Collecting ART on a budget

ASK THE ARTSPERTS by Juliana Meek and Kristine Meek

Dear Artsperts:
I was thinking there is the old saying that you should spend two months’ salary on an engagement ring. Is there a rule like that for buying fine art? How should I go about fitting fine art into my budget and what should I expect to spend on a painting?

Ca’D’Oro” by Bob Kane, oil
on linen

Budgeting collector

Dear Budgeting,
There is no hard and fast rule for the amount that you should spend on artwork. However, purchasing art falls squarely within your discretionary income. Fine art by artists with national and international reputations is considered a luxury. As with any luxury item you should first buy what you like. However, what you like may be outside your budget. There are some options, depending on the scenario in which you find yourself:

1. You have your heart set on a particular artist, but not a particular work – you could consider a small work, a lithograph, or a study by that artist. These are far less expensive alternatives. Studies also give greater insight into the artist’s mind since you can often see changes the artist is experimenting for the final work. However, we suggest avoiding giclee, also known as digital or archival prints, which are reproductions. Giclee is viewed as a purely commercial endeavor with serious repercussions for the long term value of an artist’s work.

2. You don’t have your heart set on a particular artist, but rather a particular style of an artist. Artists don’t work in a vacuum. They are influenced by one another. You should look for artists who paint in a similar style to the artist you like most but whose reputation is less established and
therefore commands a lower price. This isn’t to suggest you should buy a work by an artist who is clearly copying the work of another. You should be able to tell the difference between the two artists even though there are similarities.

Three Chairs Study” by Will Barnet, watercolor

3. You have your heart set on a particular work by a particular artist. If the first two options won’t suffice, your third option is to ask the dealer for payment options. A payment plan over time may work for your budget. Some galleries may hold the work until 50% is paid. You may find the  gallery won’t charge you interest unless the payment plan is more than a year. Another option is to try to negotiate on the price. In galleries that directly represent artists the price is set by the artist and the gallery’s role is to maintain and increase the value of the artists’ work for the benefit of  both the artist and collectors. These types of galleries have very little flexibility on price, but you know the work came directly from the artist’s studio. Galleries that have a lot of price flexibility should actually cause you to be suspicious. It may mean they are marking up to mark down.

Some collectors set aside a certain amount each year to spend on purchasing one or two paintings. Building an art collection can be a life-long endeavor and one you can enjoy and pass on to your loved-ones as well.
The Artsperts

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