Visiting last night with one of my really wealthy friends and wandering once more among his many art acquisitions, including a few I’d not seen before, I was once more catching the drift of his habits. He insisted on telling me how much he’d paid for this and that. They seemed big prices for big mediocrity from big names. That’s only my opinion — apart from his bad art, he’s got some of mine too, so I didn’t say a word. He also told me he’d flipped a few, “even in this bad market.”
My friend fits the profile of many collectors. They’re in it for the game, the name and the fame. Investment is a factor. As well, many collected works are bequeathed to museums where a tax receipt gives year-end relief to the wealthy donor. For some reason, all of my collector friends who fit this profile are men.
Recent studies are showing a sea change in earning power and discretionary spending. In the USA, among couples where both partners work, 40% of the women now earn more than the men. The stats on university attendance are also telling. Sixty percent of students enrolled in higher education are now women. If present trends continue, in twenty-five years women will outnumber men in medicine and law. Physics, engineering and professorships will not be far behind. In studies of families where the male still maintained a higher income than his spouse, discretionary spending decisions are nearly equal. On the other hand, in families where the wife’s income is higher, it’s the female who makes most of the big decisions. The persistent scenario, frightening to some of the blokes, is that CEO mom goes shopping after work while dad is home feeding crackers to the kids and watching Barney.
And what particular art are these rich gals buying? In my observation, they’re not so much interested in the game, name or fame. In the last few years I’ve not heard one single active female art buyer utter the word “investment.” They’re more interested in connection, shared experience, life enhancement, tailored quality, nest-and-nurture, soul-polishing, and yes, décor and colour-coordination. Funnily, while women do more measuring than men, big size is not so important. I would be really interested in what gallery owners have to say about this, but women seem often to be making art decisions based on lofty ideals, genuine emotions and high sensibilities. Is it that women have better values than men? More imagination? Better taste? More sense? Or is it just less testosterone?
PS: “Women are asking what privileges their own breadwinning buys.” (Liza Mundy)
Esoterica: In what I call FABE (the Female Art Buying Explosion), women have less hesitancy in collecting women artists. This may be partly because female-run and female-owned galleries have risen dramatically. In the years I’ve been painting, the percentage of female artists in galleries has slowly crept up. A few galleries now represent more women than men. Considering female artists outnumber male artists 80/20, there is still a way to go.
Thrilling sea change
by Naida Hyde, Victoria, BC, Canada
The sea change you write about thrills me. Not before its time! A few years ago I went to a high-end gallery in Yorkville, Toronto to see one of my favourite artist’s shows. As I am a woman, I was invisible to the owner who paid no attention to me, not even greeting me. I only buy art that speaks to my soul. One painting, more expensive than I could really afford, did want to leave that soul-less place and come home with me. And so, we are living happily ever after, together. Thanks, Robert, for your marvelous, thought-provoking letters.
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Good enough reasons
by Daniela Andersen, Sydney, Australia
Just as your letter was seriously leaving me depressed and empty with all the stuff that leaves me seriously unimpressed and empty like “the name and the fame,” “high profile,” “investment art,” “CEO,” you inform us that women are coming into their own and buying: “connection, shared experience, life enhancement, tailored quality, nest-and-nurture, soul-polishing” — thank God, a balm to the soul this news is, and good enough reasons to keep working.
Criteria for buying
by Chris Blom, Benson, AZ and Monterey County, CA, USA
As a female collector myself, with multiple female friends who also collect art, I can say we buy art based on 2 criteria:
1. Do I love it? And, incidentally, different pieces may be loved for different reasons.
2. Does it enhance my house? Because after all, a room is just a larger-scale work of art itself and anything put in it must contribute to its aesthetic. I would only buy art without reference to its setting if I had a neutral gallery space in the home that had no identity of its own. And wouldn’t that be a nice thing to have?
I don’t particularly care whether the artist is a “name” and as a matter of fact I get particular pleasure buying from a little-known artist whose work I love.
Women are women — by nature
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA
This is an interesting, though foreseeable phenomenon. We have to look at this from a distant perspective to understand what is happening.
Men, traditionally being the bread winners as well as the movers and shakers in the formation of society and industry, saw art as just one more ‘commodity’ to be traded. They treated art as another item in which to make money, if any money were there to be made.
Art is and has always been an effeminate pursuit regardless of the fact so many men dominated the field. But this can be attributed only to the fact that men once ruled the world — albeit through force and domination. Because art it isn’t coffee or mercantile goods or nails and hammers — tangible items necessary for sustaining life — it was one more item to be bought and sold to gain wealth. It would be safe to assume bankers and Industrialists never bought or sold art for its esthetics. It was commerce with little or no intrinsic emotional or spiritual content.
Women on the other hand — and by nature — are more in touch with their emotions and tend to attach emotion to art objects, and it would stand to reason they would approach art less as commerce and more for the esthetic and emotional qualities present within.
Given the opportunity, such as we find today; where economic freedom is leveling the playing field, women are exercising their personal feelings when it comes to art. They see what was there all the time in its ability to nurture, appease, appeal, comfort, inform and move people; to elevate ones conscience and moral value; to instruct without preaching. In effect, to transport us to places real life cannot.
I don’t believe their choices are a result of economic freedom but were always there. Women, by nature, are women no matter their ability to have money and power. It is becoming more apparent now that women are taking more control of not only their lives but life in general where it also concerns humanity. They can and are making personal art choices openly separate from what men would do. I believe they would have made these same personal choices if they had had economic freedom and power earlier in previous generations.
