Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Confessions of an "Artoholic"

Bose Krishnamachari, a self proclaimed "artoholic," was born in India in 1963. His work (see image, left) has been included in various international solo and group exhibitions. He is also praised for his curatorial skills and possesses an impressive personal art collection. In a recent interview, Krishnamachari discusses collecting art and what his collection means to him.

The artist says he collects art in order to archive time and history and as an artist, to understand the life, times and works of fellow artists. He calls his collection, "A dead investment, but a wealth of knowledge."
In responding to a question about the Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst works he owns, he applauds Warhol's clear understanding of the era in which he created his pop-art and states that Warhol's works reflect a celebration of film, fashion, design, music and media. Additionally, Krishnamachari celebrates Hirst's "Dot" Series (which has gained much negative criticism), claiming the works mark a major phase in the life and works of the artist, who Krishnamachari refers to as "a legend who supported his own contemporaries by collecting, curating and exhibiting."

To read more about the famed artist / collector and his entire interview, click here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Velazquez and Sargent: Like Peanut Butter and Jelly

John Singer Sargent's "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit" and Velazquez's "Las Meninas" can arguably be called two of the all-time greatest paintings illustrating themes of childhood and innocence. While they share this honorable title, the inherently linked American (Sargent) and Spanish (Velazquez) paintings have never before been displayed in the same museum (much yet the same collection, side-by-side).

However, that's about to change, as Boston's Museum of Fine Arts has generously agreed to loan "Las Meninas" to Madrid's Museo del Prado. The paintings will temporarily hang next to each other (something Sargent would be honored and delighted to see, as Velazquez's "Las Meninas" acted as the main source of inspiration for "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit," painted in 1882).

While Malcolm Rogers, the MFA's British-born director, says it is a "big sacrifice" to loan out Sargent's painting (which is one of the museum's most important and treasured paintings), he is also excited about the display and hopes the Prado will reciprocate.

It will also be interesting to see if the MFA's loan opens the gateway to a unique cross-cultural collaboration between the two museums.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Contemporary Art Collectors Stay Close to Home

While contemporary art collectors' tastes are multifarious, and the locales they visit to purchase art vary, there is one aspect of art collecting that many collectors have recently agreed upon: the desire to buy local art. This trend - due in most part to the economic downturn of the past year - is a worldwide occurrence.

In a recent article from the Wall Street Journal, Gary Wasserman, a major collector and Detroit steel company executive says he's stopped buying work from English and Chinese artists (like he previously had). Instead, he has decided to focus on buying "powerfully Midwestern" art.

Italian art collector Pierpaolo Barzan agrees, saying,

"I believe that I can put together a much stronger collection, and make an impact in the art world, by collecting local artists rather than trying to find the next Chinese star"

In addition to supporting local artists and strengthening local economies, the trend of buying locally has allowed art collectors to cut-back on expensive art-buying trips to international destinations.
Likewise, auction houses and galleries are noticing the shift and have made the appropriate changes. As Grett Gorvy, Christie's international co-head of postwar and contemporary art notes,

...the company decided to shift Chinese pieces to sales in Hong Kong. "There's been a reluctance in the U.S. and Europe for these works but the appetite is still strong in Hong Kong and Taiwan..." The New York sales for both houses also include no Indian artists, with the exception of Mr. Kapoor, who was born in Mumbai. Mr. Gorvy says top examples of Indian art were scarce this time around. Instead, both houses [Christie's and Sotheby's] have packed their catalogs with works that traditionally appeal to U.S. buyers, like Alexander Calder, Jasper Johns and Joan Mitchell.

The new direction of art collecting could prove to be extremely positive for artists in smaller U.S. cities (like Atlanta, Austin and Detroit) that have typically been overlooked by the art world. While some collectors are hesitant to stay local, many like that works by primarily regionally-known artists are cheaper (than those of international artists) and collectors may also feel a personal connection to artists who live and work close by.

To read the full article from the Wall Street Journal, click here.
Above images courtesy of the Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

When Collecting is Worth It

While art collectors typically collect because they love art, those who collect with the hopes of gaining wealth may want to re-think their investments. According to recent academic studies, long-run returns tend to be lower for art collectibles than for stocks and bonds.

An article from the NY Times discusses the positive and negative aspects of collecting art. The article states,

If you acquire expertise in a particular area, ideally one shown to hold its value over the years, you can enjoy a pastime that is personally and culturally enriching. It still may not be as financially enriching as other activities, but you stand a good chance of making better deals than many other collectors — or at least you can avoid being played for a chump.

The very feature that makes items worth collecting — scarcity verging on uniqueness — is what makes them problematic as investments. It is hard, almost by definition, to determine the value of a one-of-a-kind, or few-of-a-kind, item.

This shortcoming is amplified by the likelihood that the interests of amateur and professional collectors are often in conflict. In stocks and bonds, by contrast, portfolio managers do better for themselves when they do better for you.

The article dispenses advice on how to be a successful collector and suggests dealing at an auction or hiring an advisor.

On a positive note, the article suggests that in-demand items (rare items and those of high quality) are always in demand, and that being able to look at valuable pieces of art may outweigh some of the monetary cons.

Certain artists tend to be “tried-and-true wealth holders,” Ms. Gyorgy said, including Old Masters, Impressionists and Abstract Expressionists like Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.
Their work is out of most investors’ price ranges, of course, and there is no assurance that they will outperform conventional, lower-maintenance assets. But there is one advantage that artworks and some other collectibles have over stocks and bonds: You can look at them.

This consumption value, as academics and specialists in collectibles call it, is what makes them desirable and valuable in the first place, and it accrues to their owners for as long as they possess them. That is why collectors are urged to focus on art appreciation, not capital appreciation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mad Cow Addiction

While perusing the web today, I came across a rather interesting story concerning art collecting. When I was growing up, a neighbor lady collected cows, and I'm not talking about a few tchotchkes here or there. She had virtually every inch of her house covered in paintings, figurines, tapestries, etc. Well, it seems like Derrill Osborn could give her a run for her money...

From the Associated Press:

When it came to collecting, former Neiman Marcus fashion executive Derrill Osborn had a singular focus: cows.

