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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Dec. 26, 200112:00 PM EST

When buying art, trust your instincts

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by: Monica Chamness

by Monica Chamness

Staff Writer

So you love art. You’ve been to all the galleries, seen all the exhibits, rubbed elbows with the artists, but you’re still in a quandary over what to buy and where to buy it. Don’t fret. Here is a basic guide from people who know on how to start an art collection when you don’t know a Manet from a Monet.

“You need to collect within your budget,” advises Ellen McAnany, director of Artist Advocate. “Renoirs aren’t realistic for the average person unless you want a poster. Buy originals [from emerging artists]. The price is great, as little as $200. There are bargains to be found. Almost every weekend from Easter to June there are outdoor festivals. A lot of times those artists are willing to negotiate price.”

Haggling too much or offering an insultingly low price can be counterproductive, though. Don’t stray too far from the asking price.

For those individuals willing to invest a little time in research, the Internet can offer some great deals, but buyer beware. If you see an original Picasso for $100, something’s fishy there. Before you pull out your wallet, here are some things to consider.

“The first thing to do is find a gallery, art consultant or someone you trust,” said Marilyn Spiller, co-owner of spiller vincenty gallery. “Next you should decide what you are interested in, be it colors, landscapes, realism. Figure out what you really like and not what you think you should like. You can begin inexpensively but you must decide what to collect.”

Spiller’s personal collection revolves around primarily contemporary Russian art. She is drawn to figurative works focusing on women.

Once the premise is selected, start browsing.

“Any collection only becomes important when it has a rhyme or reason to it. Find the absolute best piece from an artist you like. Some of their works may be much better than others.”

For those with a lot of passion for art but not a lot of dollars, Spiller suggests investing in photography, up-and-coming artists or smaller works. Expect to pay $500-$1,500.

Other helpful hints from Spiller include asking the right questions and finding out about the artist’s background.

“Unless he’s some wacky outsider, he should have the proper credentials — he should have gone to art school and have the proper artistic skills,” explained Spiller.

Private collector and local developer Preston Haskell, a connoisseur of first generation abstract expressionism, concurred with Spiller that the collection should have a main focus.

“First, any collection should have a central theme that gives it integrity and cohesion. Second, buy what appeals to you. Don’t buy for financial reasons, that is, to sell it later to make money. That’s not a good reason. People that do that lose artistic integrity. If you’re following a theme, certain names may fit with the theme, but don’t buy a name unless it fits into criteria one and two [above].”

If amassing a formidable collection is the goal, Haskell urges collectors to search the galleries in New York. The general consensus is that seeking counsel from an expert is the wisest choice.

“Professional advice helps keep you out of trouble and helps you navigate the difficult, mysterious waters of auctions, galleries and dealers,” said Haskell.

For Helen Lane, private collector and wife of retired banker Ed Lane, it took 40 years to accumulate the scores of French and American Impressionistic works hanging from their walls.

“We didn’t plan on being collectors,” said Helen Lane. “We both love art and whenever we would travel we would visit museums and galleries. Every now and again we saw one we wanted to live with. My advice is to get a plan, decide what style you like and fill in. When you see one you like, ask to see other samples of his work.”

For the art novice, collectors say to trust your instincts.

“Any major collector I know has a strong relationship with a gallery in the business,” said Spiller. “I would avoid going to a studio to get a deal. Most bonafide artists go through a gallery. Jacksonville has completely different profiles regarding galleries. Pay attention to how the gallery makes you feel [atmosphere] and how you trust or don’t trust the person you deal with.

“Collecting art is a labor of love more than an intellectual endeavor. If you truly love a piece that fits into your collection, you’ll find a place for it.”

Another tip when making that purchase: avoid limited editions with high numbers.

A limited edition run means only so many copies of an original are produced. Look at the numbers at the bottom of the print. The top number signifies which one that print is in the series, for example 4/50. The bottom figure is how many were printed in total. Anything over 500 is too much. For example, posters are run in the thousands.

Several different printing methods may be employed but gicleé, French for sprayed ink, is hot currently. Implementing a high resolution scanning technique, the reproduction can be done on the same surface — such as canvas — as the original and can be done at a reasonable cost, on demand.

Keep in mind the rest of the household, too. Graphic depictions may frighten children. As for the significant other, compromise.

The right frame can be the perfect complement to the artwork. Don’t ignore the importance of those finishing touches.

“If you’re buying original art, invest in the proper materials to frame it,” said McAnany. “Don’t skimp at the end. I recommend archival [acid-free] materials for longevity because once art is damaged, the value goes down considerably.”

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