Category Archives: How To

Chris Johnson of Johnsonese Brokerage: How to Insure Your Art

Today’s post was written by our wonderful friend and business insurance guru, Chris Johnson. He’s the owner of Johnsonese Brokerage in Chicago and has helped us tremendously over the years. He was kind enough to explain the process of obtaining insurance and also share some inside stories.

What are the general steps to getting art insured?

The biggest step is probably determining the value of the art to be insured. Collectors simply have their collections appraised. For an individual artist the process is a little more challenging because their art inventory is continually changing. So they need good records to document the value of their art. This can be copies of gallery contracts, for example, that list the consigned value of their artworks over time. Or if they sell directly, it can be sales records showing selling prices over time. For more established artists, it can be auction records or appraisal reports for specific works.

The next step is simply to find an insurance agent that understands the business of art. The insurance agent will work with the artist to determine what level of insurance coverage is appropriate for the artist. This is basically the highest dollar value of artworks that you might have at your studio (or elsewhere) at any given time. You also need to be concerned with coverage for your artworks while in-transit. Most art insurance policies have a separate, and usually lower, sub-limit for coverage of art while it is being shipped. The limit should be high enough to cover the highest value of art that you would include in any one shipment. Think of how much you might ship for a gallery show or art fair, not just individual artworks being shipped to buyers.

You also need to think about international coverage. The typical policy provides coverage in the US and Canada. If you will be selling internationally or participating in international art fairs, you should add international coverage.

What are some of the types of clients you insure?

In the Fine Art world, we insure galleries and private dealers, auction houses, corporate and private collections, framers and conservators, and individual artists. We also insure traveling museum exhibits, which I think can be the most fun because we sometimes get to see the exhibits before the general public.

Share an awesome art story disaster with us!

You won’t be surprised to learn that Charles Saatchi is not my client. But I can’t help finding the story of the demise of his Marc Quinn sculpture a little amusing. The sculpture was made from the artist’s own frozen blood, so Saatchi had it kept in a freezer. During maintenance at his house the power was disrupted and the sculpture melted. The darkly amusing part to me is that Saatchi is married to celebrity cook Nigella Lawson. So I can’t help imagining this work of art melting all over some amazing dinner that Nigella had whipped up for a party.

Marc Quinn, Self, 2001, Image: The Art World Daily

Marc Quinn, Self, 2001, Image: The Art World Daily

But for my real clients, the day to day claims are things like water damage, damage in shipment, damage during installation or packing, and even red wines spills at gallery openings. I did have a gallery client experience a pretty major loss when there was a fire two floors above them. The fire was quickly contained on the higher floor, but about half of my client’s inventory was water damaged. I had another client have sewage back-up literally in their gallery. Most of the work was high enough that the damage was limited, but still expensive.

Who are your favorite artists?

I like and collect a few local artists who aren’t well known. But to have some fun name dropping, probably my favorite living Chicago artists are Karl Wirsum and Theaster Gates. In looking at all of art history, I have eclectic tastes. I like El Greco, Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman.

But if I could own any artwork in the world, I might choose Picasso’s Guernica.

Pablo Picasso, Guernica. Paris, June 4, 1937. Oil on canvas, 349.3 x 776.6 cm

Pablo Picasso, Guernica. Paris, June 4, 1937. Oil on canvas, 349.3 x 776.6 cm

Thank you, Chris, for sharing your expertise on taking care of our investments! You don’t have to be in Chicago for him to help you. See the full list of licensed states here. To contact him about your own collection or business, call  773.857.0242 or email him at info@johnsonese.com

Johnson is a licensed insurance producer with a background in corporate finance, business planning, technology commercialization, project management and international business. Johnson focuses on serving clients in the arts community, building on his four year experience as director of a contemporary fine art gallery in Chicago. During this time he was also a founding member of a neighborhood gallery association, and he completed a Certificate of Connoisseurship in Fine & Decorative Arts at Northwestern University. In his insurance practice Johnson works closely with art galleries, antique dealers and framers to protect and build their businesses.

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Beauty and the Beast: Behind-the-Scenes of Shooting Product

Photography is many things: meaningful, informative, brilliant. The path to reach the end result however, doesn’t always have to be.