From paintings featuring bovine roaming wide open spaces to small toy cows to Staffordshire ceramic figures of the animals, Osborn collected them all. And after about half a century of collecting, the 70-year-old has decided to part with his herd in an auction Wednesday evening featuring about 350 items.

"I decided I would just give it up and auction it off," he said.

His collection made for a dramatic interior in his two-bedroom town house. The home's walls lined with green billiard cloth and wood accents painted a red enamel, his paintings hung from floor to ceiling and his cow-related objects were spread throughout.

"It was a little too much, but it was fantastic," said Osborn, dressed finely in a three-piece suit, his eyes sparkling behind round-rimmed glasses.

The auction also will feature a few non-bovine items including a Victorian croquet set and several items of furniture.

But the cows are the stars. Osborn, who grew up on a New Mexico ranch, said the spark for the collection came when he was a young boy and his great-grandfather whittled a cow from wood for him — an item not in the auction. And even though Osborn left that ranch for a 40-year career in fashion that took him around the globe, items featuring cows still caught his eye as he wandered through antiques stores from Milan to London.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beautiful art collection in Canada

Now most of us don't have the capacity to acquire a museum-quality art collection, but sometimes it's just nice to appreciate what can be done by a group of people when they are given the right amount of money, great taste, and a love for really amazing art.

From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome at the National Gallery of Canada explores the work of such amazing artists as El Greco, Titian, and Michelangelo. The show was curated by Dr. David Franklin, an expert in the Italian Renaissance.

The exhibition reflects two levels of "collecting art" - (1) The acquiring of the National Gallery of these works and (2) the history of papal commissions and collections during the Renaissance.

The show will be continuing through September 30.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Repost from Apartment Therapy

I often, and I mean often, guiltily peruse the pages of one of my favorite sites, ApartmentTherapy. So it makes me really happy when there is a post that relates to the art world and I don't feel so bad for wasting time. It seems like more and more recently there have been some good art-related entries. Recently there was an entry entitled "Art Resource Roundup: Framers, Galleries & Online Sources" that seemed to perfect to not insert here. Allison Marvin sat down and spoke with the Washington Post about her best advice for art collectors - where to find art, where to frame, local D.C. art resources, etc. Click here for the post.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lehman brothers collection to go on the block

Lehman Brothers, the global financial firm, will be auctioning off much of their corporate art collection on November 1. 650 lots will go on the block at Freeman's, and is said to be worth $1 million.

A Louis Lozowick lithograph depicting a crew repairing the Brooklyn Bridge os expected to fetch $7,000 to $10,000.

"It's a very contemporary collection," Freeman's marketing director Tom McCabe said this week. So far, Freeman's is the only auction house to have gotten part of the Lehman action, he said.

Freeman's got the consignment because of its reputation in the field of corporate artwork.

"Freeman's was able to offer Lehman Brothers an exceptional place to sell and market the first part of their art collection," Paul Roberts, president of Freeman's Auctioneers, said in the release. "Over the last 10 years, we have made selling corporate collections one of our specialties."

Freeman's is still accepting consignments for the sale, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Nov. 1. So far, the top item is a 1959 limited-edition Picasso linocut, Femme Accoudee, which has a presale estimate of $50,000 to $80,000, according to a flier for the sale.

- David Iams for the Philadelphia Inquirer

Monday, August 24, 2009

Is Government and art really such a bad thing?

I just read Jonathan Jones' recent rant over at the Guardian and I must say I'm a little annoyed. He criticizes the British government's art collection and the choices that it has made. £500,000 of taxpayers' money was used to collect contemporary art last year, and many of the choices have upset people, including a work by Dan Batchelor which involves the use of old light bulbs and wire.

Part of me commends the Telegraph (the original publisher of the report on the government's art spending) and Jones for questioning the quality and enormous cost of the collection. Questioning is essential to any good democracy and should always be encouraged. However, their flagrant disapproval of the work of Batchelor - describing it as though it is almost a piece of trash - is so unbelievably hypocritical. They want works of "high quality" to be purchased, and don't believe the government should be wasting money on silly work like Batchelor's, yet praise the work of Lucian Freud. Who are they to say that Batchelor's work will be any less significant than the work of Freud in 50, or 100 years, or is at this very moment. I almost couldn't believe what I was reading - I felt like I we must have regressed to a time before Modernism hit us... and gasp!!! postmodern art --- eek! yuck!

They also are riled up at the mere idea that the government is spending such enormous amounts of money on art in a time of economic turmoil. Maybe if governments throughout the world would spend even more money on the arts, then we would have more well-rounded societies and economies. Art investment - at the "high level" like through auctions & galleries... and on the "low" level like public education for our children - is essential to the growth and success of our nations. But feel free to question me... I encourage it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ms. Bell

I recently came across a great profile of an art collector in the Times. Patricia Bell is a senior vice president with Merrill Lynch, but her home offers an incredible view into a contemporary art collection, with works by Chuck Close, Tom Nussbaum, and Yinka Shonibare. Her story reminds me why so many of us fall in love with this maddening addiction known as "collecting art".

From the article:

Ms. Bell is the kind of collector artists dream of.

“When an artwork comes into my home I feel as though I’ve made a connection to the soul of the artist,” said Ms. Bell, who clearly gets it — the struggle, challenge and intellectual rigor that goes into the creation of a work of art.

According to Ms. Bell, “there are lots of different ways to tell history, but art is one of the most interesting ways to keep track of what’s going on.”

She began collecting in 1989 and is largely self-taught in contemporary art and art history, although she has benefited from the advice and knowledge of others.

“Beginners should get out and look, keep an open mind and listen to experts,” Ms. Bell advised, adding that museum docents are a great resource who are often overlooked. “They’re passionate about art and can provide important background and insights into artists and their work, whether you’re just looking or looking with the intention of collecting.”

Monday, August 10, 2009

Attenborough art collection up for sale

The director and actor Sir Richard Attenborough has decided to put his art collection up for sale. Attenborough, who directed Ghandi (1982), said "that he felt that after 60 years collecting art it was time to pass the works on for others to enjoy."

