If a picture is worth a thousand words – how much is that picture in the window?

19 Sep

How much would you pay for a picture £5m? £5,000?  £50?  50p? Would you need to like the work or would it not matter provided you thought it would be a good investment. On what basis would you make that judgement? Would you look primarily for a name that was already recognized and hope that the value would rise as the artist grew in stature? How would you cope with the fragility of many works? Buying a pickled sheep would be a bit of a bummer if it started gently fermenting.

If investment value is not an issue, would it matter whether the work was original – or would you be as happy with a print or a copy? Would it need to be a limited edition print or could they be churned off in their thousands? What if it was not an exact copy but drew heavily on the work of another artist?

On ebay there is one seller who regularly offers works in the style of a minor  named artist, but the small print points out that the name cannot be guaranteed as the provenance is uncertain. So uncertain that works from this particular artist come up regularly, always with the same caveat. Are they churned out perhaps by a little workshop in China? But if you like the work does it matter if it has been painted in a sweatshop or by the named minor artist – what you see is still what you get. Yet most people would feel it does matter – perhaps because if art is to have intrinsic, rather than monetary, value it has to be honest communication between the artist and the viewer and passing something off as somebody else’s work cannot be real communication.

The laws of economics are perhaps more intriguing in art than in any other area. Take the basic raw materials of canvas and paint and the work can be worth nothing or millions. The artist can detract from the value of a perfectly good blank canvas or the added value in terms of their time can be astronomical. About a hundred years ago Mark Twain said “Buy land they are not making it anymore.” That can be said of course of work by dead artists. With living artists not only can they create more – they can also get better or indeed worse.  They also eventually become dead.  Every artist who fails to sell his or her work thinks of Van Gogh who failed to sell in his lifetime and whose work came to be worth millions.

So if you are confused about what to do, here are ten suggestions:

  1. Only buy what you like
  2. Really, really  only buy what you like – not what you think you ought to like or what you think other people might like
  3. Do buy originals. Art needs artists to make them and artists need encouragement
  4. If you want art primarily as an investment choose an art fund and leave it to the experts
  5. Really don’t look for an investment – after all, if you liked a picture it would be  a terrible wrench to feel you had to sell it because you couldn’t afford the insurance on it
  6. Ignore the little voice within that says you could cope with that
  7. Consider student art – not because it might make you a fortune – that is highly unlikely – but because you will be able to buy more because it will be cheaper and so can afford to take a risk that after a few months you find you don’t like it as much.
  8. Take the risk every now and again – safe art is on the whole boring art.
  9. Do buy something – I know there is a recession on but art will  give you pleasure for far longer than say a meal out.
  10. Only buy what you like

Ok, I agree there weren’t really ten: one was repeated.

All this is a very long introduction to the Art Exhibition, part of Coastal Currents that is currently showing in Southwater Area Community Centre, St Leonards, East Sussex which I mentioned in my post a couple of weeks ago. Below are some of the works that are on sale. Mostly done by artists who are connected with Hastings College in some way, they are affordable.  The Affordable Art Fair in London defines affordable as under £4,000. I have always felt that to be somewhat optimistic. These are all under £200. The exhibition closes on Saturday 22 September, so you will have to hurry to see it. But I will pass on any enquiries to the artists involved. That is easy with the sixth one down as it is mine!

David Wright – Untitled – Mixed Media

Susan Cleland – Motherlove – Mixed Media

Nick Hill – Nick Woz Here – Mixed Media

Katy Oxborrow – Past and Present – Mixed Media

Shammi Begun – untitled – acrylic on canvas

Sue McDougall – Shrinking Horizons – Mixed Media

Tricia Oakland – Me First Me First – Acrylic on Canvas

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