A tipped light. A couple cardboard boxes for support. Some tissue used to help bounce light…

Presto! A glamorous rotor!

If you need products photographed, give us a call at 734-929-2498 or reach us at info@chin-azzaro.com

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How to Sell Your Art and Other Helpful Tips

Yesterday’s post on pricing student or “emerging” art work tackled the difficulty of pricing your works to move. But maybe even more difficult is gaining the exposure and putting your works in the right venue to be seen and sell. When I was talking to Paula Shubatis about the value of large scale oil paintings, I was also considering the proper space for the pieces to be hung.

She had a really great idea to have a non-profit sponsor so that she could apply for a permit to exhibit in an alley downtown. I immediately posed the question, “How will that make you money?” Yes, it would gain her intrigue and possibly some press, but I was concerned with how she was going to be rewarded for her efforts. Too many times we think about the work but we don’t know how to translate to tangible values. Most of society is already programmed to consume art in small manageable pieces so while seeing a painting in an alley might be exciting, it might not speak to a buyer or get a buyer to come out to the alley to begin with.

Paula answered that it probably wouldn’t be a money-making ploy but the alley would complement her painting. Although it would be for a short time, I had to agree. So we started brainstorming on how she could further the visibility of her paintings and who her potential clients were. This is what I suggested researching.

Corporate collections

Although many have been dissolved over the years, corporate art collections were and still are a barometer of a corporations success. The historical, educational and sophistication level of a curator’s choices can communicate a vast number of nuances to a client. Some focus on specific topics relevant to the company but most are diverse and worth millions of dollars. I suggested to Paula to research any collections that were still active in the southeast Michigan area and send a professional letter and images to those that collect contemporary.

Art Fairs

From creating enough inventory to sell to the logistics of travel to getting into the fair itself, the career of a professional artist is a tough one when you’re traveling cross country to sell your wares. But I know some very successful artists that make a living of this and they love what they do. Research each market, figure your costs (including booth fees, lodging, food, airfare/gas, insurance, shipping if needed) and try out a local one to see if you like the art fair circuit culture.

Representation

The art dealing culture has changed drastically over the last decade. Gone are the days of sending slides and lugging heavy portfolios to the gallery. While it may still stand as the pinnacle of an artist’s I’ve made it moment, getting representation is getting harder and harder each day as galleries downsize and restructure what it is to be in a gallery’s stable of artists. Now there are an infinite number of online galleries and stores to sell your work. Besides the ever popular Etsy, there’s also Big Cartel, a foolproof store that handles your art sales and monetary transactions safely.

If you are interested in going the traditional route of being represented by a dealer, read the instructions carefully and make sure you include everything they ask for and nothing they do not. Use the best materials you can afford and have friends or colleagues proof all text. Also, do not send unsolicited packages. I used to be an American art dealer (known impressionism, modern and contemporary works) and would receive numerous packets from artists. Had they taken the time to research the website, they would have seen that I generally worked with museums and collectors to sell paintings by deceased and market-established artists. Vet your galleries carefully and save yourself the postage!

If nothing else, having a website is a must. Take clear, well-lit photos of your art work and make sure your site is easily navigable and concise. Include an artists statement and any information that will intrigue your clients. Branding yourself properly is probably the most important tool of all.

Public and Temporary spaces

Like Paula’s idea to show in the alley, outdoor spaces garner attention from people that might not normally see art. It’s exciting, fresh and enlivens a space if it’s installed properly. Remember to consider the logistics of transporting the piece, whether you need electricity, if it’s safe from the elements, if you’ll need a lock or security overnight and whether you need to insure it for potential loss or damage. All these things considered, public art is also a great excuse to garner publicity…

Publicity

Getting in front of a buyer is difficult without a dealer or gallery. That said, there are many perks to representing yourself, namely not having to pay a share to the middle man. But that means you have to know how to talk about your work and how to publicize it. I always tell students and artists to learn to write a press release. It’s one page, has all the relevant information a magazine, newspaper or TV would need to cover your story. But make sure it’s newsworthy before you send it. It’s also important to make rounds at the art fairs, openings and museum circuit. Learn not only to talk about your work but art and design history in general.

