My art collecting began with a student’s question. “I have to copy a painter’s style. Who would you chose?” “Van Gogh,” I said, little knowing that when finished, the piece would come to me. It has been on my wall for 40 years. The moment I hung it opposite a sunny window, the photographs beside it, those I’d cut from magazines, seemed to quiver and die of shame. Nothing gives life to a room like a genuine work of art. And so began my collecting days.
Most of what I own, I purchased directly from artists or through a reputable gallery. I often bought in installments, turning calendar pages with impatience until I could bring home my treasure. Over the years, these pieces have given me great joy. The one sorrow I feel is thinking that at my death, the collection will be disbursed — sold or given away. I dread to think about any of them abandoned to some dusty corner of a second-hand shop.
Only two works in my collection were purchased at an auction. The company, Park West, enjoys an “iffy” reputation and has lost more than one lawsuit. (“Going Once… Going Twice… Sold!” by Vernon Silver, Bloomberg Businessweek, Dec. 19-25, 2016, pgs. 52-55) In the mid-1990s I bought two prints, a serigraph and a lithograph, from them. Both were signed, limited editions with inflated appraisal values. I wasn’t dazzled by my good fortune. I had a sense of their real value.
Not once have I suffered from buyer’s remorse. But, after the Bloomberg article, I grew curious and did little sleuthing. I paid $495 for the Tarkay serigraph. In today’s market, similar pieces range from a low of $195 to over $4,000. Value depends not only upon the popularity of the piece, but also upon the print’s condition, and the number pulled for an edition. Doubtless, I could get my money back if I sold the work today. More likely, I’d make a profit. Profit, however, has never been my aim. I buy for delight.
The second work, a lithograph by Jean-Claude Picot, I purchased for $195. No similar prints that I could discover were available for less than $400
To this day, Park West flourishes despite its poor publicity. One reason may be as P. T. Barnum said, a fool is born every minute. Another might be because the auction house puts on a show as glittering as any in Los Vegas. But unlike Los Vegas, the Park West waiters pour enough cheap bubbly to keep the bidders happy. Not chastened by a few legal setbacks, the company has grown in audacity. No longer confined to hawking goods at a local hotel, today, their auctions sail the high seas on luxury cruise lines