Yesterday, Karen Weihs of Asheville, NC, wrote, “I’ve just toured a wide range of private collectors’ homes in Los Angeles. Couples greeted us with open arms, holding their pets and catalogues with great smiles of anticipation; others had their own curators and held back. Many of the homes had similar works of the same artists, which made me think it’s all about, “Look, I have one too!” Is it all for competition and ego or is it the natural joy of celebrating creativity? Do collectors give birth to new collectors? Is this how to reap the flurry of fame? The artist wins, but it reminds me of “He who dies with the most toys wins.”
Thanks, Karen. Many serious collectors lack the courage to buy art on their own. Unsure, they rather require the opinions of others and tend to flock together in fave galleries and with fave experts. In this way, “popular,” while often a local condition, becomes a legitimate measure of desirability. Visiting the homes of my own collectors, I notice the other art they have and can tell the company they keep. Thus we have the relatively new phenomenon of engaging advisors from respected institutions.
Yep, it’s good for the “in” artists and crummy for the “out.” Fact is, many artists expend a lot of energy trying to be the flavour of the month. Others among us are content with an occasional lick.
Too much money and too little conviction leads folks to perceived authorities. Pleasantly, when the flock becomes large, there will always be someone to take stuff off your hands. It’s called “The Greater Fool Principle.” For many, the real joy of art is financial gain, and many well-advised collectors experience a self-fulfilling prophesy. Nothing succeeds like everyone wanting Maple Ripple.
Perhaps dying with a lot of toys is an alternate form of immortality. We humans just naturally accumulate, collect and hoard. Some choose boats, cars, houses, stamps, antique steam engines, music boxes, books, movie posters, comics, hubcaps, tattoos. Thank goodness some choose art.
And there is something to be said for the joyous celebration of creativity. A mystery to otherwise successful people, creativity often seems to them a rare item. Let’s face it — art enhances life. The glowing hearts of happy collectors outshine born-again revivalists. We need to celebrate these angels. They keep the scoopers busy, and, like it or not, they are partially responsible for some artists coming up with new flavours.
PS: “Collectors are happy people.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
Esoterica: I once overheard an art dealer quietly say to potential customers, “Madonna has one.” The folks were impressed enough to check the painting carefully and look at the price. One has to wonder what Madonna knows about art, or whether she or her curator — or her decorator — chose for her, but it’s a good career move for any artist to get work onto significant walls. Important artists and important faces, always hang in important places. Below is some of Karen’s work. Here also we’ve included a report on last week’s colour test. Thanks to everyone who took the test. Figuring out your results was a hoot.
Results of the Colour Test
The average score reported for all the women was 18.28 and the average score reported for all the men was 35.44. Zero was the perfect score and 228 women and 42 men got it. According to our figuring this means that 9.09% of women got perfect scores, while 8.75% of men got perfect scores. Pretty close. We could not see a significant difference in scores between older and younger people. There were some very elderly people of both sexes with perfect scores. Anecdotally, elderly people did very well—perhaps because they patiently took their time. The four worst scores (900 or over) went to men. There were a few women with relatively poor scores as well. Further, many older persons who reported a lifetime of related colour judging experience scored well, in spite, in some cases, of also reporting macular degeneration, cataracts, floaters, etc. Further, most people who took the test more than once reported they improved on the second try.
Based on many, many remarks and observations, we think the quality of monitors may have an effect. Older, smaller monitors might not have been as clear or true as newer, larger ones. Some even tested themselves on two computers in their own homes and received better results on better monitors. (“My old one and my husband’s nice new one”) As well, we did not differentiate between Mac and PC users. I think we perhaps should have. Thanks to everyone who participated. As we watch this inbox, the results are still coming in. It’s my sincere wish that the test was of value to you, and that you not get disgruntled if you scored poorly. If we get further significant input or statistics, we will report them to you.
