Building an Art Collection on a Budget, Part II
From observer to collector.
It’s one of the few true romance stories in our lives with a dashing suitor. Falling in love with beauty, being swept away by a visual form or media that tugs at our minds. It’s an indelible tale for those who enter. The last foray into the world of art for this column was an entry on how one moves from being a spectator of art to a genuine collector. It discussed the journey on which we find ourselves well before the first investment into an original work of art. Now the discussion shifts to what those moves might be. More specifically let’s survey a sample of ways that someone new enters the art market. Particularly on a budget.
Choosing to acquire an original creation by way of a financial investment is not something that must be fraught with fear. Art, after all, is for everyone from the basic premise that it wants us to be viewers. But I know that as an art dealer myself I’ve had the experience of hosting people who exhibit a sense of intimidation; yes, perhaps because the environment is not familiar, but most often is it’s because they are wary of the value (read: price) of art. It is appreciable how important this is to recognize, especially because being a collector of art is, as I said last time, such an amazing rite of passage. So outlined here are few avenues that offer access to original works of art and respect budgets in all jurisdictions. Where possible Vancouver is used as an example.
First, there are movements afoot in various Canadian cities to host art fairs – small to quite large – committed to showcasing original art in controlled price ranges. Unlike solo and small group shows a large number of select artists are invited to display a diverse collection of art forms. For example, the Cheaper Show held annually in Vancouver most recently witnessed for 200 artists – ranging from painters to sculptors to photographers to illustrators, etc. – exhibiting together in a 22,000 square foot space. The catch: every work sells for $200.
Second, let’s face it, from history to the present there is a direct correlation between low-priced art and emerging artists. Who hasn’t imagined themselves to be a wakeful third character in the Vincent and Theo Van Gogh story, an intermediary who could have recognized more acutely the talent of the inimitable painter and pressed his art dealer brother to take more notice? Today this opportunity can be more easily located in art schools that host a year-end show for their students that’s offered to the public. Vancouver’s Emily Carr University is one such case where the Annual Student Art Sale is held each November, giving curious art-lovers a chance to view and consider original art works from new artists and designers. At the very least newcomers to collecting can consider budget-conscious art and at the same time determine what artists to be following after they graduate and move to private – and, potentially, public – galleries.
A third, often overlooked option are small, local charity auctions and fundraisers. Certainly mainstream media makes us aware of the larger auctions, such as various children’s hospital fundraising events and their more pricey opening bids, but the ones referred to here are specifically the smaller events. Consider, for example, what PIVOT, a legal advocacy group for the homeless in Vancouver, does each year. PIVOT hosts a silent auction each Autumn whose proceeds support their legal advocacy work in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). Entitled Passion for Justice the auction features various donations from local artists, galleries and even collectors. And given that many of the works can be won through bidding for anywhere between $100 to $500 the draw of a social cause matched with a (supportive!) love of art is a win-win combination. As one who has attended myself on several occasions I can attest to the quality of the offerings; I was once, in fact, the high bidder on a small Haida Gwaii drawing.
But, all in all, each of the above represents an opportunity for a first-time collector (or one slowly adding to a budget-conscious collection) to partake in a socially meaningful event where one can mingle and enjoy a wonderful selection of art. And never forget that amongst the good vibe, the smiles, and the music that you may fall in love . . . and acquire something marvelous.