First published on 9 May 2012. Updated on 26 Nov 2012.
John Kaldor’s $35 million art collection started with a $50 painting. Now, his stash is enough to make any bona fide art aficionado froth at the mouth in contemporary art ecstasy. It’s also a pleasant reminder that personal art collections can have very modest beginnings.
With the pop-up and artist-run initiative (ARI) featuring as prime real estate in today’s commercial art world, rookie buyers have the perfect market ‘in’. In such a turbulent artistic climate, however, it’s easy to make mistakes. So we’ve enlisted the experts to help us brave our first art buy.
So what to do? “Avoid fads," says Annette Larkin, Director of Annette Larkin Fine Art. "You’re looking for an artist who is serious, and who is dedicated to their practice. Don’t hurry, and spend at least six months looking.”
Larkin, one of Sydney’s premier art dealers, believes a work has to talk to you and have some kind of relationship with you for it to be meaningful. She also believes you should keep tabs on photography and video.
Liam Benson Coat of arms (2009 c type print 90x120 cm)
If you’re a young buyer with sights set on a more traditional medium like painting, for example, Larkin offers the following advice: “There will always be painting, so make sure the work is taking you to another level and is looking at things in a different way.”
Well-known gallerist Iain Dawson, who has recently closed the doors of his Oxford Street gallery to embrace the online and pop-up arena, is another oracle Time Out talked to. His advice? Buy on paper.
“Many people make sensible decisions to buy limited edition prints, etchings or lithographs,” says Dawson. “Australians have also become more comfortable buying photography because we’ve stopped having that debate. We’ve accepted that photography is art and that there are many talented photographers out there.”
Researching an artist’s credibility also comes into the decision making process. “It’s important to look at an artist’s CV, and see where they’ve shown," says Larkin. "If they’ve been included in an exhibition at a museum then that’s a big tick because curators are interested in artworks that show something different and new.”
“As a collector starting out, it’s important to see what’s happening in both spheres," Dawson explains. "Anything that you do to train your eye will help when you go to a commercial gallery ready to buy.”
So, to recap: look for work that you connect with, consider a range of mediums, do your homework and train your eye.
Tim Silver ‘Untitled (bust)’ (2011)
Now, to the dosh.
For a work on paper by an emerging artist, Dawson’s ballpark is $200-$1,500. “Be educated in the edition sizes and weigh this up with the popularity of the artist,” he says. And for a reasonably sized paining by a mid-range artist, $5,000 is justified.
Larkin’s recommended spend on a piece by promising talent ranges from $500-$10,000. But the top end is more suited to buyers with art consultants. From here it can go up to $30,000 and beyond for a mid-range established artist.
Buying contemporary art is not about demonstrating refined taste or reading a name. Buying contemporary art is about satisfying a craving for something new and something that makes you think outside the box. Happy collecting!
Artists to watch:
||Miranda Skoczek Skoczek’s works on canvas combine calligraphic markings and layered paint. The artist explores boundaries between abstraction and representation, design and painting in her quest to reveal the history of image making.
||Michael Niccol An artist interested in questioning the power of the individual in both built and imagined environments. Watch this space.
||Liam Benson A performance artist who documents work through photography, video and new media, Benson challenges perceptions of gender, race, culture, sexuality and identity.
||Jess MacNeil An investigation of the relationship between humans and their environment is at the core of MacNeil’s practice. The artist works across painting, installation, video and photography to look at traces of human passage trough time and place.
||Tim Silver Silver’s sculptures explore the classical ideas of permanence that historical sculpture embodies. Ideas of erosion, decay and the passing of time are central to Silver’s artistic agenda.
Galleries to visit:
Iain Dawson Gallery at Mary Place Gallery 12 Mary Place, Paddington 2021. Tue-Sat 11am-5.30pm; Sun 1pm-5pm. Jun 18-Jul 1.
James Dohray Project Space 111 Macleay Street, Potts Point 2011. Tues-Sat 11am-6pm; Sun 11am-4pm.
Galerie Pompom 2/39 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale 2008. Tues-Sat 11.30am-5.30pm.
Sarah Cottier 3 Neild Avenue, Paddington 2021. Wed-Sat 11am-5pm.
Artereal 747 Darling Street, Rozelle 2039. Wed-Sat 11am-5pm.