Thursday, August 17, 2006

What is an Art Collector?

Today’s post is prompted by a question that was posed to me by a client, Mr. Jose Arce. The painting I want to post here was commissioned by Jose for his private art collection. Unfortunately, Blogger is having a problem accepting image stonight so I will post it at a later date. Jose asked if there was a difference between a piece listed in a “private collection” and a “sold” piece on my website. I didn’t have a ready answer for him because I hadn’t really given the matter much thought. Sometimes I will quickly slap a SOLD note on a painting just to let potential buyers know it is no longer available. And while it’s true I have used different terminology to note the same information on my website it isn’t always by design. I do like to keep track of where my paintings are though. Each Certificate of Authenticity includes a space for the item to be re-registered if it is changes hands. I issue a new certificate at no charge if the new owner contacts me to register the painting and requests one.

Our discussion then turned to collections and the many different kinds of art available for purchase. In the past year I have worked with many buyers both privately and through auction sites like eBay, Yessy and ArtByUs so I might be qualified enough to at least offer an opinion. I think a true collector is someone who is focused on ‘building’ a collection of work, whether it is original art or prints, in contrast to someone who is just buying art to match their current sofa. The collector may build their collection based on a favorite theme or style, although not always. One woman who won a horse painting auction from me on eBay told me she bought only drawings and paintings of horses. Another lady loved cats so much that she covered her walls with them. Yet another buyer collected only small still life subjects. I think the majority of my sales are to people in this category. The buyers may not even consider themselves art collectors, but they truly are in the sense that they know what they like and they are consciously looking for and acquiring art based on a theme or subject.

Another type of collector is someone I call the “art speculator”, for lack of a better term. She looks for art that is priced cheaply and hopes the work will appreciate in value so she can sell it and make a profit. Art is an investment to this type of collector and she may even find herself buying things she doesn’t really like just because she thinks she may be able to sell then for more money later on. She enjoys some pieces more than others, and will hang some of her art in her home but her primary motivation is to make a profit. Collectors in this category will sometimes purchase a piece by a particular artist just because everyone else is buying from the artist. The gift shop owner who purchases work at a discount on auction sites to resell in their store would also fit into this category.

Some art buyers may be a combination of the two collector types listed above. I see these folks as mature collectors. They are discriminating and have strong opinions about what they like and don’t like, although they may enjoy several different styles of art. This type of collector visits museums and/or art galleries on a regular basis. He makes an effort to learn a bit about art history and different movements. He appreciates beauty for the sake of beauty and has the artist’s “eye.” Although he may be drawn to particular styles and themes, he focuses on acquiring a collection that inspires and pleases himself first, and others second. He has learned how to identify quality and it is important to him. Another important consideration to the mature collector is how his collection appears together as a whole. These are the best collectors an artist can sell to, in my opinion. These collectors are true “patrons” of the arts and a rarity in this day and age.