On Collecting Art

As a man who loves to talk, one of my favorite paid gigs is when I am invited to be a speaker at art functions, or for art groups, etc.

Later this week I will be heading out to Plein Air Easton, where I will be one of the guest speakers for that city-wide art event.

I am going to digress already from my title subject and give you a little background on Plein Air Easton. Just four years ago this event got started as many artists worldwide have begun to return to painting in the Plein Air style, and once again, as they did in 19th century Europe, are leaving their studios to paint and draw outside… on roadsides, on the beach, on top of mountains, in their gardens and yards, and even in city streets to capture landscapes, still life, figures and architecture in their natural elements.

Plein Air Easton

I think that the resurgence of this movement, much like it happened in Europe in the 19th century, may be a reaction by some artists to the overwhelming presence of technology in our daily lives. And I can live with that; there’s plenty of room for plein air painters and digital photographers and technogeeks artists in the art world.

The festival started yesterday Monday, July 21 and goes through Sunday, July 27, 7:00am-5pm… but there are tons of associated events in this gorgeous and tiny Eastern Shore Maryland village. All the details are The festival goes from Monday, July 21 - Sunday, July 27, 7:00am-5pm… but there are tons of associated events in the gorgeous and tiny Maryland village. All the details are here.

I will be speaking on Saturday, July 26th at 7PM at the Academy Art Museum on the subject of contemporary art, collecting, artists and art in general.

In preparing some slides for the presentation, I wanted to address how beginning collectors may want to approach the first initial steps to the process, with the preconceived notion that many people are intimidated by art galleries.

This is unfortunate, because perhaps the safest and best way to collect artwork is by establishing a good solid relationship with several reputable art dealers (never anchor all your art collecting efforts on a single art dealer).

But there are other ways, complementary methods in some cases, which work as well to beginning to build an art collection.

I think that one of the best and safest ways is via art auctions, and not just the major blue chip auction houses such as Sotheby’s, Christie’s and others, but nearly every other auction house on the planet that every once in a while offers art as part of their programs.

I say “safe” with the caveat that for some folks, it is not a good idea to get caught in the frenzy of a live auction. So it is always best to set yourself a limit, register it with the auction house or event, and then leave and hope that your bid is a winner.

I say “best” because depending on the type of auction, some spectacular deals can often be had. For example, in the Greater Washington, DC region there are a couple of very reputable auction houses which tend to focus generally on antiques and furniture, with a sprinkling of fine art here and there. In my experience, works by Washington Color School stripe painters can sometimes be had for a lot less than they would get in New York or LA.

But by far the very best way to accomplish the same thing is via charity auctions.

At a charity auction you’re doing a couple of good things; as they say, it’s a “win - win” situation. You are helping a good cause as well as acquiring artwork, and in some cases even helping the artist (some charity auctions give the artists a part of the proceeds).

A good one is ARTcetera, which began in 1985 as a grassroots AIDS fundraiser, conceived by Boston-area artists to help in some way against the disease which was so directly affecting the artistic community. A year later the event became the biennial event that it remains today.

Today ARTcetera is a “biennial creative black-tie contemporary art auction created and supported by a unique partnership between the visual arts community and AIDS Action Committee. Guests enjoy fine food and beverages and bid on more than three hundred fresh works by acclaimed local, national and international artists. An exciting live auction and two silent auctions present works in a variety of media, sizes, and styles.”

There are literally thousands of these type art charity auctions all throughout the nation, and artists are among the most generous of donors to the many calls that we receive to donate artwork for them. In my own case, I can usually be counted to participate in about a dozen such events a year (including this one by the way).

Many more tips on collecting art coming down this way later…

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  1. July 28, 2008 @ 10:08 pm

    Robin Maria Pedrero Said,

    I am glad you shared the win win aspect of an auction for art collecting. One note though usually for the artist it is a donation where only the supplies are deductible. I gladly donate to several charity auctions each year. I look forward to reading more of your art collecting tips.

  2. July 29, 2008 @ 10:04 am

    Lenny Said,

    For years and years, when artists donated a work of art to a museum, all that they could deduct from their taxes was the cost of the materials to make the artwork.

    However, in 2007 Congressmen Jim Ramstad (R-MN) and John Lewis (D-GA) had introduced the “Artists-Museum Partnership Act” – a bill to provide a fair-market value tax deduction for works of arts donated by artists to arts institutions.

    By the way, Congressman John Lewis is an avid art collector himself and a very visible presence at the occasional art gallery opening in both DC and Atlanta.

    The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), had 25 co-sponsors in the Senate.

    The bill was HR 1524, and I hate to admit that I’m not sure what happened to it or if it was even brought up to a vote. Maybe it’s time to call our representatives and ask?

  3. August 7, 2008 @ 2:01 pm

    funnygirl Said,

    Yay! Interesting.

  4. August 9, 2008 @ 11:40 am

    Jay Said,

    Taken from http://www.collegeart.org/advocacy/000540/

    “April 2008

    Category: Tax Policy
    The Artists-Museum Partnership Act now has a record number of supporters in the Senate–thirty–most recently Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has long been a cosponsor. Eighty-eight members in the House of Representatives support the bill, which surpasses previous support.

    The National Endowment for the Humanities released a report in September 2007 that had been requested by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Robert Bennett (R-UT). The report details the need for and likely effect of the bill. It is available for download.

    Efforts now focus on getting the bill included in a larger piece of tax legislation, because small provisions such as the artist bill always are enacted as part of a package of tax measures. There is no fixed schedule for consideration of tax measures, nor any guarantee that President George W. Bush will sign them.”

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