Sotheby's will auction the work on November 11 and it is expected to fetch upwards of 2 million GBP.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sad, sad day

I was just going to leave it with a retweet - "RT@MutualArt - sad day for art - DC collector's house burns, along with the art inside - http://su.pr/2fnz10" - but it seemed like I should spend a few more minutes on this tragic story...

The home of D.C. art collector Peggy Cooper Cafritz burned last week, along with her very large and significant collection of work by minority artists. It shocked to read about it - no amount of money will be able to replace the work or mend Cafritz's heart after this devastation. See below to see before and after images of the incredible home:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Simply the best - art collectors

Few of us have billions, or even millions to invest in our art collections. Most of us are lucky to have some works by local artists and maybe a few extraordinary pieces. However, there is a rare breed out there who chooses to not just invest their bags of money in houses, luxury yachts, and cars - but in really great art.

I came across a really great slideshow from Forbes that lists the world's top billionaire art collectors, including Eli Broad, Francois Pinault, and members of the Lauder family.

click here to see the slideshow and see one example below:

Steven Cohen

Art collection: $750 million

Hedge fund titan has been a prolific buyer of art, said to have spent upward of $500 million in recent years. He paid David Geffen a record $137 million for a de Kooning, a month after having paid him $63.5 million for another de Kooning. He agreed to pay $139 million for a Picasso, but the sale fell apart after seller Stephen Wynn put his elbow through the painting. Also owns Damien's Hirst's 13-foot shark (pictured); encased in formaldehyde, it reportedly rotted and was replaced. His SAC Capital bought a stake in Sotheby's auction house earlier this year.

Monday, July 20, 2009


If your art collection consists of your 3-year-old's finger paintings, then your art collection organizational tools probably consist of the front of your refrigerator, the trash bin, and perhaps a cardboard box... for the really good ones.

However, if you are seriously collecting art, then it is important to keep track of your collection with something other than paper and pen - after all, we are living in the digital age now.

Coming to our rescue are art collection management systems! Designed to keep track of sales, purchases, leads, reports, and much more, software systems like these can be tailored to your needs. There are a lot of them out there, some are free and online, while some of the more advanced systems cost a little more. Below are some links:

ArtSystems - a pretty advanced system for galleries and larger collections

ArtBase - excellent - many NYC galleries use this

My Art Collection - a little less sophisticated but good for smaller collections

Monday, July 13, 2009

Craig Robins' residency program

Today I'm going to shift focus just a little bit...

One of the great things about being an avid art collector is getting to know artists. Not only do art collectors meet gallerists, museum directors, and other art world insiders, but collectors often become close with the artists they collect. That love for art and artists, combined with an often larger than life checkbook can actually be used for something quite good...

Craig Robins, an American art collector (and man behind Art Basel Miami Beach), has envisioned and is supporting a very large art residency in Miami (through the University of Miami). Every two years, 25 international artists would take part in the program, which hopes to be very non-traditional and is estimated to cost $7 million for the first 3 years.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Yale & Conservation

Today I was posting at another blog of mine about one of my favorite art museums (the Yale University Art Gallery) and realized that their current exhibition focuses on one of my favorite topics I cover on this blog. I have recently been posting about the importance of conservation and the ethics surrounding it (here and here), and think this is a show that I definitely have to get up there to see.

Yale University Art Gallery
New Haven, CT
through September 6, 2009
This exhibition offers a rare opportunity to explore the process of fine-arts conservation, uncovering the relationship between curators and conservators and the objects entrusted to their care. Each of the works in the exhibition illustrates a different conservation dilemma. The passage of time impacts not only the physical state of an object but also the techniques used to preserve it. Time Will Tell examines the evolving science of conservation and the questions that arise in preserving works of art while staying faithful to the artists’ intentions.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Eli Broad's Basel Bash

Last week, one of the world's richest art collectors, Eli Broad, and his wife, hosted an extravagant party in honor of this year's Art Basel. The event took place in their California home, which could easily be mistaken for a contemporary art museum or gallery, with their extensive art collection. The Broads' collection is astonishing, and guests mingled and ate, all the while surrounded by some of the best art made over the past 50 years.

W Magazine wrote about the party:
Almost everything about a recent dinner at Eli Broad’s Los Angeles home in honor of the 40th anniversary of Art Basel was outsize, starting with the estate itself. Visitors approached the mansion—designed in part by Frank Gehry—through a private sculpture park, then entered a sitting room the size of a hotel lobby before descending a stairway into a series of double-height galleries. “This is bigger than the Gagosian Gallery,” said fashion-world fixture Richard Buckley as he arrived at the first subterranean white cube, with its cranelike Calder sculpture and pair of giant Chuck Close portraits. A moment later Ann Philbin, director of UCLA’s Hammer Museum, summed up the installation with a wry understatement: “Not bad,” she said, in a tone that meant something more like, Can you believe? ...

keep reading the W Magazine story about the Broad Basel party

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Herb and Dorothy Vogel

If you are an art collector, an artist, or an enthusiast, you have got to love the story of Herb and Dorothy Vogel - very unlikely, but very important art collectors.

Self described art lovers, they married in 1962. After Herb's brief stint as an artist (and a painting student at NYU), they moved on to modest careers and to collecting art. The couple decided to live on Dorothy's salary as a librarian, and to use Herb's salary from the U.S. Postal Service to buy works of art.

The Vogels' collection amassed to over 4000 pieces during the course of 40 years. They kept much of it in their rent-controlled, one bedroom apartment, covering the walls, floors, furniture, etc. with as much art as possible.

The Vogels plan to donate 2500 works from their collection to public institutions - 50 works to each 50 states.

Click here to see the NY Daily News article on the Vogel art collection

More information about Megumi Sasaki's documentary HERB & DOROTHY

Monday, June 8, 2009

Basel Art Fairs

As art collectors, art fairs can be some of the best places to acquire new work. Art fairs are typically large indoor events defined by the "booths" that each gallery/venue represents. The booths are stocked with some of the best work from the gallery's roster, and can be particularly good places to find contemporary and emerging art.

Later this week, Basel, Switzerland will be hosting a slew of fairs surrounding Art Basel, including Liste, VOLTA, Scope, to name a few. What happens with sales there this year will be an interesting marker to gauge the current state of the art market.

