A collage of Andy Warhol's iconic Marilyns. When he started, a lot of people dismissed him as superficial and talentless. Today he is considered one of the top 10 modern/contemporary artists. Back in the 70s and early 80s his works were relative bargains, today most of the good stuff is worth millions of dollars.
When I started buying art over a decade ago, I made a lot of mistakes. I was eager to have some real art on my walls (as opposed to posters or cheap reproductions poorly framed, which tend to hurt a room more than helping it). I did not have much money to invest and I had an untrained eye. I also never thought I was going to become a collector because, back then “collector” sounded too big of a word to me. I also thought the world of galleries, artists and dealers was an impenetrable circle. It occurred to me that perhaps, I might not be able to mix cutting-edge contemporary art with my décor, accessories and lifestyle, and how was I going to ever be able to afford unique and extraordinary works of art by recognized artists? As time went on, though, I learned that I could be an art collector, acquire extraordinary art, integrate it with everything in my home, including the kids. All my assumptions turned out to be completely false.
Damien Hirst's "Butterflies". Critics have equally loved and hated Hirst's art. Some of his pieces are really controversial. I don't love everything he's done but that doesn't mean that I can't appreciate or even buy some of his works. The truth is that his prices skyrocketed defying a lot of predictions.
Today, a lot of my clients come to me because they have made the same mistakes that I did. And they want help, guidance and a trained eye that can offer ideas and solutions without being biased. I’m not the artist, I’m not the gallery that represents the artist, I’m not an auction house and I’m not selling my own stuff to anybody. I certainly have very specific taste, and have developed a coherent art collection including a variety of contemporary art, both from emerging and established artists, ranging from photography to acrylic on wood to oil on canvas to mixed media—all of which manages to work well together. I’m also sensitive to my clients’ preferences, even though our tastes may differ a little (or a lot). In other words, a good piece of art is a good piece of art even if it’s diametrically opposed to my own preferences and whether that piece is worth $1,000 or $1,000,000.
One of the famous appliquéd quilts by one of my favorite artists of all times, Tracey Emin. She isn't as super celebrated in the U.S. as some of the other YBAs (Young British Artists). However, her works are very expensive, often commanding mid-six figures. When she started, her prices were as low as £20 for one of her handwritten letters. That's what I call a bargain!
A common mistake that I have found people commit over and over—purchasing art offered as a “bargain” without really considering how it will it fit with your home, or your style and/or personality. Or if the “bargain” was done without research, and isn’t really such a great deal! Another misconceptions is that a contemporary artist will get his/her glory when he/she dies. Hence, the “bargain” issue of buying something from an artist who is relatively old, hasn’t seen much success while alive, but who knows if, after they die, he or she receives the recognition he/she deserves. I don’t think that will happen so much these days for a variety of reasons. Generally (and please note there are always a few exceptions), great artists are discovered in the earlier phases of their careers when they are young. They get the recognition early on at art school, or are spotted by art curators, or they get signed up by good galleries, or a major collector buys something from them. On top of this, the speed at which information travels these days has nothing to do with the days of Van Gogh. If there’s someone with great talent creating art in a remote corner of the world, someone will almost always notice it.
One of the paintings from Richard Prince's "Nurses" series. They were offered in 2003 for the first time at $50,000 to $60,000. Then in 2007 prices reached over $8 million and after the recession they’ve dropped back to under $3 million. Obviously, the collector who paid $50,000 is delighted that the piece is now worth $3,000,000, but the one who paid $8,000,000 isn't so.
I hope this entry is helpful and prompts some critical thoughts. I will continue with the same topic in the next post!