Buying Art is as complicated or as easy as you want to make it. But If you would like to enjoy the pleasure of starting your own art collection, all you have to do is buy the first piece. Once you buy it, you'll get energized.
Be a good customer. Try to treat the artist and his/her art with courtesy, and most of all, be tactful, don't insult the artist's work by trying to buy it as if it was just any commodity on a bargain table. Tell the artist that you see and respect the value of his/her art, but all you're trying to do because you like it so much, is to bring the price down a bit, to a level in which you can buy it. You will find that artists are flexible, and as anxious to sell as you are to buy. Keep something in mind, when you buy in the Internet, in most cases tax is not applicable. That's a nice savings right there.
Try to meet the artist, and establish a rapport with him, even if it is by mail, by phone, or by e-mail communications. It's always good to learn from him what he is trying to convey with his art. Ask for his "Artist Statement" (Galleries usually have the Artist Statement of the artists they represent) this will give you valuable information about the artist. This will tell you what the artist thinks of his art. You will find this information very interesting. Artists that have not written an "artist statement" might not have a clear idea of where they've been and where they're going. Besides, if you establish good relations with the artist, he'll probably give you better prices and/or make available to you, his best pieces of art as he paints or sculpts them.
Always buy the piece of art that you like and can afford, not the one that some collector or gallery owner tells you or recommends for you to buy. Always keep in mind, you don't go for price, you go for what your eyes and heart tells you to buy. Otherwise you will end up with an unimpressive collection of "bargain art" or a collection of art that pleases the taste of others and not yours.
Why some people who like art don't buy it, frequently has to do with how much they know or think they know about art. It also depends on how self-confident they are about their tastes in art, or how concerned they are about the opinions of "others". Some worry that their friends or relatives will not approve of what they have bought or if the artists are valued enough to warrant the asking prices. Ignore all these worries, it has been said by many savvy art collectors, the best reason to buy art it's simply BECAUSE YOU LIKE IT.
Buy the piece of art that speaks to you and that's pleasant to your eyes. Especially if the artist who painted it, has won some awards, has exhibited in good Galleries, Visual Art Centers or even better, if he or she has exhibit in a museum. Credentials are not critical, but they tell you that art connoisseurs (owners and/or directors of those art entities) have seen that art and have recognized it as one of high artistic value.
Don't buy the inexpensive pieces of an artist. You will end up having an unimpressive collection. If you are a thrifty buyer, don't waste your time or adored money in an art collection. You will only end up having what you paid for.
Once you buy your first piece of art, you'll get energized. Once you hang in your house the first piece of art of your collection, invite a couple of friends over and show them your newest acquisition. Be prepared to answer questions such as Who is the artist? ; Where has he/she shown? ; Has he/she won any awards? How much you paid for it?...etc. There will always be one smart alec that's going to question your decision. You tell him/her that the taste for art is very subjective, you bought that painting because it spoke to you, because you like it very much, and it gives you pleasure to look at it everyday. As straight and simple as that. From there on, you will lose the fear of buying art, and your collection will grow as fast as you can afford it.
If you buy a second or third painting from the same artist, try to make sure you like this painting at least as much as you liked the first one, and never buy two at a time. In theory and many times in practice, if you wait a month or more before buying again from the same artist, you should notice a slight improvement in quality, and oftentimes, a slight evolution, or the introduction of new elements or colors effects or color textures. If part of your collection is going to be on one artist, then introduce variety and a trace of evolution to it, rather than having ten paintings from the same artist, that look like they were painted the same day.
The reason for concentrating at least 40% or 50% of your art collection on one artist, is that it will allow you to become more familiar, knowledgeable and a "specialist" in his/her type or style of art. Try to get good at collecting one style, whichever you like best, but also acquire pieces of other styles that you fall in love with. Don't let anybody persuade you into buying a piece of art that "they" say is of great artistic value, but that you don't really like. Even if an "art authority" is the one who's recommending the acquisition. They usually recommend what they like personally, and try to give you the impression that their knowledge for art is beyond your understanding. Never accept that, respectfully disagree with them by saying that you strongly believe for Art to be very subjective, and as such, 2 persons can have different opinion about art and both be right. Then they might claim that the reason why they recommend it, is because it's a better buy and will gain much more value with the years. Many times we don't live long enough to see or enjoy that value gain, so while we're alive, let's exercise some self-confidence and enjoy what we really like.
Don't spend a bundle, go slowly with your acquisitions. If you see something you really like, don't jump to buy it. Give yourself a couple of days or more to decide. If it gets sold meanwhile, it's OK, there are many more to come from the same artist, that you might like even better.