There are tons of details that go into the success of an artist and these are just a few starter tips. Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing the right person, being at the right place at the right time…but I like to believe that forethought, planning and talent matter too. Good luck!

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Emerging Artist: Paula Shubatis + How to Price Student Work

The last couple months have been a wonderful blur. We went on maternity + paternity leave and have spent some much deserved time at home with out little one. It’s an amazing adventure and it’s bittersweet to return to the real world after a long hibernation. But it feels good to be back.

One of the few trips that have led me out of the studio recently was a trip to meet Paula Shubatis, a senior at The University of Michigan Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. She was having trouble figuring out how to price her works. When I arrived at her studio, I was in awe of the caliber and scale of her handstretched oil paintings. Not only were they superbly executed, the content of decaying architecture and complementing organic forms required real investigation.

Sous Bois

The following are thoughts from Paula about how she found her way as an artist and painter, what her process is and how she sees her career in the future.

I’ve always been a maker.  Whether it was drawing on the walls, or making my own iteration of the Sistine chapel on the underside my mother’s mahogany coffee table, I’ve felt the constant need to make and do throughout my whole life.  But, it was not until high school that I was able to get a better technical knowledge of making through art classes.  After taking AP art in high school, I knew that I wanted to go to art school.  I came to art school under the false pretenses that I would go into something practical like graphic design, but secretly always knew that I wanted to be a painter.  Experiences with design only affirmed that I was awful at it, and it gave me great anxiety.  Through this rejection of design, I found my love of physicality of craft, in the realms of painting and fiber arts.  Once I found my genuine love and passion for making, I not only knew that I wanted to be a studio artist, but I had to be one, because I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t.  

f. The Dance of the Arcadians

“Foraging a Vernacular Identity” is inspired by my curiosity of the mysteries which lie in the ordinary places which surround me.  I have a strong fascination with how systems of math and science are at play to create the poetry of a space, but could never hope to understand them.  I find myself drawn to painting nature and architecture because of their inherent relationships to math and science.  My paintings are a series of experiments through which I break down shapes, colors and forms of spaces into modular units, and reassemble them to try to figure out how they work.   I like to manipulate different variables like scale, directionality of marks and orientation to play with how the viewer might perceive a space. I often combine different variables of multiple spaces to create one hybridized space.  This process of experimentation and analysis becomes deeply introspective, and I find that I project myself onto spaces which I paint.  I convey my own sense of a fractured reality and disjuncture with the world though a dialogue between degenerate architecture and nature.          

Painting requires one to operate within a very peculiar state of being.  It asks one to be conscious, alert, and responsive at all times, and maintain a dichotomy between an idea, and how that idea actually translates into paint.  Painting asks one to suspend disbelief, and allow one’s self to become immersed in the surface.  Immersing one’s self in a surface demands a full commitment to the surface, and coping with the inevitable possibility of failure.  The surfaces which I grapple with aren’t just fictitious worlds, but they are also my own selfish spaces where I discover and share my most intimate secrets.  It can be very difficult to reveal the truths which I find within my paintings to both the viewer and myself.  It takes just the right mix of self-doubt and brazen confidence to have both the courage and motivation to make new discoveries.  

SnaggletoothPainting will always be something, which I always do, even if I had to dig up cadmium from the earth.  I see painting as a mode of visual communication.  I hope to share this mode of visual communication with others through making and outreach as a teaching artist, and also as a gallery artist.  As long as I have the means to do these things, I will be happy.  While the life and career of a studio artist might be more turbulent than those of other professions, the joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment which it gives me are well worth it.

It’s evident that Paula has a clear understanding of her work and how to talk about it, which is a great portion of an artist’s ability to sell their work. Her concern of striking a balance between asking too much and too little (since she is after all, a “student artist”) is a common one among the art school set. But here I was, staring at eight foot tall works that in any retail setting would go for tens of thousands of dollars or more and yet, I had to tell her something that would appeal to a collector, perhaps visiting the senior show with or without an intent to buy. There are two areas to consider when you’re selling your work: practical and sentimental.

The Prodigal Daughter

Practical

How much time did you spend on the piece?

How much did your materials cost?

Is this a special medium/something rarely seen?

