Part 3. Five Myths About Buying Art
I’ve talked to many folks who have misconceptions around buying art. In this article I hope to dispel at least a few of these myths. Buying art can be a perplexing and stressful process to the uninitiated. After reading this article and the accompanying linked blog post you’ll be able to consider yourself "initiated". If you haven't already read the first two articles in the series, please click the link below to get started!
Myth #1 .....
Only Rich People Buy Art
This idea is a hold over from when artists had patrons who were popes, princes and noblemen. The myth continues to be propagated by elite art galleries that prefer their clients have lots of money so that they can charge them whopping heaps of cash to acquire the latest hyped artist’s work. It’s true that usually this type of art is bought for investment purposes, and yes it is typically bought by people with deep pockets.
However there are other types of art available and places to buy that art that are more in keeping with the average person's budget and taste.That being said there are still general rules on art pricing. For example an original painting will always cost more than an art print from the same artist, and limited edition art prints will cost more than open editions (no limit to the number of prints, endlessly reproduced).
When purchasing original paintings, I’m sure you will agree that the artist must be paid a proper price for having created the work. This price can be based on many factors: where you buy the painting, the artist’s experience, the complexity and uniqueness of the artwork, the amount of skill and time gone into executing the painting, plus the ever changing variable, ‘what’s the market prepared to pay?'
Given all those factors there are still original paintings that are within the price range of the average person. For original art, early career artists will typically charge less than more established artists. Smaller works tend to cost less. Sketches will cost less than paintings, but they’re a good place to start if you seriously want to take up art collecting with more than a decorator’s eye but don’t quite have the budget for fully realized originals.
For many people the sweet spot between your eyes and wallet is art prints. Art Prints are affordable and something you can proudly display in your home as decorative art. Choosing images that you love will enhance your enjoyment of your home and therein lies the true value of art prints! If you want to know more about why art has value in your home, check out this blog post.
Myth #2 .....
You Can Only Buy Art From an Art Gallery
Suffice it to say this myth is patently untrue. I wrote a blog post that lists various places to buy art including online venues (see link at the bottom of this myth).
Before the advent of the internet when information was at a premium and people tended to think locally, if you wanted to buy artwork you would go to a place that sold artwork, usually the closest art gallery.
Stepping into an art gallery those people with limited financial means would quickly turn and walk out again. Art galleries typically have a mark-up of 40-50% and sometimes even higher. So a painting that might have been affordable if purchased directly from the artist becomes well out of reach when the gallery doubles the price for retail.
There are now many different types of art galleries catering to different types of clientele tastes, and budgets. I've had my artwork shown in very lovely local art galleries, who are more like art boutiques than galleries. They try to carry artworks in a variety of sizes, prices and mediums to suit customers different needs and tastes. The artworks in these galleries are intended for a more decorative or gift market. On the other side of the street, the more elite galleries still cater to those who want investment art pieces, either for private collectors or corporate collections.
Myth #3 .....
All Art Appreciates In Value
It would be lovely if this was true, but I’m sorry to say not all artwork will appreciate in dollar value. People buy art for different reasons, the same way that artists make art for different reasons.
A conceptual artwork in a public gallery will be on a completely different monetary valuation scale than lets say a wonderful landscape you bought at the art fair last summer. That’s fine. The intentions with these artworks are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
The average person looking to buy art for their home should not worry about future monetary value considerations but instead concentrate on whether or not looking at the particular piece of artwork everyday will make them happy and make their house feel more like a home.
Below is a link to a video that I found on facebook that lays out a very interesting, albeit conspiracy minded theory of the value of modern art.
Myth #4 .....
You Need A University Degree to Understand Art
While it would be nice (but sort of strange) if everyone had a degree in art, it’s not needed to understand many types of art.
As I’ve said, art is made for many different reasons: some high brow, some low brow, some for fun and a celebration of the joy of life, and some to convey deep and sometimes dark personal inner expression. An art degree may help with understanding the high brow, as this tends to be self referential post modern artworks based on an awareness of the history of art. However many other types of art will speak to you purely on a personal emotional level.
When approaching a work of art, come with an open mind .What is your first impression of the piece? How does it make you feel? What colors are used; warm and happy or cold and blue? What is the subject matter? Do you find looking at it pleasing or unsettling? Your first visceral impressions will be the truest, before your brain has had a chance to pipe up and analyze it.
Looking at art in a public gallery will demand a different level of understanding than looking at art in the gallery shop. That is why public galleries provide guides to explain the wide ranging types of art in the gallery’s collection. You probably don’t need to worry about the ins and outs of buying undecipherable art, but instead stick to art that speaks to you on an emotional level. Secret be known, with the high brow art, a lot of meaning gets imposed on a work after the fact, independent of the artist’s original intention. That is part of the game of seeming "in the know"; a commercial gallery’s trick of adding value if the work is perceived as complicated and aloof.
Long story short, art is what YOU think it is.
Mona Lisa- by Leonardo DaVinci (minus graduation cap)
Myth #5 .....
If I Buy The 'Wrong' Art People Will Think I Am Weird
Art is a confidence game. Both making it, and buying it. The key is in trusting your own instincts as to what is good and what isn’t.
Did the artist successfully convey the vision or emotion that originally spurred the creation of that work of art? You would hope the artist would know, but as an artist I can tell you that it’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s only on reflection that you look back at a work of art you’ve created and think ’wow that sort of sucks’. That’s how you develop as an artist. You have to make a certain number of 'sucky' paintings before you figure out how to make ones you feel are successful.
When buying art you need the same sort of confidence in your own taste to trust what you like and don’t like. Your taste may change over time and that’s to be expected. The secret is to buy what you like right now. Let ‘future you’ worry about your ‘future art collection’. And don’t let judgmental friends or family get you down.
As long as you are happy with what you have on your walls, have the confidence to say ‘forget you’ when faced with any negative or condescending comments, and go on enjoying your little slice of art heaven!!