acquisition begins not with your dollars, but with your eyes and mind.
Looking at art is the most important thing you can do when you decide
to acquire a new piece.
During your search process, you will
find that certain factors will influence your decision. Some people
approach art acquisition from a decorative standpoint. They are
looking for something that will look good in a specific part of their
Other people take a more serendipitous
approach: They will know they have found the right piece when they
find it. Other people are more interested in a specific artist or
style of work. A fortunate few buy art as a way to support a cause or
artist and are not concerned with the return on their investment.
Many art collectors do treat art as an
investment to some degree. During my time as a gallery owner and art
collector, I have used three general guidelines in helping me decide
whether to purchase or represent an artist.
First of all, I look to see how an
artist is different. Does the artist have something unique to say?
Does the artist have his or her own style? I also look to see if the
artist is fairly prolific. Finally, I do try to judge the artistís
overall body of work to see if it is consistently good. Some artists
are prolific, but there is no evolution of their talent, skill or
Of course, there are always exceptions
to these rules. But over time, I have found that these three elements
often create an excellent framework for viewing a potential art
Most people have an idea in their minds
of what they would like to spend on a work of art. You should not be
embarrassed to mention this. The perception that a gallery will not
work with you if you are not a "big spender" is not true.
The experience and results will be more fun and rewarding if the art
dealer can focus on art in your price range.
When I started collecting art at 15, my
first acquisitions were usually my art teachersí works. Picassoís
etchings sold for around $50 in the 1950s. We all start somewhere.
Sometimes I work with people who have a
set price range and find that their chosen artistís best work is not
affordable. If that is the case, I will recommend that the client look
for a different artist working in their range. This means the client
can still buy the best quality by that artist. From an investment
standpoint, it is far better to acquire an artistís best work than
to purchase a lesser, more affordable piece of art by the same artist.
David Barnett is an
artist, art dealer and the owner of the oldest Wisconsin art gallery,
the David Barnett Gallery in Milwaukee. He resides in