Buying Art

by Pamela Hughes

Previously, I wrote about the art of framing.  Now, after spending a few weeks searching the art markets for clients, it seems appropriate to write about the selection and purchasing of art.

The phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” is never as true as it is with art.  Even educated and totally knowledgeable art critics can have different views on a particular piece of art.

Sometimes art is selected because the viewer sees it as pleasant, calming, beautiful, technically well-produced, shocking, avant-garde, valuable, or as a good investment for resale.  All of this art can be “good”, if it is simply selected due to personal preference or intent.

Generally, the person who is new to art will select a piece that is pleasant or beautiful.  They may not know the techniques used or even care; they just like the art for its decorative value.  This is wonderful – art should be a part of everyone’s life whether one is an art expert or not.

Some collectors like avant-garde art which can often be outrageous, sometimes arousing, or simply something new.  Some of this avant-garde art is not understood by either the novice or the professional.  But it is a new expression and often offers us a new way of looking at something mundane or “everyday”.  New expression is good.  Often it leads to greater and more accomplished expression.

This point is easy to illustrate especially with the contemporary art of the sixties and seventies.  Lots of canvases were painted, some just all white or of another color, and lots of stripes (The Washington Color School) or splatters of paint (a la Jackson Pollock and Clifford Still).  It is easy to say, “I could have done that,” and lots of us could have.  But, the artists did it first, and by doing it first, got credit for starting the trend, helping us see things in a new way.

Then there is intellectual art, which can easily fall into the avant-garde category.  Intellectual art is a thoughtful and deep manifestation by the artist which some people can comprehend and others cannot.  Often, it is understood by studying or knowing the artist, so one can appreciate the elements of the art and what the artist is trying to convey.

In the upper echelons of art, technique becomes more important.  Old Masters are celebrated because of breakthroughs in technique or style for their era.  For instance, Vermeer used light in a new way, Renoir was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style, and Picasso is known for his founding role in the Cubist movement.

There is endless advice on why and how to buy art.  Some people believe that art gains value when it changes hands, so there is the investment angle.  Others say to buy art that challenges you, buy what makes you feel good or buy from artists you admire or know. 

My advice is: buy the best art you can afford for whatever your strategy or for whatever your reasoning happens to be. 

Buying art, and having art, enhances your daily life, supports the community of artists and art dealers, and opens up your world.  And artists are fun and interesting people!

The next time there is an art opening, take advantage of this wonderful social, intellectual, and eye-opening experience.  Go and enjoy!

Visit studios, open the lines of communication with artists and dealers, and get involved.  It is great fun, stimulating and who knows!  Maybe you’ll come home with the next Picasso or Renoir!

Hughes Design Associates