What does an art collector look for?
It is very interesting to listen to the general inquires on what does an art collector gathers. Does an art collector gather artworks without a basic knowledge of the artist? The answer is no. Does an art collector buy artworks just because he likes them? Here comes a second negative answer. Does an art collector gather art depending on its price? This would be a third negative answer.
Then you would inquire, what makes an art collector to choose a piece of art? Here is the answer. This article is taken from a speech originally given to an audience of art collectors at the Indianapolis Art Center. It covers a number of topics that are treated at length and in detail in the book THE ART OF BUYING ART.
Anyone can buy and collect art intelligently. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong art and there is no right or wrong way to buy or collect art.
Anyone can collect whatever they feel like collecting and buy whatever art they feel like buying, wherever and whenever they feel like buying it, for whatever reasons they decide to buy it, and for however much money they feel like spending on it. Consequently, these techniques are not for everyone, but they are primarily intended for people who like to spend their money wisely and who prefer to pay fair prices for quality works of art.
These would be the basic questions of a serious art collector: (1) Who is the artist?(2) How significant is the art?(3) What is its provenance, history, and documentation (or more simply, where has the art been and who's owned it)?(4) Is the asking price fair?
Normally we rely on two basic sources of information--spoken and written. The spoken part usually comes from the dealer, or gallery who either represents or sells the art. Verbal information can also come from friends, collectors and others who are familiar with the art or artist in question. Printed information comes in a variety of forms including artist websites,gallery websites, online artist database resources, gallery exhibition information, past exhibits reviews (either online or in hard-copy publications), and art reference books, websites and databases including dictionaries of artists, art indexes, art or artist encyclopedias, monographs on artists, and art surveys or histories.
No matter what artist is the collector learning about, he always includes facts like the following:* The artist's birth date and death date (if applicable).* Where the artist lives and works.* Where, when and with whom the artist studied.* Organizations the artist belongs to.* Galleries, museums or institutions where the artist has exhibited art either in a solo show or in group shows with other artists.* Awards, prizes, grants and honors that the artist has received.* Public, private, or corporate collectors who own the artist's art.* Positions the artist has held (resident artist, professor, teacher, lecturer, writer, and so on)* Publications that mention the artist such as online art sites, books, catalogues, magazines and so on.
This information helps to make basic conclusions about the artist- nothing complicated, nothing overly scholarly or academic. A collector merely wants to come away with a reasonable idea of who the artist is and how significant his or her accomplishments are. Knowing how to assess an artist's career information becomes increasingly important the more expensive or significant the art is that he is thinking about buying. The more art costs, the more respected, established and documented the artist should be- as it should be with art or any other significant expenditure in life.
The more extensive the artist's profile, online and otherwise, the better. Yes, the artist's website is very
important as are galleries that “exclusively” represent the artist, but equally important (or perhaps even more so) are third-party websites that review the artist's work, feature the artist, offer the art for sale, and so on. These might include gallery websites, museum websites, arts publication websites, and other sites with standings in the arts community.* The more books and catalogues that list, mention or discuss the artist, the better.* The more significant the publications or online resources that include the artist, the more important the artist tends to be. A five-paragraph listing in a major international artist dictionary or biographical database carries more weight than a similar length listing on a local artist website or directory.
Likewise, a feature article, interview or blog on a website carries more weight than a one-sentence reference.* The more mentions the artist has on a website or publication and the longer those mentions are, the better. An illustrated feature or page or interview about an artist is better than a feature or page without illustrations is better than a paragraph is better than a sentence, and so on.* The longer the artist has been creating and exhibiting art, the better. A 55 year old artist with accomplishments dating back 30 years tends to be more respected and established than a 55 year old artist who's only having a second show.*
The greater the number of exhibits, awards, and other career accomplishments that the artist has, the better. Keep in mind that pompous bombastic ramblings about an artist's majestic brush strokes or mastery of color may sound great, but florid overblown language is pretty much meaning less unless it includes factual information. Never confuse facts with fluff, and, in the art business, there's no shortage of fluff.*
The more significant the collections that own the artist's art, the more important the artist tends to be. When museums own the art, that's always a good sign; major corporate collections are generally good for an artist to be in; private collections only carry weight when the collectors are known and respected in the art community. From a collecting standpoint, art with unique or original aspects tends to be more collectible over time than art that imitates or borrows heavily from other styles of art. Experienced collectors prefer buying works of art that reflect superior creative abilities as well as mastery of medium. They patronize artists who continually evolve in their careers and dealers who represent those types of artists.