After centuries of art collecting as a pastime restricted to history’s super rich, the last fifty years have truly democratised the art worlds of most developed nations. Today more artworks are bought than sofas and, in most cases, they are acquired as part of an interior design scheme rather than to signal the taste and wealth of an aspirant robber baron.
The interior design element has become very important in choosing a work of art. Paintings have to work in their environment and so we encourage clients to try works at home and live with them for a day or so before committing. Although we do hear excited stories about rooms being completely redesigned around a much-loved new painting!
There are still of course passionate collectors, those who simply become besotted with an artist’s work and simply can’t stop themselves – I think 35 paintings by a single artist to one client is our current record. There are no rules about why or what artworks anyone should buy. Simply choose what gives you the most pleasure – it can be a simple moment between you and the painting akin to a good meal or as an active expression of your personality as the clothes you wear.
The next question is of course – how do I know what it’s worth? Valuing contemporary art can be a mystery to all of us. The truth is contemporary art is a retail market like any other. Where a gallery is dealing with an established artist the price is set in stone already, many artists will show in different parts of the world and the transparency of the internet polices price consistency across markets. No gallery wants to be more expensive than the next.
Always buy from a reputable dealer, preferably with a couple of decades experience!