A First Towards Collecting Art
If you’re reading this then you are probably an art enthusiast and just a beginner at collecting art. Buying art is not so obvious and sounds easy just in theory. The mere volume of art sold today is unimaginably more than ever. The market is wide and growing with disparate styles and sources to choose from. If you’re not the kind that would spend a fortune at auctions, we have more earthbound options and ways to buy art like fairs, end of the year student shows and such.
As a buyer we should think it pertinent to understand that patronage has since been an important incentive in the production of art. It was for centuries a major incentive for the creative process, where the subject and form is also sometimes dictated by the patron. Commissioning pieces of art was also a display of wealth, status, and power. For instance the Medici family commissioned the majority of Florentine art in the region, which we now refer to as Renaissance art. The first patron, Giovanni di Bicci de’Medici, commissioned Brunelleschi for the reconstruction of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, in 1419. Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci also worked for the Medici members over the years.
Filippo Brunelleschi. Dome of Florence cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore). 1420 36. Height 100' (35.5 m), diameter 459' (140 m), Source: Janson’s History of Art
The history of patronage can be said to have its origins in religious practices such as commissioning churches along with paintings and sculptures. Patrons can be spotted in paintings, for example Jan Van Eyck’s Canon van der Paele, where the donor is depicted on the left of Madonna and child.
The Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele, 1434–1436. Oil on wood, 122 x 157 cm.
It is not just Europe where this structure developed, temple architecture in India is often commissioned by the king and wealthy merchants often aided the making of Jain manuscripts that were stored in the Jain bhandars. Patronage, usually associated with people of high status, has evolved today to include anyone buying art. The primacy of the artists' will is highlighted when they are no longer commissioned beforehand but receive returns for their individual expressions.
It is a question of today, when art is subjected to a market, about how one should buy art and what kind?
How to buy art
Identifying the intention of buying art can be a key to start from. Answering some basic questions can help determine the intention; where is it supposed to be installed? Is it a commercial or personal space? What mood does the space set? What is the budget? Is it only investment oriented or personal interest?
The value of art is cumulative of the time taken, medium and market along with things like size for obvious reasons. A keen eye is a must, whether it is for investment or passion. Art can be analyzed through various methods; formal analysis, reading the subject, socio-political relevance if applicable, understanding and knowing the artist and so on.
Where to find art
The artist and audience come together at exhibitions in galleries. Art galleries are spread over a lot of cities but they cluster in metro cities so as to keep them the most accessible. Jehangir art gallery and the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai are some popular ones. The works from shows are usually for sale with a price list to refer to if interested. Apart from directly buying art from galleries, visiting art fairs and studios of artists are a great opportunity to discover new work. One can be exposed to a variety of art on their fingertips through social media. Consultancies such as Hissa itself and Astanzi also ease the process by eliminating the tedious market research that we would have to do ourselves.
How to ascertain your taste
Research to educate yourself about artists and their work is a key starting point. Attending artists’ shows, galleries and studios help in the recognition of our personal taste and to be updated about upcoming artists and the art market. Meeting and engaging with artists, gallerists and other relevant people can be a feather in the hat. An engagement with art can then help us with the subject and form of the work we most relate to.
Technical know how
Knowing the technical aspects of the artwork such as size and medium is a pertinent area to investigate while buying. The maintenance that the work will require depends on the materials used. For example some oil paintings tend to crack over a period of time which watercolours won’t. It is further important to check its portability, whether it is already framed or how heavy the work is and so on. Additionally, proper legalities such as documents must be looked at which can be eased out by researching the reliability of the seller.
Any investment in art should preferably be fuelled with love and interest, after all the work offers certain ideas and expression to convey. Keeping a budget can keep you on track while venturing to buy art but keeping it too strict might keep us away from the works we genuinely love and want. Social events such as gallery weekends might be a good way to engage and keep the spark for art alive.
Lastly, initiatives such as Artwork Archive offer comprehensive guides to start collecting that assist us through the course of buying. Well now, go on since we have some researching and buying to do!
Anthony, J. (n.d.). Essential Guide To Art Collecting. Artwork Archive.Janson, H. W., Hofrichter, F. F., Roberts, A. M., Jacobs, J. F., Denny, W. B., & Davies, P. J. E. (2011).
Janson's History of Art: The Western Tradition. Prentice Hall.