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November 7, 2005

Monday Morning Drive-By Snark

Via this post at The View from the Edge of the Universe we see that Artnet has a list up of Ten Tips for art collectors, a collector's "treatise" of sorts shared by NYC collector Eileen Cohen at an ADAA Collector's Forum a month back.

Now, I wouldn't know Cohen from Eve, and most of her tips do sound quite reasonable. A couple really rubbed me the wrong way, though, beginning with:

4. Don't be fooled by an artist's charm—these days, artists learn how to sell themselves in art school. The best artists don't try to sell their work.

If I didn't know better, I'd guess she was a dealer defending her 50%. After all, isn't bullshiting potential buyers their job? (No, really, I kid.) And, ultimately, what do artists know about art anyways?

6. To learn about new art, set up a network of art informers, from writers and curators to art dealers. Don't be afraid to ask foolish questions! Artists are always great to talk to, but they aren't always great judges of art (they tend to like art that is similar to their own, or the art of their friends).

I'll be charitable for a moment and assume she means that artists aren't necessarily good market speculators. Because, in all honesty, they do tend to be some of the better judges of art as such that you're likely to find. Let's not cut them out of the loop just yet.

"Monday Morning Drive-By Snark"
Posted by Dan at 11:38 AM

Comments

I once had a dealer who, while visiting my studio, told me (in all seriousness) that it was dealers who make a work of art valuable, or not. In his opinion, artists had nothing to do with it. This was his attempt to convince me that I should sell him a piece at a greatly reduced price. It didn't work.

Posted by: Anna L. Conti on November 7, 2005 at 12:38 PM

"I come bearing gifts of surplus-value."

Posted by: Dan on November 7, 2005 at 01:44 PM

I think what the dealer meant is that art is made valuable when it is sold. Art that sits in a closet and is never sold is worthless, unless the artist has a proven record of previous sales. As such, dealers, or whoever sells the work, are who makes it valuable--monetary wise at least. Jeff Koons sells his own art, he doesn't use a dealer, so this proves that someone must sell it to make it worth something, but not necessarily a dealer. And, unless you are as savvy as Koons, a former trader I believe, I would recommend a dealer represent you.

Posted by: Sean on November 8, 2005 at 11:47 AM

> I think what the dealer meant is that art is made valuable when it is sold. Art that sits in a closet and is never sold is worthless...

I'll have to defer to Anna for interpretation of her encounter, but I suspect she wouldn't have shared it if she felt it were as innocent as you presume. (And I think it should be clear that she's not exactly hording her paintings in deep storage somewhere.)

Her anecdote struck me as suggesting that this dealer buys into something in the realm of a strong "institutional theory of value". That he feels that he is the apparatus that, by mere fiat of taste, provides the instutional assent necessary to send an artwork's value into the stratosphere.

> ...it [is] dealers who make a work of art valuable, or not.

(Read: "I can make you or break you, baby.")

This is no doubt very true in practical terms (under certain circumstances), but such a formulation serves to obscure the fact that said dealer is hardly the necessary element in the exchange. However much clout he brings to the table, he remains the middle man.

At any rate, and any way you slice it, there remains something fairly unsettling about his apparent "cut me a sweet deal and I'll make you millions" pitch.

But perhaps I'm just being overly cynical. I've really got nothing against gallerists... honest.

Posted by: Dan on November 8, 2005 at 04:10 PM

Howdy!

I just liked number 5.

Going on your interpretation - I'd just add this, I betcha Ms. Cohen has a dealer or two who she likes very much (and by extension who absolutely adore her) why would she rock the boat?

And also, since when are you in the habit of taking advice from strangers?

Posted by: Zeke on November 11, 2005 at 01:17 PM

Oh, I never meant to suggest I was being entirely fair.

I liked #5, too, ("Give back to the art community—support museums and alternative spaces"), not to mention #10 ("Live with your art and enjoy it").

> I betcha Ms. Cohen has a dealer or two who she likes very much (and by extension who absolutely adore her) why would she rock the boat?

And who could blame her?

Posted by: Dan on November 12, 2005 at 09:52 AM



Referenced in this post:

Art Dealers Association of America—News Archive: Collector's Forum 09
Artnet News: Ten Tips for Collectors
View from the Edge of the Universe: Artnets Ten Tips For Collectors