By Laura Jackson
“Life is short, art endures.”–Hippocrates
Why do people buy art? The reasons and ways are as unique as the art we acquire.
In our fast-paced lives of constant change, art still compels viewers to slow down and take notice.
Determining the Value of Art
How much is a piece of art worth? There is no single or easy answer to this age- old question. A recent article by Dan
Zimmerman in Art & Education brings up the sticky question, “Can art have a ‘price’ that is capable of being arrived at by some sort of mathematical formula? How then does art assert its worth in an increasingly globalized world where currency is the most prominent and most understood form of value measurement?”
Although definitely not the typical art collecting scenario, reports of huge sums paid for fine art at the leading auction houses always bring new attention to the dazzling appeal and investment potential of the art market. Great strength and growth in the art market shines bright with the release of such news as Francis Bacon’s 1969 painting being sold for $142.4 million last November at Christie’s, representing the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction to date.
Art funds have also grown in popularity as investors look at this option to diversify their portfolios and take part in an exciting although often volatile art industry. “But even among high profile players, there seems to be a consensus that buying art remains a very personal decision based on much more than investment possibilities,” explains Colby Larsen, owner of Old Towne Gallery and Park City Fine Art.
Research conducted by consulting firm Deloitte and ArtTactic as reported in their Art & Finance Report 2014, shows that emotional value remains the key motivation for art collectors. “Although collecting with an ‘investment view’ has shown continued growth according to their study, the researchers found that only 3% of art collectors say they buy art for investment purposes only. In my experience, collectors always first make a genuine connection to the art,” said Larsen.
Finding Your Match
Buying art has been compared to falling in love. There are times when you can’t completely explain it—but you can feel its mysterious, almost magical magnetic pull. How do you know if it’s a passing flutter of passion, or a piece of art you want to live with every day in your home?
Knowing What You Love
Although buying art can also be an excellent investment, buying art because you love it remains the number one reported reason, by both new and seasoned collectors, to acquire art. But how can you tell if the attraction goes beyond the artwork’s surface?
Maren Bargreen Mullin, owner of Park City’s Gallery MAR, shares her experience in choosing art; “Exposing yourself to art is key, and spending time visiting important galleries and museums will help hone your ability to select artwork. It takes time to get to know what you like and what fits your lifestyle.” There are many ways to gain a better understanding of the art that interests you; “When you can, tour artist’s studios. Ask questions. Spend time with the dealers and experts in your area of interest, and you will find that your collection truly begins with purchasing a piece you’ve fallen in love with,” said Mullin.
“Ethereal and organic in nature, my paintings rest in the pause between movement and stillness, emergence and dissolution, where time may unfold slowly through subtle interplays of color and shifting light.” —Jenn Shifflet, J GO Gallery artist
“I want to capture what I have seen and learned and allow my animals to tell stories of tradition, dreams, symbolism and of coming together.”
—Amy Ringholz, Gallery MAR artist
Asking the Right Questions
Mullin understands the passion behind an art purchase, as well as the importance of knowing what questions to ask, whether it’s regarding pieces for her own
collection or for her gallery, “I know it when I see it! My process is quite subjective, but I always consider a few things before selecting for myself…or the gallery. For example, does the artist have an exhibition history or awards outside of galleries, such as museum shows? Does the artist have a consistent vision and story that extends beyond the canvas or sculpture? Does the work suit a contemporary mountain aesthetic? My collectors are looking for longevity in an artist’s career, and it is my imperative to bring to them work by artists who build their credentials. Many of the artists in my gallery are in my personal collection.”
—Rodd Ambroson, Thomas Anthony Gallery artist
Understanding the Process
Thomas Anthony, owner of Thomas Anthony Gallery, discusses how the process of buying art today has changed, and yet stayed the same as well: “If there is one thing that has altered the way the art world does business universally across the board it is technology. But the art gallery business is not going away because of the Internet and the fact that people can gaze upon the beauty of art at any time of the day or night. The popularity of art has in fact continued to increase.”
Galleries now have new tools that help them better understand the changing interests of their clients. “Technology has not just altered the way collectors can buy art, but also the way galleries can understand and respond to the needs of collectors,” said Thomas.
“While browsing online can be a good starting point, the images that come through on a computer screen often are not an accurate representation of a piece of art,” said Jude Grenney, co-owner of J GO Gallery. “There’s a sensuality and liveliness that only comes through original artwork. If it’s not possible to see the work in person, the best substitute is to build a trusted gallery relationship. We work to understand our clients’ style, their desires and the art needs of their spaces or collections.”
Accessing Gallery Expertise
It’s important for both experienced and new collectors to understand the benefits of working directly with a gallery. “The value of education and exposure to artists that a gallery can provide is incredibly useful. As you’re building a collection, it’s important to understand what you are purchasing; consider the media, the level of craftsmanship and the reputation of the artist and the venue or gallery,” said Grenney.
“When you visit a gallery, the artwork should evoke a positive response. When this happens, you can be confident that the years of experience and art knowledge that determined the collection will benefit you; we have vetted the artwork, you share our aesthetic—it’s a great way to start finding work you will love,” explains Curtis Olsen, co-owner of J GO Gallery. “Our artist repertoire reflects not just our experienced ‘eye’, but our commitment to technical expertise and aesthetic diversity.”
The timeless attraction of art lies in its power to bring its viewers to another place, time or emotion. Speaking a universal, yet completely individual language, it connects viewers to artists and to the world they express.
“A collector and friend recently purchased a work of art for her baby daughter. The painting “White Rabbit” perfectly suits their daughter’s nursery, and will be a gift she will appreciate for the rest of her life,” explains Mullin. “But they are giving her another gift as well: a life-long appreciation for art, a gift that she will develop and explore on her own as she grows up.”
Larsen said: “Many times visitors are just wandering in out of curiosity, but then when they walk into the gallery, they often tell me that they feel like they have stepped into a place representing the beauty of Park City, whether though the spirit of mountain landscapes or wildlife, or even in the warmth
and richness of the art. Sometimes visitors as well as locals, want to bring back a small piece of Park City, and art is something they can truly connect with and keep as a memory.”
“Art has a way of bringing people back to their experiences,” explains Thomas. “Sometimes it represents a way to hold on to that happy place they discovered while on their vacation in Park City, or it may even take them to a more distant memory of childhood. Whatever the case, it’s a way of slowing down and enjoying the beauty of life.”