Don't buy big pieces unless you have plenty of wall space at home. If you plan to have an art collection, limit yourself to buying medium size formats. Most artists have a predilection for size of canvases they paint on. Sometimes paint larger than their average size, and some other times smaller, to make their art available to broader group of art buyers. The smallest formats of a given artist are not considered as valuable, but more "commercial". If you don't plan to have an art collection, and do have the wall space and the money to buy large paintings, go for it! Give yourself a pleasure you can afford. You will enjoy them for as long as you live. Once you buy your first piece of art, you'll get energized.
The taste for Art is very subjective, no one has bad taste for art, people simply have different taste for art. Therefore, what in your opinion is good art, indeed is good art, don't let anybody try to convince you of the contrary.
Buy and collect the kind of art that YOU like and can afford. The art that pleases and entertains YOUR eyes. After all, YOU are the one who's paying for it.
Buy one at a time, and avoid impulse buying. Don't buy based on someone else's recommendation. Buy strictly what you really like. It's YOUR collection.
Once you buy your first piece of art, you'll get energized.
Original works of art are far more valuable than its reproductions. You will also find, that the price of good reproductions (giclee quality) of valuable originals, could be costlier than many originals of poor quality. Avoid Lithographies; their artistic value is not higher than that of a regular poster. If you're going to buy a reproduction, buy a Fine Art Giclee.
How can we tell a good from a bad piece of art?
The first determining factor is "execution". You don't need a trained eye to notice a piece of art that's been poorly painted or one that clearly shows the talent and experience of a master artist.
The second value qualifier is the artist that signs it, the author of the piece. Often times, collectors and/or auctioneers place more importance on "who painted it" than on "how good it was pained".
There are many other factors that can influence the value of an art piece. Some are the period or stage of the artist's career in which it was painted, the size of the piece, the theme, the physical condition of the painting, the degree of difficulty of buying a particular artist (especially if the artist is dead), the uniqueness, etc.
If you're buying art to start a serious art collection, you may want to consider the above information. But if you wish to have the joy of having your own art collection, not placing the value of investment up-front, but seeking visual and artistic pleasure, then you are much better off buying the art that speaks to you, the art that pleases your eyes, and not the one that an art dealer tells you is a good buy.
In the case that you would be starting an art collection, more for the pleasure of it, than for the investment value, the execution of the piece of art, becomes of maximum importance.
How can we tell if a painting has been executed well?
If two paintings of a same artist, are comparable in size and price, then you must learn to determine which is best.
The key characteristics of a well executed painting are: composition or layout, good use of color, excellent contrast, richness of movement, good use of textures, creativity and good selection of theme.
This is achieved by a tasteful balance, or layout, or distribution of the elements that integrate the piece of art. A good artist will try to avoid a composition which is top or bottom heavy, The artist must place the focus of the layout off the center of the canvas (vertically or horizontally), must end the elements before they reach the edges of the canvas, or show that he/she purposely and tastefully let them reach that point. Another consideration for good composition is the good distribution of contrasts, colors and textures.
Many French impressionists and pre-impressionists used as a rule of thumb, dividing their canvas in 3 imaginary thirds (horizontally). Then they will choose to place the horizon line of their landscape or seascape either at the level of one third from the bottom of the canvas, or at the level of two thirds up. This school of thought for judging the composition was pretty strong during the art period between the 17th and early 19th hundreds.
Last but not least, good composition must have a focal attention, where the core of the theme is expressed. Usually this area covers about of 30% of the total area of the art piece. If an artist does not concentrate the bulk of the theme in a specific area and scatters elements all over the canvas, we might end up seeing a puzzle effect, or what's less desirable, a wall paper effect, in which we don't know what to look at first and what to look at next. Multi-focus point paintings remind us of a written page with 20 or more underlined words or sentences. They want to emphasize so many different points, that they miss emphasizing the main point.
Good use of colors.
There is no golden rule for using colors. Each artist is free to choose the colors he/she thinks are best to express him or herself, and to execute the piece of art. Some "purists" claim that the use of primary colors is indication of inexperience in mixing colors. This has been proven to be inaccurate. The one peculiarity found in the use of colors, is that is very common for artists from colder climates favor the use of heavily mixed colors, favoring grays, dark dull greens and reds, while artists from the tropics or warm weather tend to favor brighter yellower greens, primary reds, deep blues and hot yellows.
Some artists like to show their execution audacity by changing reality. These paint a bright red sky, a blue tree or a bright pink dog. Is this wrong? Definitely not. An artist uses colors to achieve contrast, lights, shadows and most of all, to achieve beauty and good execution. Artists don't have to follow any rules of color use but their own.