Gallery job upsets artist
by Lynda Leonard, Kansas City, KS, USA
I worked for years in Santa Fe, New Mexico art galleries and some of what I experienced with the “flavor of the month” thing affected my art very much. I stopped doing anything creative for too long. I just had to rethink about what it was I was doing and why. It has created a dilemma for me and my creativity that has not yet been resolved.
The measure of success
by Luann Udell, Keene, NH, USA
This is the most pragmatic, down-to-earth piece on the nature of success and art collectors I’ve ever read. I thought it would depress me but it didn’t. Instead, it reinforced the subtle change in my attitude toward my art that’s been going on for a handful of years now. I used to want to be ‘successful,’ until I asked myself what that really meant for me. Would I measure my success by the dollar? By the number of galleries representing me? By how well-known my work was? Did I want to be the ‘flavor of the month-year-decade’? Or did I want to make the work that’s the most emotionally and spiritually rewarding for me — and my customers/audience? In the end, I decided the latter is my own personal life goal — to enrich my life, and that of my audience, be it twenty or twenty thousand people, expressing and sharing my own unique vision of the world. Oddly, I’m making more money than ever.
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Art dealers not all the same
As an art dealer I can assure you that we are all not the same. But we do have one thing in common. We are in the business of building buyer confidence in art that the average artist cannot do on his/her own. Some do it with provenance, some with a simple appeal to the senses. Others do it by intimidation and the subtle interjection of potential investment values. Creating a sense of scarcity in an abundant art environment is one of our most difficult tasks. Art is everywhere but not everyone can tell the good stuff… even some dealers.
My wife and I own a successful gallery that carries mostly decorative works that sell mainly on their own appeal. Many people just feel they need art in their home and buy large florals or colorful abstracts or semi-abstracts. We sell a lot of beautiful realistic work as well. Our business is in lockstep with the building and realty business. As walls are built, things of beauty are needed to go on them. In this recession things are highly competitive. It’s tough. Other galleries in our area cater to the more snobbish and upwardly mobile and charge ridiculous prices for often inferior work. In the art business, the poorer the work, the more likely you are to see a high price on it. My wife and I can only conclude that a high price is often a sales point.
The dynamics of male/female success
by Carol English, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Regarding many women painting but more men succeeding, it might be because it is so much more socially acceptable for women to identify themselves as artists. Thus, only the fairly dedicated and/or talented men even bother putting themselves out there. This doesn’t negate the issue at all but might indicate that it isn’t as extreme as one might think. The opposite effect tends to happen for some male dominated professions: When I was younger there were very few women entering the engineering profession. However, the few who did choose to study engineering tended to be at or near the top of their classes. This wasn’t because women make better engineers, but because a woman had to do really, really well in math and science before she would consider even trying to compete.
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by Norman Ridenour, Prague, Czech Republic
One of the many things I do is teach a university course in, Visual Arts. Lesson One. What is art? One page! Final exam,
2. What is art? For the artist? For the collector/buyer? What does it do to help our survival as a species? Why do we make, have and keep art?
(A species only does things over several generations which help the species survive. If a set of actions or behaviors do not aid the continuation of the species they are soon abandoned. Therefore art must aid in survival. How?)
The really interesting aspects are:
The students are:
b. Mostly Muslim
c. Business students
Talk about getting students to think! Of course there is no ‘right answer.’ This also drives them crazy. Norman, what is the answer?????
My personal take is that for most ‘collectors’ art acts like Peacock tail feathers. It shows that you are potentially a good mate and a bit different from the average.
Building integrity into art
by Brigitte Nowak, Toronto, ON, Canada
Let’s be grateful that people with the resources to do so, spend some of their cash on the un-necessities of life, like art. Whether they do so to decorate their environment, to surround themselves with beauty, because a particular piece has resonated with them, or because their decorator or curator told them they needed it, is less important than the fact that they could have put their money into mutual funds, cars, their pets or other toys, but they chose art.
