Saturday, July 22, 2006

No kidding...

This "don't be afraid to shop for art" story from the NY Times, is illustrative of why some folks think they're elitist.

Kenise Barnes, who owns a gallery in Larchmont, N.Y., was formerly the specialist in charge of contemporary paintings and drawings at Christie’s East, which was the section for work under $50,000. She says she knows the feeling.

After moving to the suburbs, “I’d walk into galleries in Chelsea with my stroller and I’d been in the business and I’d be intimidated by the snooty little girl behind the desk.”

But it’s time to get over it.

“People don’t know they can go into an art gallery just like they can go into any other store,” said Judith Tannenbaum, curator of contemporary art at the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design. “There seems to be some sort of mystique about it.”

Barbara Guggenheim, an art consultant and author who has built up the art collections of numerous celebrities and major corporations, goes even further: “There’s no difference between an art dealer and a used-car dealer — they both want to sell you something.”

It might be nice if the used-car world adopted some of the common practices of many galleries: they often will allow prospective buyers to take a piece of work home “on approval” for a short time to see how it looks en situ.

And, like Ms. Barnes, they can do an awful lot of hand-holding. While I was sitting in her gallery, she received a call from a repeat client who has a painting out on approval.

“Her husband has looked at it, the designer has looked at, she wants me to look at it, although I’ve looked at it many, many times,” she said. “It looks amazing, and I’ll say that again.”

Prospective purchasers should remember that gallery owners don’t just want one-time buyers, they want to develop collectors. So don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Ms. Guggenheim suggests that when starting out, don’t grab the first piece in your price range. Browse for a few months, because as you look, your eye will develop and change. Most galleries rotate exhibits fairly often, so if you discover one whose work you like, drop by frequently.

In the world I live in, people tastelessly decorate $1 million homes to sell to other people who are over-leveraged; if they can muster up the fortitude to buy one of them, you'd think they'd not care about snooty art types.

I don't.

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