Category Archives: Modern Art + Objects

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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An Exhibit We’d Like to See : David Bowie Is

N is a huge fan of David Bowie’s. And for good reason. His name has been synonymous with imaginative thinking and music and art for over four decades.

dezeen_David-Bowie-is-at-the-V-and-A_1aAbove: album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane (1973) courtesy of Duffy Archive

tumblr_lgq06iLvAp1qdbfozo1_500A Bowie copycat for a children’s campaign.

On March 23rd an incredible collection of memorabilia, costumery, photography, musical archives and objects will showcase the life and work of David Bowie at Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The show, titled simply “David Bowie Is” will have over 300 items and only cover a fraction of the pop icon’s presence.

dezeen_David-Bowie-is-at-the-V-and-A_6Above: photo collage of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth (1975-6) courtesy of The David Bowie Archive and Studiocanal Films Ltd

dezeen_David-Bowie-is-at-the-V-and-A_3aAbove: striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour designed by Kansai Yamamoto (1973), photograph by Masayoshi Sukita from The David Bowie Archive

bowie_earthling_album.480

Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997
Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen in collaboration with David Bowie
Photograph by Frank W Ockenfels 3
© Frank W Ockenfels 3

 If we were closer, we would certainly be seeing this show. For now we’ll just listen to tunes on the record player and check out his new song and album, “The Next Day”. Tickets and full information can be found here.

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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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Top 5 Art Maintenance Tips for Summer

This summer’s been no joke. With 100 degree days and intense humidity levels, we’re all suffering. If you haven’t looked at your art collection in a while, take them off the wall and inspect them. Here are some key tips to making sure that your wall pieces stay healthy and intact in the summer heat.

1. Check all works on paper for foxing, light brown or reddish dots on the outer edges. This is actually mold attacking your paper and needs attention immediatley. With intense sunlight and high humidity this is a common cause of longterm damage. Call your local conservator (we recommend one if you’re in the Ann Arbor area – The Art Conservation Laboratory). They’ll be able to stabilize the mold and stop it from continuing. Never try to tackle this delicate task on your own!

2. Is your oil, watercolor, etching in direct sunlight? If so, consider having it framed under museum glass which protects it from the sun’s rays. Long term effects of UV damage include fading, cracking in paint and deterioration of the paint itself. If you’d rather not spend the money to do so, consider hanging the piece in a different spot…

3. But not in a spot under the air conditioning vent. Just as humidity and sunlight can hurt your art, as can intense cold temperature which could cause paint to crack or photo paper to become needlessly brittle and fragile.

4. Does your oil painting seem a bit duller than you remembered when you bought it? Summer’s a great time to take your paintings in for a good cleaning. Only conservationists know how to clean a painting so leave it to the pros. Even what you believe to be a “light dusting” can hurt the integrity of the paint.

5. Check the backs of all your art work. If the lining on the back of the frame seems rippled or has unsealed itself from the edges due to humidity, take it in to the framer to make sure no condensation is forming on the interior of the piece.

These simple steps will ensure your art work can be enjoyed for years (and many sweltering summers) to come! And if you have further questions, feel free to shoot me an email.

-Y-

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TONIGHT! Event: Launch of our Art Prints + Photos

We’re really excited about the launch of our prints and photos being offered at June Moon Furniture in Berkley, Michigan. Maureen Popkin offers a variety of homewares, furniture and found objects (she specializes in antique globes – how cool is that!?) If you’re in the area, please stop in to introduce yourself! See you there.

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Exploring: Ross Art Collection

The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan (known as Ross) is an impressive institution for many reasons. In 2004, a $100 million contribution was made by Mr. Ross and included with the new building came the promise of an expansive art collection. Over 250 works line the halls including two larger-than-life metal horse sculptures by Deborah Butterfield in the lobby. We had walked by and peeked at the Butterfields many times but we finally made a concerted effort with our great friend, Chris Johnson, owner of Johnsonese Brokerage a couple weeks ago. We were engaged by the breadth of mediums from photography to sculpture to prints. Here are some highlights.*

Reserve at least two hours to find treasures on every floor. If you love visiting the UM Museum of Art, you’ll certainly appreciate the contemporary collection at Ross.

*These were taken with a point + shoot.