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Will you still like it in the morning?
by Ortrud K. Tyler, Oak Island, NC, USA
From my experience of selling my paintings for over 30 years, having a small gallery for a few years and being in galleries, it seems in general you are right. Men seem (the operative here is seem) to buy more for investment, bragging rights and like reasons. Women seem to be able to step back some and first and foremost buy to enhance their life and their surroundings. Nobody complains if they are complimented, too, and the value of their purchase rises. I find many times when a couple considers a purchase they both get their say and then compromise. I always point out they should be sure they like it when they look at it in the morning. Just like you want to like what you see across from you over your first cup of coffee.
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Out of character
by Pauline Lazzarini, Rohnert Park, CA, USA
I found this article to be so out of character for you. It sounds like you are stuck in the middle ages. Women have been buying art for many years. Aren’t you familiar with Gertrude Stein? I know women with much less income who splurge on art, myself included.
What I have found is that more artists buy art than non-artists. I don’t see a connection to our sex but more to our appeal. The highest percentage of buyers of my own work are females. Even men who make more money than their spouses have been buying art for their wives for years. I find this article ridiculous.
(RG note) Thanks, Pauline. I thought someone would mention Gertrude Stein. As the current (until June 3, 2012), show “The Steins Collect” at the Metropolitan in NY shows, it was Gertrude’s brother Leo Stein who got started collecting first, and it was he who built the largest collection. An earlier female patron was Catherine the Great (1762-1796) of Russia. She imported her art. She also imported her artists.
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Crazy Tiki Art Show
by Trey Surtees, North Shore, Haleiwa, HI, USAi
It’s pretty amazing how the art market is changing. Thanks to the younger generations and the sub-cultures they have created, everything from fashion to art has been affected. The crazier the better they say… “Seascapes?… That is something my parents or grandparents would hang on their wall, not me. I want something that is crazy and a conversation piece.” Seems like almost anything sells now. Galleries are also starting to carry work that appeals to the younger crowd and that means the work is getting a little more “off the wall.” It’s an interesting phenomenon.
by Joseph Yos Tany
Usually, I am not impressed by general observations about anything, yet, as I am trying to find a new gallery to buy of me, I indeed took a glance into your contribution.
My general “knowledge” is ordering my experiences at selling or failing through time. In different places and circumstances and those mean nothing that can be concluded or point anywhere.
I have sold over 200 originals in person and 300 through galleries and agents add about 50 or so stolen or disappeared while in someone’s hands and I take those as “compliments.” One thing I usually say about collectors is that I know when a person is about to buy and I can help complete a purchase.
Today I sent a letter to a gallery — my hopes are pretty moderated — wish me well.
by Laurel Redmond, New Westminster, BC, Canada
This article /ad for Lumosity’s Brain-training/research Games arrived the same day as yours, and explains a lot in your observation.
Also a in a recent interview (on CBC radio) of an Olympic athlete-daughter of one of the women leaders in the OKA crisis, pointed out that the warriors were criticised in media for being blocked and pulled back from a gunfight with RCMP, by unarmed women. She said that people don’t understand how important female judgment is in native societies, and is highly respected for strategic safety and survival decisions during a crisis.
I think most people acknowledge the value of women’s careful judgment, even if only at a gut level, thus the high rate of women’s preferences no matter who the wage earner is.
Lumosity Newsletter: Men and women make different decisions under stress
Decision Making Under Stress
If an important decision looms but your mind is consumed with the fear that you’ve lost your wallet, better save decision making for later. Multiple studies show that stress significantly affects decision making. What’s more, men and women react differently to stress.
A 2009 study by Lighthall et al. from the University of Southern California gives a good overview of how sex differences manifest. Researchers had 45 subjects play a balloon game that was really a risk-reward evaluation in disguise: the goal was to win the most money by pumping the balloon. But as the balloon’s value grew, so too did the risk of it popping.
Males and females performed similarly in unstressed scenarios, but when they played after a stressful situation (having their hands dunked in cold water), results shifted. Males responded to stress by taking more risks (12.5% more balloon pumps), while stressed females took fewer risks (21% fewer pumps).
How does the model of risk avoidance transfer to real life? A 2011 study from the University of California Davis looked at one real-life taskinvestingwith a measurable high-risk activity (trades). Out of 27,000 investors, men made 45% more trades on their portfolios. The high trading rates led to worse performance, causing male investors to lose more value on their portfolios than female investors.
Further studies must be done to seek out the possible gender biases in other occupations, but the University of Davis research is an interesting start. As scientists learn more about the processes involved in decision making, there are steps you can take to ensure that your decisions are made clearly and calmly.
Tips for clear, calm decision making
Think through each consequence before you make a decision. Reward yourself for good choices. And try training with a few Lumosity games. Speed Match is great practice for staying accurate and calm in time-sensitive situations. Or try Route to Sproute, which may help with strategic planning and problem solving. Unlock full access and stay calm and clear-headed in all your decision making.
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Road to Waterton
oil painting 40 x 60 inches
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Karla Pearce of Kamloops, BC, Canada, who wrote, “Most of the clients in my gallery are women, students or artists. I haven’t taken a poll but I would say 90%.”
And also James Fox of Fredericksburg, TX, USA, who wrote, “A man’s opinion: the answer to the last questions in the letter are all yes. Women are smarter.”
And also Anonymous art dealer who wrote, “Over the last few years there have been more and more women buying in my gallery. Their price point is often lower, but they tend to buy from the heart.”
And another anonymous gallery owner who wrote, “They came in with their husbands, now they are coming in on their own. But I do often hear, ‘I’ll take it and see what my husband thinks.’ I’m not sure this remark is for real. Maybe you better add ‘devious’ to your adjectives about women.”
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