A friend emailed me a question the other day. ” Caroline, can you suggest any artists you think I would enjoy? I’ve cleared a few walls and even though it’s not a financially good time for new, original art, I think prints can sometimes be found at quite reasonable prices.”
As an art collector, I shuddered to read the question. The truth is, almost anyone can afford an original piece. In fact, if a person lived in a hovel, that would be all the more reason to hammer a beautiful image on the wall. We need art if we are to dream.
In my collecting experience, I’ve been lucky. I haven’t had to spend much money. Mostly, I cultivate local artists, the younger the better, those whose work touches me. Over the years, I’ve managed to assemble a decent array. My one regret is that one day my “little family” will go to my estate where they will inevitably be scattered to the four winds.
The pain of that dissolution shouldn’t deter me, or anyone else, from collecting art, however. A good way to start is to haunt student art shows. There you will discover talent before it’s fully bloomed. And think of the bragging rights if you have a good eye. “Oh yes, she was 19 when I bought this sketch for $50. Today, you couldn’t touch it for less than $1,000.”
Sadly, too many folks cover their walls with prints rather than support a struggling artist. I see these people in shops with a rolled up copy of Renoir’s ballet dancers tucked under one arm, as they consult a clerk about a proper frame. The print probably set them back $25. The frame, though worthless without content, will cost no less than $75. More, when you add matting.
For $100 a person can purchase original student work. It might grow in value It might not. What’s important is that you like it and with each passing year, you will be warmed by the memory of the first day you clapped eyes on it and fell in love. One can’t have warm, fuzzy feelings about a frame. The best an old frame can expect is to collect dust in secondhand shop.
In the end, my reply to the email I received was simple. “Don’t settle for a print.” Most artists, especially young ones, will cut a deal to please someone who admires of their work. The compliment is too heartwarming to cast aside. Buy the best art you can afford and if it’s small, never mind. Buy a larger frame. I’ve told you where to find those.
Art is real. Art is earnest. Once you’ve begun to collect, you’ll never hover before a cliché print again.