Click here for a list of art fairs in Basel this year.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Interview with conservator Christian Scheidemann

Earlier this week I posted about the conservation studio Contemporary Conservation. While looking through the archives over at Cabinet Magazine's website, I stumbled across a 2001 interview with the studio's founder and head, Christian Scheidemann. Here he discusses the special challenges associated with caring for the odd materials contemporary artists use - hence the name of the article - "Conserving Latex and Liverwurst".

Scheidemann provides some really great insight into the theory and philosophy of restoration - like who makes decisions on how to restore something, perhaps some works were meant to just decay, and the Code of Ethics. Plus, there are some good little stories and anecdotes about famous artists like Matthew Barney and Paul McCarthy.

here's a peek at the interview:

We once spoke about the time you had to preserve a giant pound cake produced by Matthew Barney. Can you tell me more about that experience?

Yes, indeed, it was right after Documenta IX (1992) in Kassel. Matthew phoned me to ask if I could bake a big pound cake in the shape of an extended pill (Hubris Pill). His cake, which he showed in the instal-lation OTTO-Shaft, had been destroyed by rats in the parking garage, which was the site of the installation. It took us about one year to find a bakery that was willing to let us experiment with paste in their work space. Finally, we found a solution, a tech-nique to build up a pound cake in the mold Matthew had sent. The problem was that either the inside was still raw after an hour of baking time or the outside started to turn black after 90 minutes. So we made a construction with wire mesh containing a void inside and it worked. Eventually, the grease had to be extracted with chemicals and the space of the grease had to be replaced by synthetics. We had acquired the necessary experience earlier with the conservation of Robert Gober's doughnuts.

Do you feel that there are some works that are simply meant to be ephemeral (for instance, leftovers from Fluxus events, certain works by conceptual artists, or props used in performances)? Or should these objects be maintained as historical documents?

Richard Tuttle once stated in a conversation with me that all his works were meant to go with the wind. He said he would never care about his materials and he liked the idea that his objects were so lightweight that they would just fly away and disappear like a cloud in the sky. However, when looking at his elaborate production of artist's books, I cannot take this statement seriously. During the early days of their careers, most artists do not really care about the materials they use; they are not meant to last forever. As interest increases from collectors and museums, they often care very much about proper materials and techniques. This, however, runs the risk of losing all the charm of fragility and ingenuity...

click here to keep reading the full interview with Gregory Williams and Christian Scheidemann

Monday, June 1, 2009

Contemporary Conservation

A few weeks ago I posted about the importance of conservation with your collection. Contemporary Conservation Ltd. is perhaps the finest place for - you guessed it - the conservation of contemporary art. The studio was founded by Christian Scheidemann in 1983 in Hamburg, and moved to New York in 2002. They specialize in the odd and non-traditional materials that contemporary (and particularly American) artists tend to use.

The studio has an unbelievably impressive list of clients that can back them up, so if you're willing to go to the best - go to Contemporary Conservation.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Robert Hughes vs. Alberto Mugrabi

The following video has been making the rounds lately through the blogosphere. Art critic Robert Hughes sits down and talks to mega-collector Alberto Mugrabi about the Mugrabi family collection - and the conversation gets a little heated and a lot ugly. Part of me understands both of their perspectives. Robert Hughes argues that collectors have an unfair way of determining the popularity and validity of certain art and artists. Mugrabi stands behind his choices (namely, Warhol and Richard Prince), as important bricklayers for the paths of future artists. By the end of the video I feel very upset, but what I can take from watching this is that as a collector, you must be informed about the artists and ultimately, really believe in and love your investments.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Open studios

There are many different avenues one can take to collect art. You can buy at auction, from galleries, from other collectors, or directly from the artist. If you are interested in contemporary art, or emerging artists, a good way to buy work is through open studios. Often, artist communities or neighborhoods host open studios days, where a groups of artist open up their studios for public view, and more often than not, they are looking to sell their work. Check your local newspapers, or search online - usually these open studios are well publicized. Also, most art schools have open studio days - so if you're looking for emerging work - a good M.F.A. program could be your best bet at finding some great stuff.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spring Auction Results

As an art collector, it can be very important to stay abreast of all possible information concerning the art market - especially if you are actively buying or selling work.

All eyes were on Christie's and Sotheby's this past week for their big Spring Post-War and Contemporary Auctions.

Read this article from the Wall Street Journal, or for the auction results, see below:

Christie's Post War and Contemporary Evening Sale

Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Monday, May 11, 2009


In 1991, Dubrovnik, a fairytale fortress of Titians, Renaissance palaces and lemon-scented cloisters, was shelled by Serb and Montenegrin forces. Appalled by the siege of a city described by Lord Byron as the "pearl of the Adriatic", the international community sprung into action.

Unesco, the United Nations organisation responsible for education, science and culture, called meetings, co-ordinated fundraising, and mobilised armies of experts. Not long after the dust of war had settled on scores of razed buildings, Croatia began restoration work. In a matter of a few years, Dubrovnik, designated as a World Heritage Site in 1979, rose from the ashes......

read more

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Art Conservation

Art restoration is a highly touchy subject these days. There are varying philosophies on conservation and restoration, and general guidelines hardly apply to the vast majority of artworks. How to care for and prevent damage is of utmost importance, but what happens when a piece no longer resembles it's condition at the point of creation. How far should we go to preserve objects that, to be honest, will degrade no matter what we do?

