Art is

Wow!  Art Chicago: Artopolis and Next at the Merchandise Mart this afternoon.  I am great at booking through these shows, just like I am able to exhaust some clients when we shop furniture, too (sorry, guys).  It took me every bit of my allotted 4 hours to see the art without the antiques, which I (sadly) had to bypass this time.


It was tons of fun.  Dealers were so friendly, so much to see and it was nice to see real, wonderful art for under $7000...  I distinctly remember that seeming the lowest price point one of the last years at Navy Pier.




It made me think:  What's Art?  Is it just in "the eye of the beholder" or is that concept silly?


I.  Art can be all sorts of things.  My definition is just that -- my definition.  It is completely a passion of mine to expose my family, friends and (of course) clients to art -- of so many kinds.  Where to start?


Me?  Give me some $$ and I will either take a trip (if it's enough $$) or buy something for my home.  It could (at this time of year) be a flat of funky dwarf allium (short perennials in the onion family) that might cost $80.00 or with a good multiplier of that budget; I might buy art that is either wall hung or sculptural.  All of that is really art.


a. Don't be misled that you have to (for you) spend "serious money" to have art.  No doubt that "serious money" will vary from person to person.


b."Good Art Won't Match Your Sofa"  One of my favorite $20 pieces of art in my house is a small print with that saying.  Buy what you love and find a place for it.  Most likely, the art will outlive your furniture, or at least the upholstery fabrics. 


c. Look around a bit before you buy.  Or ask someone you trust to accompany you from place to place. You can go to stores that have accessories and/or furniture, art fairs, galleries to big shows like Art Chicago this past weekend and SOFA (Structural Objects and Functional Art) in Oct .(YUMMY)  Look and look and look if you are not confident or just extremely curious. The Art Fair circuit can fill your summer weekends if you like and you will encounter many artists over and over.  I often (very often) ask artists what their schedule is for the season and mull over my decisions.  And they frequently choose to participate in the same shows from year to year if you want to scout their work for a while.


d. Cruise the galleries.  Chicago has more than one gallery area and each neighborhood "feels" different, as does each gallery.  Galleries will alternate their shows, but I find that they usually have something by artists they represent even if they are not their current focus. 


e. Galleries specialize:  functional art, glass, prints (signed multiples), textiles, mid-20th century paintings, Latin American or Asian and so on.  But yes, most galleries will carry new items.


II. Prices -- this is MY simple explanation -- are based on the reputation/success of the artist, the uniqueness of the art, the availability of the product.


a. The easiest of these specifics to emphasize and explain without aggravating anyone is the availability of the item.  Picasso, Dali and Chagall and VERY famous.  But they (and their estates) released many editions of signed/numbered and unsigned prints (serigraphs, lithographs) that make their work pretty available.  In past decades (and again recently) forgeries were sold because they were so "out there" and it wasn't too challenging to expand the market a little more.  Other artists from mid-century and later (some were called the "New York School" like Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Johns, etc.) have newer, quite distinctive pieces which are hugely collectable.  Then there's Warhol, with editions (as they are called) of prints and the prices vary from 7,000. per item to 100,000. for a Marilyn Monroe image.


b. Prints are released in "editions" that include a limited number of pieces plus (most often) a small group of Artists Proofs (AP).  45/200 means the 45th print out of 200.  Obviously, an edition of 45 or 80 is more exclusive than an edition of 400. 


If you are super lucky you might be able to buy the art from the artist or the publisher or --the company that made that print.  It could save you the middle person of the gallery/dealer.  (Not so easy to do that unless you know where to go.)


c. Unsigned and/or unnumbered multiples: often from furniture stores, boutiques, art fairs, buy this because you like it and it's in your budget.  Long term value?  Probably none, but so?  It should be more affordable and therefore not a concern.  Giclees are in this category and unsigned photographs.  Collectible photographs are also signed and numbered in editions of a handful to many more. 


d.  Paintings?  Starving Art Fairs are not the way to find serious art, but it's also affordable.  These people usually paint in the style of famous artists and even completely copy their work. The famous classics on canvas. Kinda fun.  But not for a budding collector, if that's what you want to become.  Technically, I guess they ARE one of a kind, in a way.


Look online.  I have very talented artist friends with Facebook pages /or web sites.  I have personally bought very serious art online, but I know who and or what I am looking for.  Maybe scout galleries and then try EBAY.  Use PayPal to guarantee your purchase.  (the one - what a joke, so obvious in person - forgery I bought a long time ago of a Lichtenstein was covered by PayPal) Or even an escrow company (really) can handle serious financial interchange.


The first painting we bought cost 25.00 at the Ann Arbor Art Fair right after college.  Last summer, I bought a painting at the same art fair from an artist that I had been watching and following for 5 summers.  He showed at Cherry Creek in Denver the first time I saw his work.  2 summers ago, his painting was on the program for the Old Town Art Fair Generously, he lowered his price.  Maybe tired of me hanging around his booth, (Actually, more likely, he was flattered by my consistent attention!)


III. Don't forget that art is all kinds of media. It includes collage, photography, painting, weaving, quilting, stone sculpture, glass work (one of the newer serious art forms), woodwork, mosaics and usual media like encaustic (look it up), cut paper.....Be open and buy what you like and figure out where it goes later.  I'll have to do that with a small piece I bought today.  Based on the subject (it's not serious) it can fit in some places, based on the medium (kind of a photo/collage) perhaps somewhere else.  And it'll make me smile!


If you are tentative, just don't let yourself spend more than what makes you comfortable.  But try to find something that you won't easily find elsewhere. The summer fairs are great at one level and there were some very creative pieces in the "Next" section of the show today, including "outsider" art, graduate student art and emerging artists from many Chicago galleries in unusual media.  I particularly went so that I could collect information from the more affordable local galleries so I can take clients that are not veteran "collectors" to look.  Check 'em out; they're here!




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