Friday, May 23, 2014

How to Start an Art Collection on a Budget

Have you ever dreamed of owning an original Picasso or Renoir?  You can do it — the answer is to buy prints.  While paintings by famous artists can cost millions, original prints are surprisingly affordable.  Collecting original lithographs, etchings, woodcuts or silkscreens is an excellent way to own great art by the masters, on a budget.

One secret to buying prints is to look for the more affordable unsigned editions.  Artists during the 19th and 20th Centuries had different practices regarding the signing of their prints.  Usually, a small quantity of prints was signed and numbered in pencil — this increases their value but also puts them far beyond the reach of ordinary buyers, especially if the artist was famous.  But other, somewhat larger editions were also issued that were not pencil-signed but are still considered to be original prints.  It is these more affordable, unsigned editions which can be an excellent value.  Please note that an autograph pencil signature is not to be confused with a plate signature; some artists signed their prints “in the plate” (with a signature incorporated into the image) but other artists did not.  The presence or lack of a plate signature was simply an aesthetic decision of the artist and does not affect the value of the work.

If starting an art collection has been a personal goal for some time or you’re in the beginning stages of research and collecting art for the first time, there are some considerations to be aware of before making your first purchase. The motivations to collect art, just like baseball cards, stamps or another hobby, is a deeply personal one and may vary between collectors. For some, the main motivation to collect art is for financial investment.  The value of art does indeed appreciate with time, and this certainly applies to original prints that were created during the 19th and 20th Centuries.  Like other antique or collectible items, their value has greatly increased over the years because the supply diminishes as many become lost, damaged or removed from the market.  Also a growing number of collectors have become savvy about prints in recent years so there is more competition for the same pieces.

This much said, it’s not recommend to buy art primarily for its investment potential, but rather for its personal appeal.  In other words, you should love the art you collect. If your goal is to amass a personal collection to enjoy, go with your gut feeling and choose pieces you can live with for the rest of your life. Develop an understanding of a particular artist or movement of art. Start buying less expensive pieces and decorate your home and office. Discover what aspects of the works you enjoy and find memorable. This insight will make purchasing art a much more comfortable experience.

If you think spending more money will equate to a better art collection, think again. Some of the most renowned collections today evolved from initially small purchases. Don’t dismiss artworks just because you feel art worth collecting should be expensive. If you enjoy a piece and it meshes with your collection or future vision, buy it. Many online art galleries feature discounted sale pieces ideal for collectors on a budget! 

One advantage to collecting prints by famous artists is that multiple copies (known as impressions) were printed, so there will often be more than one on the market.  This is good news for buyers, as it promotes competition among dealers selling the same piece.  It really pays to look around, and with the internet it’s easy to compare.  Sometimes several galleries have the same piece for wildly different prices, so why pay more if you don’t need to?  Just do a little homework and ask before you purchase, to make certain that the art works you’re comparing were printed in the same year, on the same size paper and for the same edition.  Often art collectors see a high-priced lithograph, etching or woodcut for sale in a prestigious gallery, and then search online to find the exact same work for much less.  You’ll be amazed at how much you can save by shopping around!  This is true today more than ever, with more collectors wanting to own great art prints and more art dealers offering prints for sale online.

Learn about different artists and styles of art.  Visit art museums and galleries. This exposure will help determine what you enjoy and is a great first step in creating a meaningful collection.  Most of all, have fun collecting art that you love!

Thursday, May 22, 2014


German Expressionism is one of the most exciting and fascinating movements of Modern Art, and is generally described as an avant-garde cultural movement taking place in Europe during the first three decades of the 20th century. It has been defined as a view of the world strictly in subjective, emotional terms rather than as objective reality. In that respect, Expressionism can be seen as the direct opposite of Impressionism, which chooses to view the world in a more positive light.

Expressionism eventually extended itself to a wide range of artistic media, including architecture, theater, literature, dance, music, film and, most notably, painting. It was said to reflect the angst brought about by the dehumanizing effects that industrialization was bringing to the world, including the unbridled growth of cities occurring in Germany. Many people were upset by the changes that were occurring in their daily lives and this was being reflected in the art. Simply put, Expressionism sought to portray subjective reactions and emotions aroused within people in response to what was happening rather than objective reality. Such art has often come on the scene during times of social unrest and upheaval.

The founding of the Expressionist Movement is thought to have occurred in 1905 when Ernst Kirchner and three other artists formed Die Brücke, which stands for The Bridge, in Dresden, Germany. They openly rejected the current social conventions of the bourgeois and academic traditions as applied to art. Six years later, in Munich, several others formed Der Blaue Reiter, The Blue Rider, named after a 1903 painting by influential Russian-born painter Wassily Kandinsky, then living in Munich. Elsewhere in the art world during the first part of the 20th century, Picasso completed his famous Desmoiselles d' Avignon, Henri Matisse published "Notes of a Painter," which argued for the primal need for "expression" in painting and Kandinsky started composing his first stage work, which combined sound, color and movement.

Although we don't have a copy of "Der Blaue Reiter" by Kandinsky, you will find one of his called "Drei Reiter in Rot, Blau und Schwarz," or Three Riders in Red, Blue and Black. This is an original, color woodcut from 1949, and the second printing of this piece. The first printing was done in 1911. It's printed on Lana wove paper, measures 8 5/8" X 8 11/16" and has been signed in the block. 300 were produced for this edition.

A uniquely subtle Kandinsky print that rarely comes up for sale is called "Watercolor in Rose." This is a pochoir (after the watercolor) measuring 12" X 9 1/4", including margins. It was printed in 1952, signed in the plate, not by hand, and contains Kandinsky's monogram. It's a beautiful piece and quite unusual when compared to others from this artist.