In 2005, a report by the Heritage Preservation, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a U.S. federal agency, came out, entitled A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America’s Collections, It concluded that immediate action is needed to prevent the loss of 190 million artifacts that are in need of conservation treatment. The report made four recommendations:
  • Institutions must give priority to providing safe conditions for the collections they hold in trust.
  • Every collecting institution must develop an emergency plan to protect its collections and train staff to carry it out.
  • Every institution must assign responsibility for caring for collections to members of its staff.
  • Individuals at all levels of government and in the private sector must assume responsibility for providing the support that will allow these collections to survive [10]

Monday, May 4, 2009

Reading material

A few weeks ago I wrote about two books on the topic of collecting contemporary art. Any good collector should have a good deal of knowledge (and should want to know) of the art market. Just like any good investor, it is important for a collector to stay abreast of current news, as well as understand the all of the questions behind what makes the art market work. Like a little economics book about our interest:

Understanding International Art Markets and Management
by Iain Robertson

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Upcoming Art Fairs

One of the best things you can do as a collector is understand what kind of art you enjoy.  Your collection, however small or big, or as cohesive or disparate the individual works may be, is something you will be spending a lot of time and money investing in.  Art fairs are a great way to see a lot of art in a short amount of time.  Instead of going from gallery to gallery, or waiting for your desired lot to come up in an auction, you can peruse booths at the fairs.  Below are a few upcoming fairs of note:

Art Chicago
May 1 - 4, 2009
The International Fine Art Fair (New York)
May 1 - 5, 2009  
Hong Kong International Art Fair (China)  - see image below
May 14 - 17, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Museum Collector Groups

Joining a museum collector group is a great way to get closer to the art world and the community where you live. These groups provide a greater understanding of the museum, curators and the art they exhibit. Some museum groups are by invitation and others are open to collectors for a fee.

Here is a list of some of the best museum groups in NY. You can contact them to find out more about joining and the associated fees.

Young Collectors Council
Patrons Circle
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue
NY, NY 10128

Junior Associates
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019

Whitney's Young Collector Group
The Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street
NY, NY 10021

NYC Collectors Club
George Eastman House
900 East Ave
Rochester, NY 14607
1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street,
New York, NY 10036

Contemporary Art Council
Brooklyn Museum
Department of Contemporary Art,
Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway,
Brooklyn, NY 11238-6052

Focus Group
International Center of Photography
1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street,
New York, NY 100

Friday, April 17, 2009

ArtBabble website

A staff member at the Indianapolis Museum of Art explains the ArtBabble Web site. Tom Strattman for The New York Times.

Lately, I have been posting information about resources that help collectors organize and enjoy the work they own. If you are like me, you want as much information as possible from artists, curators, dealers, and others in the art world.

I have always enjoyed speaking with artists and curators to gain a deeper understanding of the work I collect or just to get to know the people behind the art. As of this week, there is a new place to go for videos about art and artists.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art just launched ArtBabble.org, a website that offers videos from sources such as Smithsonian American Art Museum, the New York Public Library, and the Museum of Modern Art. The site is not only geared towards collectors, but makes the voice of the art world accessible and clear to all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Collector's blog

Every collector has a story and I just came across a blog that compiles these stories about some of the world's top collectors. Every week a new collector is featured, bringing insight into what, why and how they collect. I find it inspiring.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Website for Art collectors

These days a lot of the art business happens online - it’s the fastest and most efficient way to find information on your own.

I was recently invited to join a new art website that brings all the important art information together in one place. It’s called MutualArt.com and includes a huge archive of articles from top publications, auction results from leading auction houses, as well as information on artists, museums and galleries around the world.

The unique aspect of the site is that it is a personalized service. This means that members set their preferences and receive updates based on these interests. There is an illustrated newsletter that comes out every week and includes news headlines and important events happening in my area.

The site has a great selection of articles about collecting art and includes a vast database of places to research and buy art.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Books About Collecting Art

There are two books I’ve come across that are great resources for new or established art collectors.

The first one is called Collecting Contemporary and is written by collector Adam Lindemann. It includes art market information and interviews with the biggest players in the contemporary art world. It covers everything you need to know about buying contemporary art, while explaining the protocol for buying art on the primary and secondary market. The book is beautifully illustrated with artworks by some of today's top artists.

The bulk of the book is made up of interviews with collectors, curators, critics, auction professionals and art consultants. The insider interviews include in depth conversations with Jeffrey Deitch, Barbara Gladstone, Thea Westreich, Peter Brant, Eli Broad, Francois Pinault, Phillipe de Pury and Glenn Lowry, among others. The book ends with a glossary of very helpful art market terms.

The second book is Great Collectors of Our Time, a major survey of contemporary collecting and collectors. It examines many of the greatest collectors living today in Europe, North America and the Far East, and follows their tastes - whether in the Old Masters or the avant garde - from the 20th century into the 21st.

This original and far-reaching survey features many collectors who have spoken about their collections here for the first time. Magnificently illustrated throughout, with favourite images often selected by the owners themselves, this book will appeal to anyone interested in art and in the extraordinary people who collect it. The author, James Stourton, is Chairman of Sotheby's UK.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Understanding the Art Market

Understanding the art market is really tricky since its one of the last unregulated markets. There doesn't seem to be any rhythm or reason to it. Here is what powerhouse art dealer Larry Gagosian says about it.

”The art market is actually not a market. It is too small to qualify as a market. And even if it could be understand as a market, it is unique in itself. No clear price comparison mechanism exists. For example, the ’art market’ does not adhere to the basic theory of ’supply and demand’. When prices drop in the art market, this is not a sign of increased demand, but rather, a sign that demand is decreasing. So, it must be understood that this means: dropping prices, even lower demand,” Larry Gagosian said during an interview with Adam Lindemann, an author and art collector.

Writer Donald Kuspit believes "that the irrational exuberance of the contemporary art market is about the breeding of money, not the fertility of art, and that commercially precious works of art have become the organ grinder's monkeys of money. They exist to increase the generative value and staying power of money -- the power of money to breed money, to fertilize itself -- not the value and staying power of art."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Collection Management System

Collectors should have basic information and documentation for each artwork in their collection. Documentation should be kept current and stored in a safe place. It is best to keep your collection records in both paper and digital format. There are several collection management software programs available, though if you are just starting a collection or have a small collection you may find it just as efficient to use Excel or a similar database system.

