ART BUYING GUIDE FOR BEGINNERS
"Art is one of the most important and useful expressions of human civilization. Works of art reflect the creativity, skill, and talent of individuals and entire cultures; art provides sources of beauty, of intellectual challenge, of change and development, and of formal, analytic perception. Like the ability to read and write, the arts distinguish the human race from the other species that populate the earth, and the categories of art, as well as the ideas that inspire them, are numerous." -Laurie Schnider Adams (Adams received her Ph.D. from Columbia University and is Professor Emerita of Art History at John Jay College, CUNY. Her books include A History of Western Art, Art across Time, Art and Psychoanalysis, and Italian Renaissance Art. )
A common misconception among beginning art buyers is that art is for wealthy people. Most art is purchased by everyday people. Most people buy art to enrich their lives; a few collectors purchase for investment. Art is created to be experienced.
BEGINNING ART BUYING BASICS
Original art (e.g. fine art prints, paintings, drawings, etc.) includes any art that is one of a kind. Imagine if an author could only sell one copy of their novel. How much do you think the book would be worth? An artist can only profit once from original art. If the art increases in value over time, the collector appreciates the profits, not the artist. Original pieces of art typically have a higher price than reproductions.
A reproduction is a copy of an original piece of art. For example, a poster of an original painting would be a reproduction. Another example is a digital print of a handmade fine art print.
If the artist sets a limit for the number of prints they will make with a given image, this is known as a limited edition. With digital media, the lines are being blurred between reproduction, original art, and limited editions. For traditional fine art printmakers like myself, I don't work with digital technology, so my buyers know they are receiving artist original fine art prints because I have to make each one by hand.
An artist proof is often abbreviated "A.P." was originally referred to a proof of a print, but now usually a first impression kept by the artist, outside the regular numbered edition. Such proofs, which may number 10% to 20% of a regular run, are sometimes numbered by Roman numerals and often sell at a higher price than the normal edition, also called "epreuve d'artiste" or "E.A.".
Go and see as much art as you have time. Go to local museums, galleries, art fairs, and art festivals. Notice that I didn't mention using your computer? Art should be experienced. Viewing art on a computer is simply cheating yourself from the full experience. Museums are good places to start because you can view a wide variety of art and there is no one going to pressure you to buy anything.
Get to know the artists, living or dead, the best that you can. It will enrich your experience and will bring more understanding to the artwork.
Buy what you love. People will give all sorts of advice about what to buy when to buy it, and where to buy it. You should love how the art makes you feel. Trust your aesthetic response and go with your intuition.
Works of art are reflections of the artists who produce works and thus can provide a window onto the character of an individual artist as well as onto the creative process. Beyond the beauty or original reason you like a piece of art, a person created this, and the art is a piece of them. Understanding the motivations of the artist can be very helping in a lot of ways.
As a lens through which to view a culture, works of art are invaluable. For example, what do the cave paintings tell us about prehistoric people? What does a colossal pyramid tell us about ancient Egypt? You can learn a lot about a culture from their art. In the ancient world, stone denoted power and stability. Stone was often used as the preferred medium for royal figures and gods.
The next time you look at a piece of art that grabs your attention, think about the artist and what they are trying to communicate.
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Tim Layton - Black & White Fine Art Printmaker
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