Friday, May 16, 2008

Sandy Wadlington Reception on May 9, 2008

There were a lot of people in to meet Sandy Wadlington and look at her new work. Fun was had by all!

Talking to the artist.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Insuring Your Art

Homeowner’s policies do not cover art, antiques or jewelry. For these you will need a rider. Depending on what you have purchased, these riders are not too expensive and may offer you piece of mind. Call your agent to find out what they require to purchase a rider and how much it will cost.

The first thing you need to decide is if your art will need to be insured. If something is really valuable I highly encourage you to have it insured. Repairing or replacing something that is costly is more onerous than doing the same for an inexpensive piece. Your homeowner’s policy probably covers many of your items with a “decorative” value. The average homeowner’s policy covers $50,000 for household contents which may cover many pieces. It certainly does for me! I have purchased many pieces of pottery and inexpensive prints for under $300.

You will need an invoice or valuation from a gallery or appraiser to present to your agent in order for a piece to be insured. It will need to have to be an invoice that states the name and contact information of the gallery or appraiser. Some insurers prefer that it be on letterhead. It should state the replacement cost of the piece so you will need to get these prices updated every couple of years to reflect the most current values of your artwork.

I do these valuations for my clients every couple of years, but I am only qualified to state current prices for artists that I represent. For everything else you will need to see an appraiser. I am happy to provide names of qualified appraisers in the area.

Hanging Artwork

So you have purchased a piece of art- Congratulations! If it is a work on paper it will need to be framed in order to preserve and protect it. If it is on canvas or panel, talk with the gallery about protecting the piece and presenting it properly. Some pieces do not require framing and are enhanced by a simple, frameless presentation. We can help you make that choice.

Choosing where your purchase will be hung is an important part of proper presentation. A couple of things need to be considered when hanging art.

The space should be the appropriate size to accommodate the artwork. That means that it should not be crowded with very little wall space around it or have window frames encroaching on it. The opposite can be true too. One of the most common mistakes is to buy lots of small pieces that can make a room feel all chopped up and lacking a focal point. People are intimidated by large paintings. They think they will be too overpowering in a room. A large piece or two will be an anchor for a room and give it a focus. It is best to vary the sizes of the items you purchase. If you are not sure about the large painting in your home, ask to take one home and try it.

Another way to fill a large space is to group several small pieces together. It is important that the pieces relate to each other. This can mean finding a common color, line or theme. One of the easiest solutions is to group several pieces by the same artist- perhaps a series, but finding the connections between different artists and styles can be exciting. They often inform each other and cause people to take a second look.

Another common mistake is to hang artwork too high. In general the focal point of the painting should be at eye level. Another rule of thumb is eyelevel should fall about 2/3 the way up a painting. If I hang pieces next to a desk I will frequently lower them a little so that the person at the desk can enjoy them while sitting.

There are of course exceptions to every rule. One time I hung the artwork for a couple who were both 5 feet tall. Their eye level and my eye level differed by almost a foot! I adjusted the height of everything accordingly. I have also seen someone’s home where large pieces were crowded by the small rooms and low ceilings. It was a charming space which reflected the owner’s taste. Remember that ultimately it needs to look good and not strain someone’s neck to view.

Prints and Reproductions

A confusing issue for art buyers is the term “print.” It can be used to refer to a reproduction and to a fine art print.

A reproduction is a copy of an original piece of art. Even though a print has an artist’s signature does not mean that it is an original. The signature could have been reproduced from the original!

A fine art print is the original art. The artist will create an image on a plate or block (matrix), which will be inked. The image is then transferred to a piece of paper. These prints can be in editions as small as 1 (monoprint) and up to 250-300, although most range in the 50-125 size. Because these prints can be produced as multiples, they are frequently less expensive than paintings. The price will be based on both the artist’s reputation and the size of the edition. On occasion an artist will use a master printer to print their work. There are many reasons for this. The printing process can be physically difficult or the technical nature of a print requires a very skilled hand to bring the artist’s vision to fruition.

A new process for reproduction has further muddied the waters. Giclees (pronounced zhee-clay) are produced on very high quality ink jet printers from very high resolution images of the original artwork. Because the image is on a computer it gives the artist much greater control over the colors than any other reproduction process. This process is expensive as reproductions go, but gives buyers an in-between price point on an artist’s work without forgoing on quality. These are frequently hand signed by the artist, but are nevertheless a reproduction.There are a number of photographers and digital artists who use the giclee process to print original works. These are originals and not reproductions as the originals exist on computers until they are printed. The giclee process is perfectly suited to their mediums.

How Do You Collect Art?

Another reason that many people never start an art collection is that it can seem so overwhelming. So much to learn! One way to limit what you have to look at it is to only collect a certain style, medium or geographical region. Some of my clients will only collect New Hampshire or Maine artists. Some like to focus on just prints or only living artists. Others are only interested in abstracts. This is one way to really give your collection focus. It is also a way to become very knowledgeable about a certain segment of the art world. One of my favorite collectors focuses on prints and ceramics. His collection is prodigious- as is his knowledge. He is able to keep abreast of everything new in the print world and frequently teaches me a lot about it.

Go to shows at galleries. You can see a lot of work by an individual artist. If you go to the opening you will have a chance to meet the artist and ask them about their process. Don’t expect to always like what the gallery is showing, but you are exposed to it and are allowed to make up your own mind. Disagreeing about the merits of different art allows you to view and collect within a context. I often find that people will start off saying they don’t like something and then, over time, warm up to it.

