I know … this has to stop, but other than my mother, who else will do it? If you have not seen it, please take a look at page 72 in the July 2002 issue of Architectural Digest. The people at Wilmington Trust picked up on my tips about ‘buying right’ and used 3 of them in their series entitled: Recognizing Worth.
During the past 18 months I have given you my ideas on what one needs to consider when they want to purchase a work of art. A lot of ground was covered and there is still more to explore. What I have decided to do is to try and summarize many of my thoughts into one – I hope not to long – newsletter. If you want to read a little more about any one topic please look at the earlier posts in our Newsletter Archive.
Before I get to this month’s main course, I will start with:
1. What do you like? – This is the first thing one must determine and is easily accomplished by looking. Visit your local museums, galleries, and art/antique shows. It will not be long before you find something that moves you.
2. You have found something you like, now what? – Research! Start to study the artist and/or period. Read books and talk to dealers who specialize in the area you enjoy. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, dealers love to talk about their chosen field.
3. Learn the market – Know the different artists of the period and have a basic understanding of the different prices levels for them.
4. Buy what you like! – It is important to remember that you, not your friends, are going to live with your purchase. Buy something that not only speaks to you, but something you will enjoy looking at and living with.
5. Where to buy – There are many options: art galleries, private dealers, auctions, shows and directly from artists. Learn the pros and cons of each and decide which are right for you.
6. Know who you are dealing with – Do a little research on the dealers and galleries that specialize in what you like. Make sure they are honest, reputable and have been around for a protracted period of time.
7. Understand what they offer – Discuss your interest with your chosen dealer or dealers. Those who are true experts in their field will have a depth of knowledge that you will have unlimited access to – this is a very important and valuable asset. Keep in mind that not only do most reputable galleries offer their clients the ability to trade in a work of art they bought from them towards another, but most will even allow you to try a work in your home before you make your final commitment.
8. Know the guarantees – Wherever you decide to buy, know what guarantees, if any, they offer.
9. Expertise – You will be well rewarded if you can find those individuals who are considered the true experts in their field and you can establish a relationship with them.
The Main Course
You have determined what you like and have found those dealers you trust - now it is time to decide if the works you are considering are the ‘right ones’ for you! Keep in mind that if you have developed a relationship with the leading dealers in your chosen field, much of what I am about to say has already been taken care of.
1. Authenticity – If you are dealing with an expert in the field this should not be an issue. If you are buying in some other forum, please make sure that the work is ‘real’.
2. Quality – Make sure that the work you are looking at is a ‘good quality’ one.
3. Condition – Make sure the works you are considering are in the best condition possible.
4. Period – It is important to have an idea as to when the work you are looking at was created. Within any one artist’s oeuvre, works from different periods will fall into different price ranges.
5. Canvas size – This is the most important measurement. It is the only way to accurately compare different works by the same artist.
6. Overall size – This is the framed measurement … important when determining if the work will fit in the space you have.
7. Title – A legal term used to describe the ownership of a work of art. You want to make sure that the seller has the legal right to sell the work in question. This is most important when purchasing works through the Internet forum.
8. Provenance – A fancy word for the chain of ownership. While every work of art has a provenance, the provenance of every work is not known. While this is not a ‘must’ – if it is available, why not have it?
9. Signature image/style – What a particular artist became famous for.
10. Size vs. price – There is usually a formula within a given artist’s oeuvre… the larger (to a point) a work is, the more expensive it will be; but there are exceptions to this rule.
Please keep in mind that the art world is a jungle; there are many pitfalls and many people who are after only one thing … your money. Dealing with the wrong people can, and often is, a costly one; one that you may never realize, but one your heirs will.
Have some knowledge in the area of art you enjoy. Question thepeople you are going to deal with and align yourself with those who are considered ‘true’ experts in the field and whom you feel you can trust.
The hunt for the ‘right’ work, or works, should be exciting and rewarding. I know that our greatest joy is finding that ‘long lost work’, that hidden gem, acquiring it and then making it available to others.
If you are careful, take a little time and do some groundwork, in the end you will find that the works of art you acquire will, as my father has often said, “appreciate in value while you appreciate them.”
Howard L. Rehs
Gallery Updates: We are in the process of updating our website. While the look and feel will remain the same, we are converting it to a database site. This upgrade will allow our visitors to search for specific information through the use of keywords. These new changes will not only make it easier for you to retrieve the information you want, but will make your visit even more enjoyable! The upgrade should be completed by the end of July.
Virtual Exhibitions: This month we have added two works to – Rehs Galleries: A Visual History… The first is an important work by the Belgian marine artist Paul Jean Clays (1910 – 1900) titled: Shipping on the Scheldt. This work illustrates why the artist was considered the most important Belgian marine painter of his time. The second is a beautiful painting by Jean F. Chaigneau (1830 – 1906) titled: Le Jardin de l’artiste.
We have also added new sold works to the following exhibits: Sally Swatland, Édouard Cortès, Louis Aston Knight, and Antoine Blanchard.
Next Month: I will begin a new series on How to Care for Your Artwork. Topics will include: Lighting, Daily Maintenance, Cleaning, Effects of Sunlight, etc.