Friday, November 21, 2008

How to Buy Art in a Recession, Part 2

In Part 1 of this thread we discussed discounts, payment plans, and advanced payments as means of buying work when money's tight or taking advantage of the situation to secure a better position in a waiting list or pecking order. In Part 2, I'd like quickly to recommend a few other means of feeding your art habit and positioning yourself for the next upswing.

Don't Stop Looking
Even if your art buying budget has been squeezed due to the economy, that doesn't mean you should stay away from galleries. Looking is free. I suspect many collectors cringe at the thought of an anxious young dealer swooping down upon them with desperate discount offers or pleas for any purchase, but it's easy enough to be frank with such gallerists, saying you can't make any purchases at the moment, but you're still very interested in their program and wish to continue to see their new shows.

Tell them you'll let them know when you're ready to make a new purchase, but for the time being you want to stay up-to-date with their program and will continue to visit. You might see a physical response representing disappointment to this announcement, but bear in mind that even this interest is something your dealer will appreciate once he/she gets over their initial assumption that your presence meant a check was coming. Most critical in all this, to my mind, is that the dialog around artists' work (especially younger artists who the art world is just getting to know) remains strong. Yes, I know, dialog won't pay the electric bill, but it does feed the soul and spirit.

Inquire about Multiples or Drawings
Say you're very interested in an artist whose prices are a bit out of your range at the moment, but you want to ensure when things turn around you're well positioned to get a new major work. Another way to work up the pecking order is to support that artist by purchasing more inexpensive works, like prints or drawings. Some galleries may not exhibit such works in a show, even though they're available. Asking whether this artist has any such pieces available will lead to the conversation with the dealer that you want to have, ensuring they remember your interest and support when new major work becomes possible for you.

For artists whose prices are in that difficult zone (too high for impulse purchases and low enough to indicate you haven't yet had a retrospective at MoMA), a recession is perhaps a good time to consider making less expensive works...just to keep your market active. If your project doesn't make that possible, consider a collaboration with another artist or any project that gives you a product that seems a no-brainer pocketbook-wise.

Request an Overview of an Artist's Oeuvre
Experienced collectors who become interested in an artist new to them, even when there is no economic turmoil, often sit down with a dealer and ask to see all the work by an artist, even if it's been sold. This obviously gives them some clarity about the overall project and helps them make up their own minds about which works are stronger, but it also often fleshes out an overlooked gem among the work on the backburner of the dealer's conscience. Fifty attempts to place a piece that failed, despite how much a dealer believed in it, will tend to make them not think about it right away when someone new asks about it. Often the dealer was right, though...the piece was a gem...and by asking for an overview you may just snap up that work for a song.

I've said it twice now, so once more won't hurt anyone:
if you wait until the market rebounds, you'll miss out on the opportunities available now. Knowing how to maximize the opportunities really boils down to going into the gallery and talking with the dealer...asking questions, admitting you're just looking if that's your current situation, but keeping the dialog open. On those slow days, when the Dow is plunging and the phone's not ringing, believe me, your dealer will make a mental note that they really like you and your collection.

Image: Christopher K. Ho, Recycled Drawing, 2008, ink and graphite on vellum, 16" x 16".

Labels: art market


Blogger George said...

... positioning yourself for the next upswing.

That kind of caught my eye. From an artists point of view, what the art market does and what occurs creatively in the studio may not be connected at all.

As we have discussed before, periods marked by a quiet art market may foster more interesting art. It may be a period with less distractions and less pressures to fulfill market requirements.

I'm implying that challenging times like we are experiencing now, may offer the best selection of art works, works which are more creative, more intense and works which mark the point in history more effectively.

For sure, the collectors are probably feeling the pinch. The US stock markets are bidding President Bush 'goodbye' with the worst decline in history, worse even than 1929. There is the sense of panic in the air and when people are panicking, they act irrationally.

So everyone, take a deep breath, it is just another recession, not the end of the world. A huge part of the current economic problems are psychological, the bankers have panicked and until they change their underwear things may be a bit slow.

I'm not the person to ask, but my recollection is that during the past recessions the art market continued to function more or less the same, if a bit less frenetic. I expect it will do in the next few years as well.

In crisis lies opportunity.

11/21/2008 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"if you wait until the market rebounds, you'll miss out on the opportunities available now."

A few weeks ago, wasn't the discussion that a dealer shouldn't/can't lower their artist's prices in a downturn because it will piss off earlier collectors and devalue the work as a whole?

If that remains the case, what's this difference between buying now and buying 7 months ago? And why would it be any different to buy 7 months from now?