Once you have decided that it is time to start purchasing, let the gallery know what you want to see. Tell them your budget and style constraints. They should be willing to pull out a number of pieces for you to view. Don’t be afraid to let them know how you feel about the work. That sort of guidance helps them to bring out more appropriate work.

Most galleries will allow you to take a piece home on approval. They may ask for a credit card number if you are not a regular customer. If you like a piece ask the gallery person if this is an option.

You are going to see a real range of prices in a gallery. Generally an artist can charge more for their work if there is a high demand for it or if they are a more established and respected artist. Don’t hesitate to ask if there seems to be a discrepancy between quality and price. The gallery should be able to explain it satisfactorily. It usually boils down to the fact that an artist’s work has sold consistently at that price.

Once you have purchased a piece of artwork, the gallery should provide you with information on the artist- perhaps a bio and artist statement. They should also provide you with, at the very least, an invoice stating what you have purchased and for how much. You will need this for insurance purchases (more on this later.) Often times galleries will provide a certificate of authenticity as if it guarantees that you have purchased a real piece of art. I find certificates of authenticity pretentious and serve only to bolster the purchaser’s confidence in what they have just bought. The only real guarantee is to purchase from a trusted gallery.

Where Do You Collect Art?

Many people are intimidated by the thought of entering a gallery or are concerned that there will be an admission fee. Commercial galleries have no admission fee as a museum does. They make their money by selling the artwork to people, but you are under no obligation to purchase something because you have walked through the front door.

In most galleries you will probably be allowed to wander through on your own. This is a great way for you to be come familiar with a gallery’s artists. If you see something you like, be sure to ask if there is more. There are often many pieces which are stored. After you have visited several galleries you will find that certain ones appeal to you more than others. Galleries are mostly owned by individuals who have a distinct personality, which is reflected in the art that they offer. Make sure that you get on their mailing lists so that you will be notified of all upcoming shows.

There are also ample opportunities to buy art at art schools, artists’ open houses, art auctions and even eBay. One of my customers only buys from second hand shops. He has a wonderful eye and picks up some quality pieces for very little money. He then frames them in top notch frames to make the pieces look really special. When you purchase art from people you are not familiar with be sure to ask very specific questions about condition- especially if they are framed which might mask condition problems. I have seen many pieces purchased sight unseen, which then have to go to the conservator to be repaired from being improperly handled or framed.

The only places I do not recommend purchasing art are on a cruise ship. These sales take place far from home when people are not thinking clearly- they are often extremely relaxed as they are on vacation or have had too much to drink. Resist! Your defenses are down and it is a spur of the moment, impulse purchase often driven more for a desire for a memento of the trip than a love of the art. Save your money and buy a snow-globe.

Once you have found a couple of galleries that you like, try to visit them frequently. Things change often- new artists are brought in, shows change regularly. It is also a good way to establish a relationship with a gallery and to learn more about their artists. Once they know what you like they will probably contact you when something of interest comes in- giving you first choice.

Why Do you Collect Art?

I often hear people say that they cannot afford to purchase art, but this frequently means that they are frightened of showing that they don’t know anything about it. The learning and discovery is, to me, the most thrilling aspect of collecting art. It is an opportunity to hone your eye and expand your horizons. For many years I enjoyed wine but felt that I could never learn about “good wine.” I felt it was beyond my experience and abilities. At some point in my life I decided to try experimenting. There are some wine shops I feel comfortable going in to and describing what I like and asking for recommendations. I state my budget and my tastes. I have learned a lot- I will even occasionally drink a rose! Art can be like this too. You will find that there is some affordable and good art to be had if you start looking and asking questions.

Some gallery salespeople may try to tell you that art is an investment. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. There are a lot of factors that go into investment grade- or blue chip art. Your primary reason for purchasing art should be for the enjoyment of the piece. It should give you pleasure for years to come. Unlike cars or clothing, it will never rust or go out of style. If you still insist on buying art that could potentially hold its value- look at the artist’s resume. Are they in good collections? Museum Collections? These are indicators that an artist might go the distance, but this should be considered a fortuitous bit of luck- often times realized only by your children or grand children.

Collecting art doesn’t just benefit you; it benefits artists and galleries too. I like to think of a purchase as a direct grant to an artist. Through your purchase you are saying that you think their work is good and worth pursuing. The money keeps that artist in rent and food so that they can continue to create more art. This is the main reason that McGowan Fine Art is committed to showing the work of living, regional artists.

Purchasing art also helps to keep your favorite galleries open, giving you an opportunity to view lots of different work. Commercial galleries do not receive government funding or have boards to raise funds, so they thrive or falter depending on how much support they get from people coming through their doors. So not only are you doing all this good work- you also get a beautiful piece of art to hang on your walls!

My favorite reason to collect art is that I love it and I love how it looks in my home. It is an opportunity to express my tastes and make an individual statement. One of the best compliments someone ever paid me was “your home looks like you.” My home offers me rest and relaxation – and the art is a big part of that feeling. I try to instill that spirit in others when they are purchasing art for their home. They should really love the piece and it should make them happy when they look at it.

Another very personal take on collecting art can be read about at Art Register.