What’s the market like in your area? (this may be a non-issue if you’re selling your work nationwide or on the internet)

Sentimental

How much are you willing to let it go for?

Are you just trying to make a first sale?

If money was not an issue, what would you pay for it?

Once you’ve considered these factors, you should have a clearer picture in your mind of what you’re willing to let a work go for. One issue that Paula brought up was her status as a student and how that may affect a buyer. There are plenty of talented graduates that go on to show and sell work immediately out of college and I don’t believe they should be shortchanged just because of their newness in the industry. That said, I encourage young artists to coin themselves “emerging” or “contemporary” to get away from the stigma of a “student artist.” Because yes, starving art students should make a dollar but it should be a fair amount that they feel is respectable.

On a side note, I want to address those that don’t want to sell. At some point, you’ll create a work and think, I’ll never produce something this good ever again. This is the best work I’ve ever done and I can’t sell it. But consider this – if you don’t sell it, then what’s the point? I see “NFS” (not for sale) on pieces at shows and that negates every reason to create work in the first place. If you document it with great photos and remember the process, believe me, you’ll create something even better in the future. Better to have a collector enjoy than to hold onto something so precious because you think you won’t obtain a higher standard of craft than where you are now. That’s silly, isn’t it?

e. Ponte d' Chaos

You may be wondering if I gave Paula a concrete set of numbers to work with. And yes, ultimately, I did. For the large ones that stood about 8 feet by 6 feet, I recommended a range of $8,000-10,000. For the smaller ones $4,000-6000. I took into account the number of hours, the polished nature of her work, the content and the overall feeling of her paintings. They’re truly monoliths, worthy of a large space such as a corporate lobby or a collector’s living room, somewhere with high ceilings. A few of Paula’s pieces will be for sale at the Senior Show coming up on April 19th and I’ll be anxious to hear the feedback she receives and give any pointers I can to facilitate selling her works.

The next post will be about how to sell the works and get publicity in the local market. Feel free to add to the conversation or post questions. We’re all in this together.

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An Incredible Photo that Made Us Stop | How to Protect Your Images

A couple weeks ago N had to deal with a snafu that the local paper here made. They ran a photo that belonged to him and subsequently had to take it down and pay him a nominal fee for usage. (It really was the right thing for them to do, after all). It really angered the both of us because it was blatantly taken and we feel they waited to see if they would be found out. This issue is not going to go away and will only proliferate in the internet age. Our working friends have had their images and design ripped off and there are many degrees of it.

Last week we came across a photo from the Herman Miller Facebook page and we were immediately drawn to the flawless execution.

Screen shot 2012-12-14 at 11.41.23 PM

A time lapse of airplanes taking off from Hannover Airport in Langenhagen, Germany was captured in layered precision. In clicking through to find out more about the photograph by Korean artist, Ho-Yeol Ryu, we saw that it originated from a link at the Tropenmuseum.

The entire image via Tropenmuseum

The entire image via Tropenmuseum

What caused us concern however, was how big the file is. It literally covered the screen of my 21″ screen and then some. I could scroll back and forth, up and down. Now, you may wonder, what is our problem with seeing something so up close and personal? Turns out that Ryu has shown through a few contemporary galleries which means that he may have a great retail and/or auction record. But any time your image is shared at such a large file size, there’s potential for your image to be taken, printed and enjoyed without your reaping the benefits of your hard work. Take our blog, for instance. We share plenty of images but our resolution is low to medium quality, generally nothing larger than 5 x 7 inches.

A detail shot of just approximately a third of the photo.

A detail shot of just approximately a third of the photo.

More image to scroll over.

More image to scroll over.

And even more still.

And even more still.

If Ryu were just up and coming and not represented and sold to collectors, I would contact him to alert him of this potentially dangerous occurrence. But with his reputation, I’ll assume that those that represent and exhibit his work are aware that of their actions and would not do anything to dilute the value of his works. What should you do to protect your images if you’re worried about them being stolen? You can control the avenues in which they’re presented and limit or deny internet exposure. Or, you can watermark them. If that inhibits the viewing experience, you can just make them small enough, as we do, so there’s no concern over them being shared.

Yes, as visual artists, we want people to see our work. We just don’t want it to hang in your living room in a massive frame unless you support us. Thanks.