Documenting your collection helps with the following:
• insurance claims
• restoration
• ownership records
• accurate representation in publications
• tracking museum or gallery loans

Using an appropriate database system, enter the following data for each artwork:
• artist
• title
• subject
• date
• material
• measurements
• signature placement
• markings or inscriptions
• a short description or personal story that relates to the object

Documentation of purchase, condition report, invoices, provenance and appraisals are also important to keep. Excellent visual records are essential, and many galleries and collectors use both transparencies and digital media to document their inventory. Documentation should span from entire artworks to detailed close-ups. It is recommended to hire a professional art photographer to document your collection. They can bring the proper lighting and photography equipment to your home. Galleries may also supply visual documentation upon request.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Art Storage

Depending on the scope of your art collection and available storage space, you can store your art at home or offsite at a professional art storage facility. The most important factors when storing art are protection and preservation. Storing art in a clean, safe, fire proof and temperature controlled environment can prevent accumulation of mold, moisture, fading, tarnish, abrasion or other damage.

If you store work at home, designate a secure, clean and closed off area for the artwork. It is best to have strong shelves and a padded surface off the ground on which art can be placed. Heavier work should be placed closer to the ground. Organize your storage by artist, media or size. If you are storing work in a portfolio case or on a shelf, secure work between two pieces of foam-core or cardboard and store
the work flat.

If your art collection is being stored for a long period of time or if you do not have the available space, an off site art storage facility is a great option.

Criteria for choosing an off-site storage facility:
• 24/7 security system, fire resistive structure
• climate control
• dedicated storage vaults with 24 hour turnkey access
• monitored, restricted and documented access to the facility
• private vaults for collectors requiring a higher level of security and
• personal inspection of the facility

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shipping Art

The selection of a shipping company is typically determined by deadlines and budget. As a rule, insure artwork for its full value either through the shipping company or art insurance company and opt for the shortest delivery time possible. General services, such as FedEx or DHL have fine art shipping services, as well as a variety of specialty fine art shippers.

Professional fine art shippers are the safest shipping option because they only transport artwork and use trucks that are specially designed to transport art. They also have staff trained in art handling procedures and can offer assistance with insurance, courier services, carnets, documentation, and unpacking.

When choosing a fine art shipper, look for one that offers the following:
• customized security
• temperature controlled transport
• in house pickup/delivery
• shuttle services between major cities

When shipping overseas, it's important to realize that practices differ between countries and duties and taxes are the responsibility of the owner of the artwork.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Packing Artwork

Packing artwork properly is essential to preventing it from water, moisture, mold, abrasion, and overall damage to the work. You may determine the correct packing method based on where and how the work will be transported and how often the package will be opened in transit. If you have any hesitations with packing the work, hire a professional art handler to safely pack and crate the work for you.

If you decide to pack work on your own, here are some guidelines:
• cover the artwork with a soft, acid-free material, such as glassine
• wrap the work in bubble wrap or foam padding (make sure that the corners of the artwork or frame are protected with extra padding)
• secure the bubble wrap with packing tape
• find a box that is the correct size, shape and strength to hold the work
• pad the bottom of the box with packing peanuts, place the artwork inside and add more packing peanuts to fill the box
• secure the box with packing tape
• label the box "Fragile"

When packing works on paper:
• separate each sheet of paper and wrap it entirely in glassine
• secure glassine with archival tape (be careful not to get tape on the artwork)
• place two or three layers of cardboard on both sides of the artwork to prevent any sort of bending
• tape around the outside of the cardboard pieces so they stay together

To prevent works on paper from moving around within the cardboard, you can make glassine "triangles":
• fold a sheet of paper into a triangle that has one open end
• place a triangle on all four ends of the print or drawing
• tape only the triangles to the cardboard
• leave a lip of tape on the triangles, so they are easier to remove
• place each triangle on an edge of the artwork, then tape each triangle to the cardboard
• place the taped up cardboard between two pieces of corrugated cardboard
• tape all sides securely
• pack it into a mirror pack or cardboard box to prevent any type of bending during transit

At times photographs can be rolled, wrapped in glassine and bubble wrap, and placed in a tube. However, it is best to ship all works on paper or prints flat. Rolling them can cause creases and irreversible damage.

Crating is recommended for all long distance travel or for transporting fragile or vulnerable artworks. An art handler or art shipping company can provide an estimate and suggest the best crating method based on transit details. Crates should be constructed to support the work, protect the artwork from impact, maintain a sealed environment, protect against water and sometimes provide handles for moving.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cleaning Your Art

It's a good idea to clean artwork once every two weeks, as dirt makes the surfaces of artwork look dull and can cause deterioration. To be safe, handle artwork while wearing cloth gloves to avoid getting fingerprints or dirt on the surface of work. Do not apply
cleaning solutions, solvents, sprays, or insecticides near or directly to any work of art. Use canned air or a soft natural-bristle brush to clean sculptures and paintings.

For plexiglas frames, the surface should be cleaned with a plastic cleaner, not commercial glass cleaner. Use a non-abrasive cloth and first spray the plastic cleaner on the cloth before you clean the surface. Do not use paper towels because they will cause scratches and leave a residue on the surface.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Installing Artwork in Your Home

Art is extremely fragile and must be handled and installed with great care and sensitivity. The most common cause of damage to artwork happens when it is handled.

When you have art in your home, it is helpful to have the following on hand to move and install work:
• a pair of cloth gloves (also called photographer gloves)
• masking tape
• hammer
• level
• drill
• measuring tape
• step ladder
• hangers

It is important to know the exact material of the artwork in order to handle it properly and prevent damage. Always handle artwork with cloth gloves to prevent fingerprints or dirt from touching the work. You can find these gloves at a photography or art supply store.

Although hanging small works of art yourself may appear easy, hiring a professional installer can solve many problems. A professional can offer unique solutions as to where and how to place the work without damaging the walls or floor.

If you choose to hang artwork yourself, it is a good idea to first visualize the arrangement of your collection on paper or digitally. Steer clear of hanging work in areas such as kitchens or bathrooms or near air conditioners, vents, fans and windows. Note that sunlight, humidity and high temperatures can damage artwork.

Start by placing the larger work or work that has special requirements. Typically, large works can stand alone and smaller works that relate to each other in subject or color look better clustered together. While deciding on placement of the work, take the furniture and configuration of the room into consideration. Traditionally, two-dimensional artwork is hung at eye level so its center is about 5 feet from the floor. Sculpture can be presented on a pedestal or directly on the floor depending on what the artist intended, the size and material of the work. Once you are comfortable with the general layout, have someone else hold the work in place and delineate the corners of the artwork on the wall or floor with masking tape to define and view its placement.

