With the art fairs going on this month, I think you’ll agree with me that the choice of contemporary artworks available to you as an art collector is overwhelming. Paintings, sculpture, multi-media, you name it. In this article we give you the lowdown on how art advisors determine if a work of art is worth your hard-earned cash. This is not an exhaustive list, but it will get you started!
What Career Stage Is The Artist In?
This may not be obvious but the artist's career path determines to a large degree how much they can charge for their art. So first you need to understand the difference between emerging, mid-career and established artists. There are no hard-and-fast rules. Age is not necessarily relevant here. Some artists’ careers accelerate faster than others, sometimes caused by speculation in the contemporary market. Other artists are excellent at selling their own works and don’t want much to do with art galleries. However, these three stages give a good indication of where an artist is or should be in his or her career.
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Emerging, Mid-Career Or Established
Emerging artists are just starting out, they have just left art school, and their first exhibitions tend to be group shows. Mid-career artists have achieved a level of recognition nationally through a solid body of work and have a number of solo exhibitions under their belt. Established artists have built a stable career over many years, including frequent sales, top gallery representation and having their art in museum collections. Established artists tend to be well-known internationally.
Value In Relation To Career Achievements
When determining the value of an artwork, you want to see levels of achievement that are commensurate with the artist’s career stage (it’s a thought process similar to determining a salary in other industries). Solo shows, for example, are considered more important than being included in a group exhibition and they tend to happen later on in an artist’s career; when the artist has had the chance to make a name for themselves. That said, the gallery at which the exhibition is taking place is also an important consideration. An artist represented by David Zwirner or Gagosian Gallery can command higher prices than if he or she was represented by a small local start up.
What Can You Find Out As A Collector?
As an art collector, you can do some sleuthing around and inform yourself before you go to the fairs. Most professional artists have a detailed resume on their website which includes their exhibition history, prizes and grants won and press received. They will also have put their bio and artist’s statement on their site, explaining their creative vision and how this shows in their art. If the artist is represented by a gallery, this information is usually listed on their contact page.
Lastly, Let's Talk About The Artwork
Last but not least, let’s talk about the artwork, which, from your perspective, is the most important thing to consider. Money is important but ultimately, you have to decide if you want to live with the artwork. So ask yourself: What is the work’s wall-power? Is the composition strong? Does the artist master their medium (i.e. how is the technical execution)? Is the work conceptually strong or does it feel tired, like you’ve seen it before? Do you think you can look at the artwork every day for the next 20 years without getting bored?
An art advisor or art consultant takes these factors into account when advising a collector on an acquisition. By viewing art on a regular basis, you can train your ‘eye’ and start thinking like an art consultant which, over time, will make it easier to make informed acquisition decisions. In future blog posts we’ll write about other things to consider before you buy a painting or sculpture. For now, happy art hunting!