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A New Partnership : Tribehaus | Photo Studio Group

Sunday we shot our first of many sessions for Tribehaus, owned by entrepreneur extraordinaire Anna Bagozzi. With its eclectic and trendy inventory, Tribehaus is an online presence unlike any other offering women’s fashion with plans to expand to menswear. Anna has turned the brand into an empire with her insane marketing skills. Check out her Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr pages.

For model shots, we required a studio space that would allow for flexibility and a seamless or cyc wall, a panel with rounded bottom corner to lend an infinite spatial quality to the images. Not only is it an incredibly brilliant concept, Photo Studio Group, is a community-based resource, offering their space and equipment at a fraction of what it typically costs. We just started our membership and we urge others to visit them as well. It’s better than any other scenario we’ve come across during our years in commercial photography.

Image: Photo Studio Group

Every shoot depends on successful collaboration of the team. We were really lucky to have Amelia modeling. Not only does she have an incredible high fashion look, she was so personable and a breeze to work with.

No shoot is complete until you bring in hair and make up and Taryn Scalise is a master of both. She got us through two complete looks very quickly and was on hand to catch fly aways with the brush and lip stick touch ups between shots.

Amelia and Anna going over logistics on the set.

Anna from Tribehaus, Nick from Chin-Azzaro and Taryn from Tough Love MPD

We can’t remember the last time such a production went so seamlessly and we can’t wait to do it again. In the meanwhile, support our partners and let us know if you have any questions about buying from, visiting or hiring our friends. See you next week!

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How Do I Sell this Painting/Print/Drawing My Mom Gave Me?

You know it’s worth something and yet the art dealer won’t take it and it hasn’t sold on craigslist. What do you do with the painting that was given to you that you’d rather have the cash value for?

The last two weeks we’ve received quite a few inquiry calls about selling works that were given to them so I decided to answer some of the most common questions. (This is a general overview and not to be taken as professional or legal advice. Every situation is exclusive of any other and we’d prefer you call us for your specific needs)!

My mom told me she paid $3,000 for the painting. What can I sell it for? 

Unless it’s a “known artist” (this does not have to be a household name, but I consider this a person that has an auction and/or private retail record. Or, someone that has been “discovered” by a dealer or curator and has been deemed academically relevant), the likelihood of a piece appreciating is very slim. That doesn’t mean that paintings you bought for a few hundred dollars can’t grow in value, but the seemingly long list of artists you see becomes very short when you talk about resale. And more realistically, the painting is not worth what you paid for it and in some cases, worth less.

It’s worth less than we paid for it? How is this possible?

If your mom bought it from a dealer or art fair, and it’s a contemporary (living) artist, it’s hard to gauge in one lifetime what the piece will be worth. It all depends on demand for that particular artist’s work. If there’s little competition and the works are easily accessible, the work is worth what the dealer and artist agreed to split the sale for and what it  covered –  a lot of overhead such as utilities, travel, insurance, publicity, marketing and general costs. Those are the facts behind selling works at a gallery. It is after all, a business.

I found a dealer that sells this artist’s works but they wouldn’t accept the painting for consignment. Why?

There are many reasons a dealer may not accept the work. But the most common one is that they don’t believe they can sell it. Dealers know what their clients will buy and they have to protect their investments as well. By the time a dealer takes on the cost of insuring, shipping and (if required) framing or having the work cleaned/repaired, it may not be worth the trouble to take on the consignment. Sometimes they may ask you to take on a part or all of these costs and you could see how this could add up and possibly deter you from the transaction as well.

Also, remember that if you’re in a hurry to sell your piece, this is a lengthy process. Rarely do dealers buy the piece from you outright. They will hold the painting under terms that if and when the work sells, they will send you a check for your share. A dealer’s cut can be any percentage you’ve agreed to but generally it’s 20-50 of the retail selling price.

Where else can I look to sell it?

Auction houses are a great resource for buying and selling works and would be my next suggestion for clients. Keep in mind you have to show proof of ownership whether it be a receipt or legal paperwork bequeathing the work to you (a will, notarized document) and provenance (a list of who the work has belonged to since it’s creation) only helps to make the piece more sellable.