And all of these other things: discounts, payment plans, multiples...they're all nice, but it's nothing new. It's Collecting 101. And not at all Recession specific.

My advice would be to wait a year before spending more than $10,000 on anything in a commercial NYC gallery ($4,000 regionally). But keep an eye on the auction houses. I guarantee there will be enough death, divorce and debt to force much of the overpriced work by emerging artists that speculators bought up on the block. There will be bargains galore by young-ish artists whose prices were inflated.

11/21/2008 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

And all of these other things: discounts, payment plans, multiples...they're all nice, but it's nothing new. It's Collecting 101. And not at all Recession specific.

Little recession-specific advice is actually new, in any's simply good to be reminded of such options after feeding frenzies when people were used to buying in a different mode.

My advice would be to wait a year before spending more than $10,000 on anything in a commercial NYC gallery ($4,000 regionally).

Your advice is stunningly specific for an anonymous source...could you explain what makes your opinion more valid others? In other words, from what point of view or expertise are you offering it?

11/21/2008 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

A few weeks ago, wasn't the discussion that a dealer shouldn't/can't lower their artist's prices in a downturn because it will piss off earlier collectors and devalue the work as a whole

That wasn't my advice actually...but rather my assessment of the conventional wisdom. My advice was for dealers to reconsider that conventional wisdom and approach their collectors who had purchased at higher prices as to why it makes sense for both dealers and previous collectors to consider lowering prices.

11/21/2008 01:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having been through, and collected art through, two recessions. I've learned my lessons well.

The "three 'D's" produce a lot of bargains at the tail- end of a downturn. It's too early yet, but give it a year.

11/21/2008 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

I agree with everything you've said in both posts. I remember the early 90s, and how much I regretted afterwards not buying more than I did when I could afford it.

11/22/2008 01:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something to keep in mind if you go the auction route: even in a buyer's market like this, a seller's reserve will still be too high to move the work and it remains unsold. However, after the sale, you can call the auction house directly and make them an offer which they will pass on to the seller. Because this is a private transaction and outside the public eye, and especially if little interest was shown during the sale, sellers often let the piece go at a sizable discount, well below their original reserve.

I believe the MoMA took advantage of this strategy recently.

11/22/2008 03:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the collector i work for does this all the time. he recently bought a painting for 60% of the reserve.

11/22/2008 06:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Flyer to be handed out tomorrow the 23rd, at the meeting concerning the future of MOCA

The Failure of MoCA to serve the needs of Los Angelenos

MoCA does not represent the goals, aspirations, needs, or varied artistic creativity of Los Angeles. Contemporary art in general, has been about amusing and serving the desires of a tiny minority, the wealthy, and keeping art academies in business. It has no relevance to the life of Americans, and certainly not Los Angeles. No public funds should be used in any way. All efforts to keep the Museum financially stable, is completely on the audience it serves, the rich, and the Art Academies that rely on their patronization. If they cannot keep it afloat, it does not deserve to exist.
Privatizing the main site would be best, Museums such as the Norton Simon are of much higher quality, and involves far more and disparate peoples than MoCA ever has. The Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach has far greater outreach, and relevance to the community it truly serves. Its finances are stable, and within reason, for the public, not private sources who use MoCA more for its own desires than the public good. Art has always been to define a community, who a people are, and their search for meaning in life, of god, and family. Contemporary art in general does none of this, being about self-expression, desires, and defining decadence in a Gilded Age of self-worship, which has now ended. The equivalent of the Academy of the nineteenth century, its day is over, if it ever truly had one.
The Modern Art of the Panza Collection should be sold to a modern museum, preferably the gallery at LACMA. They now have more than enough wall space, and need to upgrade a rather mediocre level of art. It could be kept, as the only truly valuable work in the Museum, being stolen fair and square. As Manhattan was for a few baubles, in the great American tradition of land deception and breaking of treaties. Or housed at the Geffen, and selling or renting the main site for another type of museum or other public usage. Selling the other works, whose prices have crashed forever, true worth now to be seen, could keep the Institution alive. And hopefully bring more of LA into it, looking for more and better art to inspire the imaginations and hearts of Los Angelenos, few of who know, or care, about the Contemporary, or its art.
But the desires of the few, no matter how well connected or financed, should not induce the City or County of Los Angeles into any deals. A reprioritizing of values is now underway, the new Administration holding out the promise of uniting us as a whole, being about We, rather than the Meism of Contemporary “Art”. Sacrifice is now called for, not to promote the few, but by the whole, for the whole, including the wealthy, who hold the resources of our age to an inordinate degree. There are far greater needs at stake, our children, our homes, our livelihoods. Art has not addressed these fundamental human needs for generations.
And until it does, should not be financed by public funds, through grants, incentives, deals, property or direct cash infusions. Let the market it serves determine the outcome.

