A subscriber wrote, “Do you ever hear from collectors asking if you’d like to buy back a painting? Do you ever buy back? There are paintings I wish I’d never sold — I feel they are my best and I should have kept them. If given the chance to buy them back, I would. What do you think?”
Thanks. The few rare reasons to buy back your own work, if your pockets are deep enough, include to destroy, to resell, or to luxuriously amass a personal, private, perfectly curated legacy. For artists long in the tooth, the more pressing reason has been to protect pricing when the secondary market starts to bulge. Alex Katz, who bought back 21 paintings from his collector Charles Saatchi when Saatchi announced he wanted to dump them en masse, cheerfully later re-sold a portion of the lot, piece-meal, for top dollar. “I wanted them back, and it was a good use of capital,” said Katz. Known for destroying thousands of early paintings while searching for his style and now able to personally uphold his work’s quality and value, Katz merely enjoyed the extravagance of participating in his own market.
For the rest of us, studio buy-backs are an impractical financial and possibly creative, even spiritual, back-eddy. For an artist, paintings should flow in one direction — out into the world to live and die by their charm and street-smarts. If the now unwanted artwork was purchased from a gallery, the collector has the option to consign, auction or donate. If bought from the artist’s studio, the artist and collector may agree to a future trade. For collectors, while offering first right of refusal to the artist is often seen as a courtesy, it’s rarely constructive for her to buy back while she’s still actively engaged in the daily act of creation. While her oeuvre to date is a legacy of development, experience, craft-building, history, toil and connection, she must believe that her best work is unrealized and ahead.
PS: “You have to be a little scared of what you’re doing. Otherwise, you just paint the same masterpiece a little worse.” (Alex Katz)
Esoterica: “Guaranteed for life” was a philosophy my dad practiced and passed along to me. This guarantee came in the form of extending a connection to the work by going beyond what’s expected. A small gesture of inviting work back into the studio for cleaning or repairs, regardless of age or condition, confirms your own self-belief and affords lifelong quality control. A quiet, rare trade-in can convert a mercurial collector into a career-spanning friend. If you’re lucky enough to hit the stratosphere and wrestle with a bulk-buying, bulk-dumping Saatchi-type, when you find yourself cornered into single-handedly upholding your own market, just follow the practical philosophy of Alex. Make good use of your fortune, keeping in mind that your best work is yet to come. If you don’t believe your best work is ahead of you, you’re probably finished.
“I like to make an image that is so simple you can’t avoid it, and so complicated you can’t figure it out.” (Alex Katz)
Relax, explore, paint and shop! Join Victoria wildlife artist, Richard Wong on a privately hosted Pacific Coastal Cruise from Vancouver, BC. And experience the magic of watercolour on Japanese art paper. Richard, a full-time professional painter, will guide you on a wildlife themed journey onboard the eloquent Star Princess. You will learn how to create vibrant, attractive watercolour images from a unique blend of Asian and Western ways of making art. Stops include Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey and San Francisco.
Richard organized this west coast trip to include everyone: friends and families, painters and non-painters; in partnership with Expedia CruiseShipCenters (Victoria, BC office only, Tracey Ball, (250) 381-7447/toll free 1-800-668-8122). Choose from two options: “Paint & Cruise” (from $1,820 CAD/double occupancy/interior, includes all taxes, port fees, and 4 two hour classes with art supplies); OR “Cruise Only” (from $1,670 CAD/double occupancy/interior, includes all taxes, port fees).
You can learn more about Richard through his website: http://richardwongwatercolors.ca
Contacts: either Richard Wong or Tracey Ball per the above.