Auctioneers have the same responsibility as a dealer has to represent, market and sell your work to the highest bidder so they also get to decide whether they will accept your piece for sale as well. This can also be a long process since sales may occur seasonally or bi-annually.

The auction house won’t accept it either. What do I do now?

A client asked if they could sell the piece on ebay themselves. I told them that it was a possible avenue but they should remember that they take on all liability of the sale. Meaning, if they advertise the work by a particular artist and it’s authenticated later that it’s not, they can be sued or have the price of the piece demanded by the buyer. That said, there are many successful sales on ebay. I just simply remind people to be wary and protect themselves.

None of the above worked. Why won’t anyone buy this??

It would be simple enough to say that in a low market, art isn’t selling. But that’s not the case for high end collectors as a recent contemporary sale proved for Sotheby’s and Christie’s earlier this month. So why hasn’t anyone bought your painting?

Let’s say you have a 1,000 people in a room. Only about 10% of those people are “art collectors”, or people that actively seek art from artists, dealers and fairs on a regular basis. Of those 100 collectors, perhaps only half of them may like the painting of flowers you’re offering but how many of them will actually want to buy it for the $3,000 that your mother paid for it? Unless it’s a known artist or they truly, truly love it, the percentage will be very small – maybe 2 or 3 people.

I wish I had better news for everyone that needs the extra holiday cash this season. But I wanted to give some realistic advice to help you better understand the daunting task of fine art collecting and selling. It’s not simply slapping on a price tag, unfortunately. It’s actually easier to sell a multi-million dollar work than a low or middle market one and this is true at almost any time in art collecting history. I’m always here for questions so please feel free to email me. Best of luck with your collection building!

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A Must-Do: Our Upcoming Class on Collecting Art

I’m really excited about the course I’m teaching at Washtenaw Community College this Fall. “Collecting Art: Deciphering What It Is and What’s It’s Worth” is going to be an engaging and interactive look at what the differences are between a giclee versus a painting versus an etching.* We’ll also look at the primary, secondary markets and auction house culture. Students will have the opportunity to bring in examples as we decide which ones might be worth money, why they are and what to do if you strike the jackpot on a great find.

Lithograph or etching? What’s the difference?

How do you tell the difference between an oil or acrylic painting? Or if it’s a painting at all…

Ask all the questions you want and learn about how to insure, maintain and start your own collection. Sign up is now open and only $39 for the two-day course. See you this October!

*If you want to find out the answers, come take the class!

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10 Questions About Art, Design and Photography That You Always Wanted to Ask but Never Thought You’d Get the Straight Answers To

1. Why does it cost so much?

The answer depends on where you’re looking at the piece you’re considering. Are you in a gallery? Consider the industry practice of 50% that goes to the dealer, the cost of framing, installation that’s sometimes taken out of the artist’s cut, sometimes the dealer covers, marketing and advertising, overhead (electric, rent, phone bill, etc). Are you at an art fair? Consider the insurance premiums, travel, hotel cost, shipping materials, gas/airfare for the artist and the blood, sweat and tears. You’re going to pay a premium but in this case, you may feel a personal connection to the artist and you have an opportunity to meet and learn about his or her work ethic, inspiration and vision. And that’s priceless.

If you’re buying a piece by a “known artist”, which I personally define as someone that has an auction record, studied in academic realms and is being shown in museums, or represented by a reputable gallery, you’re going to pay a premium because they’re sought after no matter what the subject matter, even if they’re considered a conceptual artist. Art prices driven into seven figures has to do with precedent set at auction and high end private transactions. Since auctions account for about a quarter of the art market, you can imagine how much it influences numbers.

If you’re vacationing and in a tourist gallery, you’re going to pay a premium whether the artist is known or unknown. Do not buy things based on what you’re hearing or what returns the dealer tells you are possible in the future. If you go to Hawaii and buy a $5,000 painting of a dolphin jumping out of the water, you better love the hell outta that dolphin. For a long time.

