On Collecting

Marie Kazalia is an up-and-coming painter whose work is probably still in your price range. Marie Kazalia, Idiolect (horizontal), mixed media painting on Lennox fine art paper, May 2013.

I bought my first piece of art–a large abstract painting displayed in a live/work studio that I paid for in installments–when I was 22. More than anything else at the time, my ability to buy something that was completely non-essential on one level yet essential to who I was becoming signaled my transition to adulthood. I couldn’t eat art and I couldn’t pay my rent with art, but the gesture of buying my first artwork gave it the value of the quintessential. This art stuff–it was pretty important to me.

It would be sometime before I considered myself a collector, but I slowly and carefully started buying paintings, prints, and photographs from gallery shows and pop-up exhibitions. Almost everything I procured was created by artists under 30. At one point I exchanged baby-sitting services to bring down the price of a photo.

Bill Clarke, editor of Magenta Magazine, collects works-on-paper. “I could have a closet full of expensive clothes or I could buy art,” he says. “I buy the best that I can with the money I’ve got.”

Since moving to DC I’ve seen the homes of other art librarians and former curators stacked with art gathered over a lifetime, nostalgic collections to which partners have added and subtracted. It’s a bit like a collage of post-cards that sprung off the fridge and onto the living room walls. And while I’m writing of the sentimental act of personal collecting–I’ve never purchased on the behalf of another–there must be a similar thrill to buy for the interests of others (I’m thinking of all of you who will intern in auction houses).

Artsia is an online source for buying contemporary art. Detail of photographic print by Agent X.

I highly endorse the personal act of buying an original artwork and supporting an artist. It’s empowering (and slightly addicting). You may not aspire to the collecting heights of the Vogels or Isabella Stewart Gardner or Charles Saatchi–but writing a check for just one piece can be all it takes.

Here’s a class at the AU art gallery for would-be collectors–it’s free so you can save your money for more art!

On Collecting Fine Art | Panel 1: Collecting Works on Paper: Prints and Drawings
7 P.M.  |  Thursday, June 27
Admission is free
On Collecting Fine Art is a series of panel discussions designed to encourage collecting fine art with advice from established Washington area gallery owners, who will share their knowledge and expertise. On Collecting Fine Art is sponsored by the Art Dealers Association of Greater Washington and the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center coinciding with the exhibition Washington Art Matters: 1940s-1980s, June 15 – August 11, 2013.
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