Donald Frazell art collegia delenda est

11/22/2008 09:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

for anon 'don't spend more than 10,000 in Ny...'......i'm an artist in new york and after years of work my work sells for more than your 'sum'. your advice misses the point that a lot of people who buy art can afford much more than that:in the 90's, today and tomorrow. barring a catastrophe people buy art they like.

11/23/2008 10:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Donald, give the collegia a rest already.

11/23/2008 11:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Gosh, now I know how to make it big: sell huge paintings for 200 bucks when everybody else sells their cheap drawings and multiples for 1000.


Cedric C

11/24/2008 03:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

A lot of art that is sold expensively is actually not expensive at all to make. So when artist think of "let's make an unexpensive work", they're probably thinking "let's make a work that is of a lower received media that will sells for less, or of a smaller size". Of course the 200 bucks wall-size painting would have to consist of 99-cent store gouache, but many artists wouldn't have to restrain their choice of media or type of work if they only reduced their prices. The problem is the money lost when works are resold by their owners for XXX times their original value. This is very annoying because I think it influences artists in not giving their best. They simply don't want to "get stolen". I don't see how laws could be implemented to give a percentage of profit from any future sales to the original artists and their heirs, but I don't like the idea of "not giving your best" because you want to reach a market. If you hate doing little drawings and it's just not you and you know you're doing them just to make some extra cash, maybe think of something else, because it shows in a gallery when work is being done just for the extra cash. And I find these things embarassing for art. Sorry.

Cedric Caspesyan

11/24/2008 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

You could buy unknown artists wih little track record and help keep them afloat during this critical period. I know several with out gallery representation and massive bills. Sucks for them.

Even plankton need to float.

And further, though buying unknowns in a scattershot is known as "spray and pray" to the more sharky, (I prefer the more colonial "plant fish with your crops in drought, and know ye that loaves of plenty will ye so reape") if you buy what you like, then you will never get burned (unless you lack taste or locate your collecting sensibility somewhere outside yourself as a socially defined status game or blindman's bluff as I am wont to say).

Where to find this work? Surely in well established galleries with honest cheerfull gallerinas to guide your sweaty palms towards the sparkling Lambrusca!

"How to collect art in a 'recession'"

Surely you jest? Let he with the sourest disposition cast the first tarish'd hay-penny before my feete!

Eye of the tyger!

11/24/2008 02:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow...all this talk of reaching a market by changing your work or making work specifically to a particular persons taste, which would be guessing, is SAD. What about: make work. get gallery. sell work. make more. there is no need to pander to ANYONE if your good enough. sounds mean, sure. but it's true. if GM can fail, so can a bunch of bad galleries and bad artists. as an artist and a fan of art i would like to see things get tougher, more selective. just because it sells doesn't mean it's good, but, it usually does.

11/24/2008 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

why are the obnoxious comments like that always (Always) anonymous?

The notion that making drawings is somehow compromising your vision suggests a lack of maturity as an artist to me...if you live off your art, then like everyone else in the world you have a new reality to deal deal with it. If you are selling well, as you suggest, ignore this advice. If you're not, consider it. End of story.

11/24/2008 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

I'm never anonymous. I'm not trying to detriment the validity of drawing as an art medium. It is an essential practice to many artists (for example, Christo). But there is a practice where a dealer suggests an artist who would never otherwise do such a thing as a small collage or drawing, to do them in order to reach a lower market. At least I heard some artist admit that it was the only purpose for their smaller works.

I think there should be other solutions. A multiple can be cute sometimes but some artist drawings feel so rushed that I think you can easily reverse the "immature" tag and accuse artists of being irresponsible and self-indulgent. This is a case by case affair. When the press release goes "recently, the artist has also started exploring drawing...." when their art usually has nothing to do with drawing, it is not a good sign.
But I'm fully ready to give the benefit of doubt until I see the work. But I'm a pretty experimented audience so don't underestimate my testimony when I say that a lot of the "little works" suck. That's also reality.

Perhaps lithos (a la Goya) or prints is a better suggestion.

Cedric Caspesyan

11/24/2008 03:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Again, I saw an artist recently who decided prints was a good idea for extra cash, and that section of the show was just awful and meaningless.