Of course it is frustrating, for the vast majority of artists who are not part of this month’s “in” crowd, to see the work of other, sometimes less worthwhile, artists leap off gallery walls, while their own work languishes under the bed. For some, the solution may be to change their flavour to conform — usually a significant career-limiting move, because most reasonably erudite collectors, or their curators, can see through this — it suggests that the artist has neither integrity nor vision. Others carry on with trying to make their work the best it can be, to continue to try to reveal the mysteries of the world, and discover that they may have become this month’s flavour.
The private love of art
by Christie Zwick, Calgary, AB, Canada
I suppose that if you have art in your house that you want others to see and be impressed by, then collection by curation is fine. I buy art when something grabs my eye. It might be colour or composition or a triggered memory. The art I buy intrigues me on some level. We are not rich and our house does not see many people that are not family and friends, but I think things would be the same if we were millionaires. Don’t get me wrong, there are some pieces I would LOVE to have in our home that fit the criteria you mentioned, but it would make me feel ill at ease to have something in my home that did not appeal to me on some level.
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by Jean Nelson, Oregon City, OR, USA
I have noticed more and more, that some artists paint with and refer to brush work as “loose” and “juicy.” I have mixed feelings, personally, about this trend and don’t know whether it is a good thing and something I should try to emulate, or not. I have been painting for only about a year and a half and I guess you could say I am still testing the waters in finding my style. Sometimes the edges of an object in this loose style of painting — say a plate — are more octagonal than round which bothers me. Other times I like the way this technique looks. What are your thoughts — is it a fad or a better way of applying paint? Enjoy your letters and as a ‘new’ artist have learned much from them.
(RG note) Thanks, Jean. “Juicy” is currently popular in part because it shows texture and avoids the confusion with prints and reproductions, which are currently cycling down because of oversupply. But the rule applies: Do what you love.
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by Pierre Vachon
Madonna is a successful artist of contemporary popular culture. I would love to know if she buys art using the same standards she has employed to achieve success in her field, or does she take a longer and less utilitarian approach? Money wise, whoever buys what Madonna has acquired, will enhance the value of Madonna’s choice. Possibly that’s all that interests Madonna but it is a symbiotic relationship.
by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Maybe I am not very smart or maybe I am just an artist trying to claw my way from the doldrums and have my voice heard. But in this day and age, if you get a buyer, TAKE IT! Sometimes the same buyer comes back, sometimes they bring a friend. Sometimes someone has something the other one wants and if this happens, TAKE IT! Buyers don’t come around very often and if there is a swell of buyers, they usually don’t last very long. So often, people want me to see their collection of art. I play along like I have a clue what they are showing me and how flattered I am to be considered to be part of their collections. It is all part of the selling dance. There are artists out there who are so concerned where their art is going, who they sell it to and where they hang it. I guess I am different, because a sale is a sale and once that check clears, they can hang it on the ceiling of their outhouse for all I know.
Galleries can turn the spot light on an artist and there is all this flurry and excitement. Articles are written and incomprehensible critiques are published and everybody sits up and takes notice and yet nobody seems to know better. At the end of the day, I always say, “You are not allowed to buy my work unless you love it.” It is the buyer who has to live with this work. Keeping up with the Jones’s is one thing, but living with a painting should be about a love story.
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Enjoy the past comments below for Flavour of the month…
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 Angela Treat Lyon of Hawaii, USA, who wrote, “Actually, I saw some shots of the inside of Madonna’s house one time and she has not one, not two, but three Tamara de Lempicka paintings I’d give my left pinkie for. If the rest of her collection — if any — is as good as those 3 paintings, she does indeed have decent art taste!”
And also Marvin Humphrey of Napa Valley, CA, USA who wrote, “Yep, we’re like those 2-year-olds in a room full of toys. When one child picks up a particular toy, another child is suddenly interested in it.”
And also Ted Lederer of Vancouver, BC, Canada, who wrote, “Most people who buy art in my gallery are not ‘collectors.’ At least as I define them. Regardless, those that are are often definitely influenced by what’s ‘in.’ What I find amusing is that the more serious and plugged in to the art community a collector is, the less they are willing to take a risk.”