For two- dimensional work, be sure to choose the appropriate hangers based on the composition of the wall and the weight of the artwork. Two hooks or d-rings can be used for most two-dimensional works. Take a look at the back of the artwork and determine the correct placement of the hangers. To accurately place the hooks on the wall, pull the hanging wire towards the top of the frame in two spots with the same distance from the top. Measure the distance from the top and the horizontal distance between the two spots. The farther apart the hangers are placed, the closer the frame will be to the wall. Translate these measurements to the wall making sure the hangers are level and gently tap them into the wall with a hammer. Afterwards, place the work onto the wall and make sure it is level.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


All drawings, paintings on paper, prints or photographs that are not in storage should be framed to protect the work from direct sunlight, humidity, moisture, dust and heat. The frame should complement and enhance the work rather than overpowering it. Consult with a professional framer to choose the appropriate frame and assure that the art will be preserved in its original condition. Request archival acid-free material when framing artwork to prevent work from fading and deteriorating.

Frames usually contain a mat that aids in protection and presentation. Mats made of matboard provide a barrier from the airborne pollutants, moisture, acids and other damaging impurities that can impact the life of the framed piece. The two most common techniques for matting artwork are float mounting and over matting. Float mounting presents the work so the artwork “floats” on top of the mat with the edges of the paper exposed. Over matting presents the work under a mat so the edges are totally covered and the work is viewable through a cut window. This method adds depth and texture to the appearance of the framed artwork.

UV coated Plexiglas or UV coated glass is recommended for the frame to protect the work from sunlight. Plexiglas is more popular, because it is lightweight and safer to ship and handle.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Donating art to a museum

Every museum has it's own policy regarding donations. However, they usually review possible donations on an ongoing basis. If the work you would like to donate seems appropriate for the museum's collection, contact the chief curator of the correct curatorial department. The museum will need to see high quality documentation of the artwork, the artist's resume and additional materials such as reviews and catalogues. When meeting with curators, tell them why you would like to donate to their collection and specify any special requests for the work.

When a museum accepts donated art, the work becomes part of the museum's "permanent collection." As the permanent collection is a continuously changing body of work, the donated work may only stay in the collection for as long as the museum curators deem it appropriate for the collection as a whole.

Museums tend to favor unrestricted donations, allowing curators to have complete control over the art. If you have restrictions, such as that the art never be sold, that it be shown within a certain time period or that it should be reproduced in catalogues in a certain way, specify them to the curator. The more important the art, the better the chances that restrictions will be honored. Donating art to a museum raises the profile of the artist and value of the artwork. Art dealers often give priority to collectors who promise to donate work to museum collections.

Make sure you understand the tax implications when you make a donation. A tax accountant or preparer can explain tax benefits to you and assist in filing appropriate tax forms.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Networking in the Art World

The art world is a very social environment that includes a diverse group of individuals who come together because they love art. Relationships between artists, curators, collectors and writers are built on professional interests but often move into the social realm. Art openings, collector groups and studio visits are important networking opportunities for collectors to build relationships and share information with gallerists, artists and other collectors.

Museum Groups
In addition to general memberships, most museums have affiliate groups that encourage members to be active participants at the museum and support the museum's programs. These programs help members gain a deeper appreciation of a specific area in the museum and foster relationships with curators and other museum members with similar interests. Programs include lectures, behind-the-scenes tours, invitations to museum openings, trips to public and private collections, collecting seminars, presentations by artists, curators or writers and other educational and social functions. There are usually annual dues associated with these special interest groups that range from $100 to $5,000. Sometimes membership is by invitation only. Members of these groups often help shape the museum through contributions to curatorial departments and programs.

Gallery openings are generally free, open to the public and offer collectors a great opportunity to be among the first viewers of an art exhibition. Here you can meet featured artists, friends of the gallery and other art enthusiasts in a casual and social environment.

Studio visits
Studio visits are an important way to meet and talk with artists in their own surroundings. Gallerists and art consultants can arrange studio visits for interested collectors. Museums, non-profits and other community art organizations also arrange open studio tours for groups of people to visit several studios during one tour. Lastly, artist residency programs often invite the public to visit the artist studios.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Selling art through an auction house

If you have work you would like to sell at an auction house, contact the specialist that deals with the type of work you are selling. Submit photographs of the artwork and information such as artist, title, size, medium, date and provenance so the specialist can evaluate the work. Auction houses give free estimates to establish the auction value.

If the work is accepted, the auction house will recommend an appropriate season and venue. You will need to fill out a consignment agreement that states the terms of the sale, the reserve price and the commission details. The work then needs to go to the auction house for cataloging and photography.

The charges associated with selling at auction are shipping, framing, buyer’s premium and commissions, illustration fee for reproduction in catalogues, insurance charges and possible buy back charges. Sellers pay the auction house a commission that is deducted, along with any expenses, from the hammer price.

Shortly after the sale, a sale’s result form will be sent to you with information regarding the final sales price, the seller's commission and other charges that were agreed upon. Payment should be received within 35 days of the sale. However, the seller’s payment is subject to the buyer's payment being received. It is sometimes possible for a seller to achieve better prices when selling at auction. Other times, the work may not sell at all.

Regardless of whether or not the auction house successfully sells your work at auction, the auction house still takes the associated fees.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Selling art at a gallery

If you own artwork and would like to sell it at a gallery, call the appropriate gallery to see if they are interested in what you are offering. If they express interest, submit photographs of the artwork and information including artist, title, size, medium, date, provenance and price.

If you do not know the fair market price for the work, the gallerist can help you. The seller needs to make sure that the work is "retail ready" before it enters the gallery. The gallery will usually cover costs for promotion, documentation, insurance, shipping and presentation.

The options for selling are an immediate sale or consignment sale. In an immediate sale the work is paid for upfront by the gallery. With work on consignment, a consignment form is issued stating the commission terms and agreement. A seller's commission typically ranges from 20-30% of the sale price and is paid to the seller shortly after the sale of the work. Consignment contracts generally run from 6 months to a year and are renewable by mutual consent.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Buying art at an auction

Auctions are exciting live events where you can buy some of the most desirable work on the market and witness record-breaking sales. Anyone who wins the bidding process can acquire work at auction, making the process more democratic than buying through a gallery.