Yet the multiples at the beginning of the Gilbert And George retro are lovely. You really get a sense of how that work was meant and necessary. It's important for an artist to ask these questions I find, about the pertinency of what they're doing.

Cedric C

(Too much "But" in my previous comment.)

11/24/2008 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Response to Ed for calling my comment obnoxious....why am i obnoxious for saying that pandering to collectors is obnoxious. shouldn't artists be obdurate relative to collectors needs or desires. you want me to ignore the advice, personally i will, but the advice still is flawed in my opinion. artists should do whatever they please and damn the collectors tastes or preferences. if collectors like my work i am honoured, but thats it. if i tell you my name then the whole blogosphere makes me the target for all frustrated artists, bitter collectors, angry dealers and any wacko with a grudge. sorry Ed, i love your blog, but i like my privacy .that is the plus of your blog, i can speak frankly. Success breeds contempt.

11/24/2008 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

why am i obnoxious for saying that pandering to collectors is obnoxious

I think we're coming at this issue from two very different point of views and clashing over assumptions of what the other person means.

I'll admit, what I feel is obnoxious is your read of that statement.

Even your re-phrasing---"pandering to collectors"---is a particularly negative read. Why not give me any credit here?

What I recommended was "consider making less expensive works...just to keep your market active" not "less interesting" or "less accomplished" or "less true to your vision" or anything "less" than your very best work...the topic of the thread is considerations for difficult economic times, not a dictation to artists that this is what they must make right now...the difference is important. If your studio practice relies on money you personally make coming in, you could go wash dishes until the art market springs back or you could make some keeps you in the studio longer...the other may give you some fantasy of staying true to your work, but to be honest, I think most artists' best work comes from being in the studio longer...there's no reason the less expensive work can't be studies for the more ambitious projects you'll realize when the time is right.

11/24/2008 07:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"some fantasy of staying true to your work"
my experience in the artworld for the past 12 years is not a fantasy. the artists that inspired me to move to new york (and try) had visions that filled my head with dreams of FREEDOM. listening to no collector, market or dealers 'needs'. i give you credit for a great blog, great gallery and great personality; but i think young artists who read this blog should aspire to the same complete freedom that i did and do. also, your implication that everyone makes studies for larger works is narrow, in my opinion. there is no rule book...only freedom.

11/24/2008 07:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If someone can afford a discretionary 10 grand for a painting nowadays, I don't think they need Ed's "How To Collect In A Recession" advice.

Zip nailed it: "if you buy what you like, then you will never get burned". That's the best damn collecting advice one can get: downturn, upturn or nose turn.

11/24/2008 09:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

But they are preparatory studies which should remain in a sketchbook and not be framed and signed as works of art.
In the Miro retro you had a good example of that. Some collages are put next to their painting counterparts. These collages
served as tools for the major works, they were very informative or in fact essential to the artist's process, yet to me they don't function well on their own. You wouldn't go "wow, a classic Miro!" just by looking at them. A Christo drawing on the contrary is very strong as a piece of art.

Both needed to realize extra paraphernalia in the process of realizing greater projects, but there is a tendency to input value on whatever an artist touches or signs that is not in my estimation always artistically redeemable.

A gallery filler remains a filler, regardless if the piece is relevant or not to the overall process or vision of an artist, but sometimes a dealer push an artist to sell works that they don't (the artists) even consider art themselves. This should be put into attention.

Cedric Casp

11/24/2008 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

my experience in the artworld for the past 12 years is not a fantasy[...]visions that filled my head with dreams of FREEDOM

It's not as if I don't see the central point of your objection (to the idea that an artist would be encouraged to make work tailored for the market), but the notion that one suggestion (which most likely will not mean anything even approaching true compromise for a wide range of the very young artists [as if commissions and other such suggested work was beneath a "real" artist]) you're reportedly looking out for) in a series of suggestions dealing with the recession is some sort of threat to your (or anyone's) artistic freedom is a bit much, don't you think?

11/24/2008 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Conversely to my old chestneut about buying what you like: if you always buy what you like, you probably won't progress much down the spiritual path to total enlightenment, which is my goal, personally. I mean levitation and shit.

The problem with the whole notion of compromise is this: what are you talking about? What is YOUR vision? Mine is about systems and systemic movement, self organizing systems (my own brain (total spiritual enlightenment) for starters)and automatic writing, or something like that. SO what am I compromising exactly at this juncture?

Does a snowball compromise when it becomes an avalanche? What if I'm just a snowball? Does it matter if I roll down the mountain today or in two weeks? A month? Ten years? Never? I'm a freaking snowball. Deal with it.

