaks well for that artist’s market– and that the art has “ascended” to the level of currency. Instead of collectors asking “Who’s that?” when they see the artist’s art, they say “I know who she is. Her art auctions for X amount of dollars, and I’d pay this much to own a piece of her art.”

The most significant auction records for your purposes are those that describe works of art that are similar in size, subject matter, medium, date executed, and other particulars to yours. Keep in mind that auction prices represent wholesale values more so than retail ones, so don’t expect them to be as high as what you’re being asked to pay at a gallery. Do, however, expect them to be at least 40% of gallery retail and preferably higher. If you find auction records that are 30% or less of what you’re being asked to pay, this may be cause for concern. Either the artist or gallery owner should have a good explanation as to why the discrepancy is so large or you should consider shopping elsewhere.

Several additional tips for evaluating auction records are as follows.

* Check back through at least five years of sales records and look for indications that the artist’s prices either hold steady or increase over time. Consistent strength in selling prices means that demand for the art is solid and that the collector base is strong. Fluctuating, erratic, or declining prices are not generally a good sign.

* Pay the most attention to where the majority of the price results fall, not the minority. For example, if you’re thinking about paying $10,000 for a painting and you find one auction or price record of $6,000 and twenty for under $2000, be careful. The $10,000 painting could likely be overpriced.

* The more auction results you find, the more accurately you can evaluate prices. One or two isolated sales are not enough to base any solid conclusions on; you need at least five to ten records to work from.

Retail sales at other galleries– online or bricks-and-mortar– are just as important to know about as auction records and even more so when you have little or no auction records to go on. You can often learn about such sales by asking other dealers, collectors, and knowledgeable people in the arts community about the artist you are interested in. The more dealers who either handle the artist, recognize the name, or are willing to handle him, the better. Of course, their asking prices and sales records should be comparable to what you’re being asked to pay. When few galleries are familiar with an artist or are interested in handling his or her art, this may not be a good sign.

When you buy directly from an artist who does not exhibit regularly, you often find few, if any, galleries that recognize the name and few, if any, auction records. In these cases, ask the artist for names of people or institutions that own his or her art and, once again, do your best to find out whether that art has sold (hopefully regularly) for prices comparable to what you’re being asked to pay. The more collectors who own the art and the more consistent the selling prices, the more comfortable you can feel about buying the art.

In many cases, you will have little or no auction or gallery prices to go on, you can extrapolate values from auction records and retail prices of similar art by other artists from the same geographical region who have similar accomplishments, similar market bases, and were or are active during similar time periods. Evaluating prices in this manner is another form of working from comparables. When you’re buying from an artist, for example, find out what other artists who produce similar work and live in the same area charge for their art. When you’re buying period art like a landscape dating from the 1940’s, compare the asking price to prices of similar 1940’s landscapes by other artists who painted in the same region or area.

Once you’re comfortable with an asking price and ready to buy, make sure you get a detailed receipt describing the art and its condition and including a money back guarantee to protect you if, at any point in the future, you find out that the art was not properly represented. This receipt should be in addition to all other documentation that the seller provides relating to the art’s history, provenance, and authenticity.

A quick word about bargaining. Suppose for some reason that you still want the art after all’s said and done, but would rather pay a little less for it. Art prices are often flexible and making an offer is certainly an option, but don’t bargain purely for the sake of sport. Make sure that you have a good reason for wanting a better price and that you can make a case for your request. Experienced collectors do this all the time. They know that artists or dealers are much more likely to reduce prices based on good solid arguments than they are to lower prices just because buyers want better deals.

All this effort to buy a single piece of art may seem a little tedious as you read about it here, but in fact, it’s just the opposite. Buying art intelligently not only becomes second nature once you get good at it; it also becomes an adventure. Once you get the hang of how things work, your quest for knowledge turns into exciting detective work, and so much of what you discover is always rewarding. Experienced collectors, one of whom you may one day become, can research and evaluate most works of art in as little as fifteen to thirty minutes. For them, the importance of knowing about a work of art, including the fact that it’s priced fairly, cannot be underestimated. Having this knowledge not only increases their enjoyment of that art, but also of the art world in general.

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

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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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What to Do When You Find Your Art Collection is Worth Less than Retail

Scenario: Purchased two paintings at a small local auction. Artist is still alive, but quite old and not painting anymore. Galleries are selling the same artist’s paintings for between $2000 and $2500. Are these 2 paintings worth as much as the ones in the gallery? The galleries/dealers do not want them since they have lots of inventory of this artist.

When an artist’s retail prices are high like this, but his wholesale or secondary market prices are low, you can bet that the supply of work by the artist on the market at any given time is far greater than the demand, and that his art sells slowly when it does sell. If an artist has any secondary market whatsoever, dealers tend to buy back the art for reasonable percentages of retail if only to keep it off the market, prevent prices from falling, and protect the artist’s retail price structure. In the case of this scenario, the dealers don’t seem to care one way or the other how much these paintings sell for outside their galleries– not a good sign.

If these same paintings are offered to the gallery on consignment, that probably won’t help either (it’ll certainly help the gallery, though, by taking them off the market). Since the gallery already has plenty of paintings for sale, they’re going to feature the ones they make the most money on first (like those they own outright), and save the ones they make the least money on for later. At best, these 2 paintings will be only two of probably at least several dozen pieces that any prospective buyer will be able to choose from. With those odds they could take years to sell.

The best bet is to try selling them independently, perhaps at a local auction, or consigned to an antique or collectibles shop or mall. This way, pricing them well below what the galleries charge and using those high gallery prices as evidence of how much money someone can save by buying these paintings instead. If the artist has reasonably good name recognition outside of the area that they were purchased, then selling them at a larger regional auction house or at an online auction may be a good option. Whatever is done, keep  the selling prices as low as possible.

In the art business, the younger and/or less experienced artists are, the weaker their secondary markets tend to be. Artists like this simply haven’t been around long enough to develop substantial followings, or for people who’ve bought their art to be putting it back up for sale, thereby initiating secondary market transactions. Better known artists can also have depressed secondary markets when the market is flooded with their art and not that many people are interested in buying it– such as appears to be the case with this scenario.

The general lesson to be learned here is that retail art gallery prices are not necessarily indications what art is worth on the open market. Galleries can price their art however they wish, and are under no obligation to price it according to what it may or may not be worth on secondary markets. If a dealer feels like marking a work of art up ten or twenty times over its secondary market value, that’s his or her prerogative. This is why you should always have some idea of what art sells for on secondary markets before paying retail at galleries or, as in your case, buying “cheaply” outside of the galleries only to find out later that you didn’t get the great deal you thought you were getting.

Source: Art Business

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