Painting by Jeff Wilkie

2. Do you shoot Canon or Nikon or something else? And does it matter?

People almost always ask this. Since its origin photography continues to be made more accessible to consumers. Does this mean there are more photographers out there? No, just more people that can take pictures. Photography literally breaks down to “light writing” meaning the ability to control or work with light to capture a scene or moment. Those that feel what you shoot with makes a difference are the same that thought Dippin Dots revolutionized ice cream. Cameras cost different prices so that camera companies can establish multiple markets. Sure, some cameras generate much larger files and/or capture repeatedly much faster than others, and if you have that need then that’s your answer, but realistically the entry level dSLR can achieve the same results, given the knowledge of controlling light.

3. Should I buy that painting?

If you love it/want to support the artist/know that you’re buying it to enjoy yourself and not impress anyone, then yes.

4. Where should I hang it?

Measure the height of the piece and make a note of the midpoint. That mark should hang 60 inches up from the floor. This is general rule of thumb and widely practiced by professionals in the field. If it’s larger than say, 20 inches in any direction, don’t hang it in a hallway where you can’t stand far away to get the full effect. Most people hang art too high and generally on a wall that’s not proportional to the piece. An 8 x 10 inch frame will look awfully lonely on a large wall by itself. A piece that size is better housed on an accent wall, nook or with other pieces around it.

Also consider humidity, how much direct sun and the amount of air conditioning that is directed at the piece. Oil paintings are extremely delicate to extreme changes in temperature and photographs should never be hung in direct sun. If you have the opportunity to, work with a professional framer so they can advise you on what kind of glass each piece should be housed under.

5. Why does the one on top cost more than the one on the bottom?

Eames Molded Plywood Chair at Design Within Reach, $840-$1,398

Plywood Lounge Chair at Totally Furniture for $122.55

In an era when upholstery was king in the household, husband and wife team Charles and Ray Eames’s collaboration in answering a previous design flaw (from a competition that Charles had entered with architect and designer Eero Saarinen) resulted in the ubiquitous Eames Lounge Chair Wood or what is known in the industry as LCW. With two separate pieces and particular construction of separate molded wood and rubber mounts, the technology used to create this multi-layer chair was cutting edge at the time.

It was eventually noticed by George Nelson at Herman Miller at continues to be manufactured to their specific material and design plans today. The reason the chair on the top costs so much is because it’s a piece of art even though it’s been replicated many times. It can be resold, although some versions of LCW may resell for more than others depending on demand, quantity of that particular model and condition of each piece. On top of the quality and materials, you’re also paying a premium for the licensing namesake.

The chair on the bottom is a knock-off of the Eames LCW, looks about the same (although the variation in the plywood on the bottom is not nearly as marbled or visually interesting as the Eames), but the construction and design will not be of the same caliber. It will also not resell or appreciate over time.

6. How long should I linger at a piece when I’m at the museum?

Image via History Lines

There’s no simple answer to this but generally, I believe that most people don’t look long enough. Find the ones that speak to you and try to figure out why. What elements draw you to the piece. How do the colors make you feel? Will this stick with you after you leave? Are you intrigued to do some research about this artist after you leave? I hope these few questions may spark your viewing experience the next time you visit a museum.

7. When will it be worth more?

If you’re buying a work by a “known artist” (see #1), generally a decade will yield some sort of return higher or at least slightly higher than what you bought it for. That is, unless you overpaid for it in the first place (again, refer to #1 for a definition of where you might over pay for something). If you’ve been given a certificate of authenticity or promised it’s limited edition, I can sell you the chair I’m sitting in and give you certificate of authenticity for that too…

8. Why can’t I shoot/design/make it myself?

You can! All the credit to you if you do and do it just as well as the professionals!

9. Can I try to negotiate a lower price?

Sometimes you can. But I ask that if you’re at an art fair where you’re dealing with the artist directly, please don’t offend them. They work very hard to travel, create work, pay the booth fee, lug all their work there, sit/stand all day.  Maybe ask them to throw in a studio visit or deliver the piece if they’re local. If the piece is less than $500, I urge you not to negotiate at all. A dealer, go for it. But keep in mind they may take the loss out on the artist’s cut.

10. Who should I talk to if I want to buy art?

You should talk to us! We’ve dealt and handled everything from William Merritt Chase to Alexander Calder to Jen Stark. We’ll do the research to make sure that you’re buying what you can’t live without from a reputable source.

Photo of brokered work by Jen Stark, courtesy Carol Jazzar Gallery

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