-Y-

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Digital Drawing: A Modern Alphabet

A lot of people have asked me how I create my drawings digitally so today I’m going to give you a quick tour of how it’s done. I have to preface this by saying that I love drawing with pencil and paper (nothing compares to it) especially when you’re doing life drawings of nudes and still life. That said, the mouse has become a great tool for illustrating the concepts I have in my mind in a hyper-realist way that prints in rich, saturated colors, lending a quality of manufactured perfection that I adore in fashion magazines. But it’s a process like everything else and while changes are a “click of a mouse” away, sometimes it’s more laborious than traditional drawing. For most projects I use Adobe Illustrator and sometimes Adobe Photoshop. Both are integral to our company’s success and everyday function.

My latest project sparked from our obsession with mid-century furniture and objects. We’re heavily into everyday objects of that era and earlier. I couldn’t get over my need to illustrate the shapes and lines of some of my favorite pieces so I started drawing the Diamond chair by Harry Bertoia (1915-1978), an icon of Modern era pieces. With its curved chrome rods contouring to the body and guiding the eyes back and forth, it’s the perfect marriage of form and function. The idea of illustrating struck immediately as I saw the finished chair (second from the top left, in place of the “B”).

Here you see the process in picking colors and infinite possibilities, even digitally-speaking.

Once a piece or designer comes to mind that I want to recreate, I bring in a digital photo to help me shape the outline.

I literally use the mouse and “draw” with it on the mousepad.

With a computer, instead of using an eraser (although there’s one of those too), I click to straighten, curve or reposition each line segment individually. Above, I’m fixing the angle of a line that I drew previously. (I think this takes longer than drawing with a pencil)!

I’m making final adjustments so that all letters and furniture pieces are balanced using the graph and ruler tools. I think this project took me about twenty hours to create.

The final poster is printed on heavyweight archival photographic paper with professional grade inks. It’s 18 x 12 inches and I’m incredibly  proud of this limited edition run of 50. I can’t wait to get one framed and hang it in our home too! If you’re in the area, we’ll be offering the poster (A Modern Alphabet, $65) along with other custom works at our opening at June Moon Furniture on May 3rd. I’ll be on hand signing prints and giving advice on framing, hanging, collecting and more!

-Y-

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Our Latest Project: Objet D’art | One-of-a-kind art objects

We met with Sava’s Restaurant in Ann Arbor last week and we’re happy to announce that we’ll be taking over the upstairs lounge area with our art. We’ve never curated a non-gallery setting like this and we’re really excited to collaborate and match the ultra contemporary and comfy look. We got on it immediately. After a quick brainstorming session, the series Objet D’art was born. This also gave us a chance to print and frame our new series of school desk prints.

Each item is a print illustrated or photo taken by us and carefully hand matted with coordinating accessories. Whether you see one or in a grouping, we’re making an experience that we, and hopefully you, have never seen before.

We’ll be hanging things salon-style but adapted to the space to get the most beautiful effect. Since we have long spaces to cover, our groupings will be spaced out with most pieces centered at 60 inches from the ground, the professional standard for installing art.

What do you think of these? We’re looking for some feedback before the big installation takes place. Right now we’re just enjoying having “piles” of art around the studio. Soon we’ll have them in our store too. Have a great weekend!

-Y-

OBJECT D’ART – (dimensions denote frame size, shipping is extra)  5 x 7 inch : $25 and up  |  8 x 10 inch: $45 and up  |  Pairs of 8 x 10 inch: $80 and up

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Robert Rauschenberg: Grand Rapids Art Museum

In 2007 I had the pleasure of publicizing a great series of works by Robert Rauschenberg called Currents. Created during the winter of 1970, he clipped disturbing and attention grabbing headlines from various national newspapers, arranging them in aesthetically pleasing and titillating fashion and translated them into photographic prints. Based on the social, political and financial turmoil of the times, he covered events through his clippings in a way that fed that the news in a palatable way, urging viewers to come in for a closer look.

The Grand Rapids Art Museum is currently showing and hosting a myriad of events surrounding the works of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. From now until May 20th, 2012, you can join in the conversation and see the pieces from his time at Gemini, a major print studio and collective in Los Angeles.

While he’s known for his prints and multiples, his most sought-after and profound works were his combines, objects joined and manipulated to be read in a totally new context altogether. Rauschenberg passed away a year after I installed his show at the gallery where I was. With his passing he leaves behind a legacy of process and collaboration that brought together great thinkers such as John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Cy Twombly and most notably Jasper Johns. I’m looking forward to seeing the exhibit. I hope you will too.


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