If I EVER hear someone tell me I'm compromising on the road to my horizon, then they will have to defend their little glass shack as well.

The only criticism I accept as valid is "you are boring me" - which is itself a precarious position (I could sit through Warhol's "Sleep" and I sat through Matthew Barney's Olympiad, waited in line to see "Tutankamen's Tomb" and read a lot of Winkleman's verbose posts, so whatever.)

Japan dryer dude, thats the kind of compromise I'm making right now. Paint is expensive too, so I;m not knocking acrylics, even though they look like ass.
SO with regards to quality and vision: leave your sermonizing to someone you can cow into subservience. God help them.

11/25/2008 12:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has hell frozen over? Zipthw has articulated something with (almost) no impenetrable verbiage! "I'm a freakin snowball. Deal with it." is my new motto.

Zip, whatever you're taking right now, I think you've found the magic cocktail.

11/25/2008 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but related to the recession:
This was reported in a very off-hand way in a recent Charlie Finch piece on artnet:

Artist Adam Stennett remarked that his gallery, 31 Grand, which just moved from Williamsburg, might be closing: "I'm looking for a new one."

It's hard to believe that
a) a gallery artist would casually mention this to a critic, and
b) the critic would publish it (put it in his online column) without the gallery making an announcement. There's nothing on the 31 Grand website about closing. What is up with this??

11/25/2008 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

response to ED on...."a bit much."

sure it's a bit much...but for some people, me included, commissions and the like are not conducive to my very personal program. unlike Zipthwung, spiritual enligthenment is no where involved. I hear your points ed, but respectfully differ, thats all.

11/25/2008 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

31 Grand is merging with Black & White Gallery.

Why do you find it so hard to believe that an artist would casually mention that to a critic? The grass always looks greener. Although nowadays, it's best to stick with the ship if it ain't sunk.

11/25/2008 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I hear your points ed, but respectfully differ, thats all.

And I respect that you're sticking to your guns...honestly.

11/25/2008 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Heather Stephens said...

Yes 31GRAND is closing. It was not an easy decision for Megan and I, and was quite a sad one. The reason we have not widely announced it, is the fact that the last thing we would want is for Maureen Cavanaugh's show to be overshadowed by the news. We have spent years caring for and loving all of our artists, and striving to do what is best for them, and were not about to stop doing that with our last show. All of our artists have known about the upcoming end to the gallery. As for Black & White, I will be going over there. Tatyana is a dear and good friend. We will be in Miami together at the Aqua Hotel fair, and you'll find some of the 31GRAND artists work there and you will see more in upcoming exhibitions at Black & White.

11/29/2008 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if you are closing you really should not say on your site "We prefer submissions to be emailed."

There are hundreds of kids out there from Latvia to Uganda wanting to send images to someone, anyone in New York willing to look.

It is careless to goad them on as if you were still functioning.

11/30/2008 10:32:00 AM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

OMG, it's also easy to anonymously pick nits with someone who's generous enough to allow email submissions in the first place.

It's not as if Stephens is dying or getting shipped to Mongolia. She's moving to another gallery. The artist who submits work in has not done so in vain.

11/30/2008 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

What Deborah said...

Plus the fact that an artist "wanting to send images to someone, anyone in New York willing to look" is wasting their time plus the time of the dealer. Seriously, stop doing this. Do your homework and only approach the galleries you have good reason to believe would be a good match for your work.

12/01/2008 07:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Actually, not to be anal about the recent conversation (gallerist vs dealer), you mean approach the "dealer", because as physical spaces, sometimes the gallery is perfect for you when the dealer is not. If you see what I mean?


Cedric Caspesyan

12/01/2008 02:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Edward_ said...

What Deborah said...

(hold it hold it now)

Truth is, other than what we have all, ranom callers here, have been learning fron ED, I have no idea what is being sent gallerists -or dealers.

I simply come here to make a sometimes cutting sometimes offbeat comment or two.

...Latvia and Uganda seemed rightly far and obscure enough to make a point on quantity ad hopeless hope.

12/01/2008 08:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Art Rogue said...

I met with a curator friend last night and she told me she had two separate artist call her this week and ask if the gallery was closing.

There is fear to go all around. Hunker down and make some good purchases. Buying a $10 print from an artist goes a long way to keep that artist afloat.

12/04/2008 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time to draft the third piece in this trilogy "How to Buy Art in a Depression"?

I'm betting on grim returns in Miami for most parties involved. :( Good luck Ed. Rough times ahead for all of us.

12/05/2008 10:48:00 AM  

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