The basic steps to buying at auction are researching, registering, bidding, paying and obtaining your item. Catalogues of upcoming auctions are available a few weeks prior to a sale, and you can call and request a copy. As works at auction are bought "as is," visit the preview to inspect the work and evaluate it up close. Specialists from the auction house can assist you before or during an auction with information about the artwork such as its condition and provenance.

To register, auction houses request bidders to submit official identification and basic financial information in order to qualify to bid. You may bid in-person, through an agent, written bid, absentee bid or telephone bid.

A bid is considered a legal and binding commitment to purchase artwork. If you want to bid in person, you will need to register for a paddle in advance. The paddle is numbered to identify you to the auctioneer. To place a bid, simply raise your paddle until the auctioneer acknowledges you. Auctioneers are very good at noticing paddle movements in the crowd; therefore, waving a paddle furiously to get their attention is not necessary. Since auctions are live events, you have very limited time to make your decision to buy. A bid is placed against another in increments decided by the auctioneer until a final bid wins. Pay close attention while bidding as to not over-bid.

At auction, artworks are given a low and high estimate based on previous auction records of comparable works. Artworks are subject to a reserve, which is a confidential minimum price below which a consignor will not sell the work. Works that do not make the reserve are considered "bought in." The purchase price to the buyer is the hammer price plus a buyer's premium and any applicable sales tax. Therefore, the price that you buy the work for at the auction is increased by around 20%.

After a successful bid, go to the accounting department at the auction house to make payment arrangements. You may pay in person or by invoice via mail. After payment has cleared, you may pick up artwork from the auction house or arrange for it to be shipped at your expense.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Buying art at a gallery

Gallerists are passionate about the art they exhibit and spend much of their time discussing the significance and the context in which the artwork is situated. Getting to know a gallerist and supporting many artists from the same gallery over a long period of time can foster closer relationships and may result in gaining access to more desirable art.

Although galleries may be intimidating, if you are interested in a particular work, do not hesitate to speak to the sales associate and find out as much information as possible about the artist. There is usually a binder with the artist’s resume, press releases and articles at the reception area of the gallery.

If you do not see a price list, feel free to ask for one. Price lists contain information about price, name, media, size and date of artwork. A red dot next to the price indicates that the work has been sold. A half of red dot or green dot means that the work is on hold.

In a gallery, the price of an artwork is established based on the career level of the artist, production costs and the market demand for the work. Generally, work that is in greater demand commands a higher price. Due to the fast-paced nature of the art business, pricing and availability of artwork is subject to change at any time. Although there are no time restraints when buying at a gallery, confirm your interest as soon as you make a decision in case another client is interested.

After you decide to make a purchase, the gallery will issue you an invoice. A gallery invoice reflects the price of the work, shipping charges and any applicable sales tax. Sales tax varies based on location. Some galleries offer payment plans, and it is perfectly acceptable to ask about return and exchange policies. Never assume that a price is negotiable since some art dealers give discounts and others do not. For example, dealers rarely give discounts on work that is in high demand. For more available work, discounts of 10% are common, and sometimes a 15 – 20% discount is given to an existing client or a client who buys several works at one time.

If you are buying a work that is part of an exhibition, it is customary for the work to remain at the gallery until the exhibition closes. You may pick up artwork from the gallery or have it shipped, usually at your expense.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Where to buy fine art

Building your collection with reputable art professionals whom you trust is essential. Below are the art industry standards:

Art Advisors/ Art Consultants
Art consultants help collectors develop their personal taste and collecting focus. They maintain close relationships with galleries and auction houses and help collectors gain access to important work they may not have access to otherwise. At times, they administer private deals where artwork is traded privately. They do not hold inventory and generally work on commission or have a set fee.

Art Fairs
International art fairs are very popular venues to view the international art market, buy art and meet the experts. Most major cities have one or more fairs featuring hundreds of galleries from around the world at one location. Art fairs are similar to large conventions where visitors network and deals are made on-site and at after-parties around the clock. If you are going to a fair with the intent to buy, be sure to collect information about art that interests you as you move throughout the fair and be prepared to make quick decisions.

Auction Houses
Auction houses host public sales where artwork is sold to the highest bidder. Auctions are free and open to the public. There is no obligation to bid when you attend the auction.

Galleries are privately run exhibition spaces that are free and open to the public. The services that galleries provide range from exhibitions, education, publications, curatorial advice, appraisals, sales and resales.

Non-Profit Spaces
Non-profit galleries have various missions and offer artists the resources and space to mount exhibitions that are typically more experimental than those found in commercial galleries. Although sales are not the primary focus of non-profits, acquiring work from an exhibition is certainly possible. Non-profits often host annual auction benefits, which provide collectors with a great opportunity to buy work, sometimes at very affordable prices.

Online Venues
Online venues bring buyers and sellers together through the internet. The internet has greatly expanded the volume and accelerated the speed at which the art market now moves. Artists, galleries and auction houses have become more accessible making proximity less important. Even though you can buy work online, try to view the work in person before making a final decision. If this is not possible, ask about buying the work upon approval for a specified period of time.

Private Art Dealers
Private art dealers offer similar services as galleries except for the fact that they work from non-public spaces and do not present exhibitions. They are usually open by appointment only.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

First Steps To Collecting Art

The first steps to collecting fine art are defining your taste and understanding the art market. To become familiar with a wide range of venues and artwork, visit a variety of art galleries, artist studios, art fairs, auction houses and museum exhibitions. Stay informed of the major developments in the international art world through art magazines, catalogues, books and online resources. Although researching takes time, it is instrumental to making informed decisions as to what, when and where to buy.

Some important items to keep in mind as you look at art is the quality, authenticity, condition, provenance and value of artwork, as well as exhibition, press and sales history of artists. The credentials and history of galleries and auction houses should also be considered. Most importantly, art collectors should build a trusting relationship with art dealers while buying work that will make them happy for a long time.