There are many ways to achieve contrast. The 3 most common strategies are siding light colors against dark (being black right next to white the extreme use); using rough texture next to smooth, and violent movement right next to straight lines or steady circular ones. As in "composition" if we introduce many areas of contrast, we'll end up loosing the emphasis of having one focal area where contrast is stronger.
Richness of movement.
Artists use movement to enhance the execution and in many instances to help bring the eyes of viewers to the focal point of their piece of art. An artwork with lots of movement is always more noticeable and desirable than a stiff one.
Cubism relied a lot on straight stiff lines, perhaps this is why it lasted so little as a fad. Not too many art viewers or art connoisseurs like the abuse of mechanically executed lines. One artist that used only straight lines was Piet Mondrian. He painted very "stiff" pieces of art, abusing primary colors, but in such a tasteful way that he well earned his spot in the 'Hall of Fame" of Art.
Good Use of texture.
Textures define elements and help achieve contrast. But the misuse of textures can create confusion and even visual unrest. When using textures, an artist must provide flat smooth areas that would serve as a "rest area" to the eyes of viewers. The best "rest areas" are achieved by using areas of pure white. If an artist wants to use 2 areas of texture side by side, it must not be done in a way that they compete with each other, but on the contrary, they should complement each other. This is achieved by using a very rough texture right next to a soft, small textured area or what's best, separate them by a brief area of flat color.
This is not an ability but a talent. It is considered a must talent if you want to emerge as an abstract artist. Even to paint impressionism, the artist must exercise creativity to "recreate" Nature if they want to differentiate their art among the millions of landscapists. When artists paint, they have the right to alter the landscape in front them, to omit or add elements, to enlarge, decrease or distort them as they see fit. It's their piece of art.
The styles that require more creativity are: abstract, surrealism and/or any modern expression of art.
Good Selection of Theme.
Perhaps this is the most controversial and subjective issue in art. While dealing with it, one must be open minded and impartial to all sides.
In many instances, arts are rightfully politicized by artists. I say "rightfully" because artists have the right to express themselves with and through their art. In many instances, they exercise this absolute right, as an escape to his/her political or social beliefs or frustrations. What is not plausible, is to use art to attack the beliefs of others. In America this is considered by some "freedom of speech", others consider it "politically incorrect" border lining with bigotry.
If we visit the top 10 museums in the World, we see that through History, the prevailing Art has been mostly used to capture or recreate the beauty of Nature and not ugliness, to express happiness and not sadness, to show positivism not negativism, freedom and not oppression, love and not hatred.
As mentioned above, this issue is highly subjective, and if you as art buyer feel like politicizing your buy, you have the absolute right to do so as well. Or contrary to this, if you see what in your opinion is tasteless art, simply don't buy it, that's the best message to send to the artist. After all, it's your money and you are the one who's going to see it every day. Go for whatever makes you happiest! But it's always recommended to choose to buy Art for all the reasons of a good execution and not for one reason alone.
Most insurers build their businesses and reputations by acting honestly, so you will not have a problem finding the right one for you. But be wary of some "professional insurers" that sound like sophisticated car salesmen, or those smooth talkers that treat you like if they were your savior. You might end up either over insured or under covered or both.
To get a good appraisal go to an appraiser you already know, or look in the internet under "appraisers associations" and ask one of them to guide you to one of their best members. In theory, a professional appraiser should provide you with an estimate of the value of your art based not on its replacement value but on its potential worth if put up for sale now in its current condition.
Many insurance appraisers charge a percent of the value of the appraisal. Obviously, the higher they appraise your belongings, the higher their bill to you will be and also the costlier will be to insure your belongings. It is in your right to hire an appraiser on your own, even if it is for a second opinion. Perhaps one provided by a reputable Art Gallery or better yet, ask a local Museum to refer you an appraiser.
Review the policy terms and disclaimers, looking closely at the valuation method that the insurer will use to settle your claims. The average homeowners' policies, when they offer coverage, may vastly undervalue your belongings. Rather than getting what you could have realized, you may learn with regret that your policy does not to replace your loss. Remember that the value of a painting for example, can be higher than the price you paid for it, if you bought directly from the artist and he gave you a break, or in the case of Internet buys, you saved the tax payment, while at the time of replacement, you may have to pay sales tax this time around. Examine the policy's fine print and understand what is covered and what is not. Ask as many questions as you think you should. Don't be shy about it.
The insurers of an art gallery of your trust, should be in a position to offer advice on how to protect your collection in order to preserve it from physical deterioration, avoid damage and secure it from theft. You may want to photograph your collection and documenting its value with adequate support of paperwork. Extra precautions can save you money and headaches.
Note. Every two weeks we'll be adding tips and new articles related to "art buying" and/or "starting your art collection". Come back and check'em out.
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