This week I went to an interesting talk at the New Britain Museum of American Art. Barbara Belgrade Sprago, a local art collector, has loaned a portion of her collection to the museum for an exhibit called Facets of Modernity: 1900-1950. The collection includes paintings, drawings, and prints. It includes works by John French Sloan, William Glackens, Robert, Henri, and Everett Shinn: all influential founders of the Ashcan School movement, as well as many other well known artists. Barbara spoke about her very first art purchase in 1976. She told us she knew little to nothing about art but had seen a show and fell in love with the paintings. She thought to herself "I have to have one!" She tells how she was moved by the brush strokes. She tracked down a gallery that carried the artist's work and went with her husband to the gallery. She found a piece she wanted and then asked the price without knowing anything about the price of art, but knowing that she really had to have the painting. When she was told the price she whispered to her husband "Now what am I going to do?" He told her to take out a car loan and buy the painting and that's what she did!!!!
I found it very interesting to listen to Barbara Sprago speak as an art collector. She talked about her love of drawings. She loves them because one, they are more affordable by also because drawings are intimate and spontaneous. They show the artist's first thought and remain a record of what the artist does. Since she is not an artist she finds the artist's ability to capture in a drawing the essence of a thing enviable. By owning the drawing she owns a piece of what an artist can do.
She owns a number of two sided drawings from artist's sketchbooks. She loves those because they document an intimate look into how an artist works.
Once she learned more about art she talked about the thrill of recognizing an artist's work from across the room. She spoke about the excitement of bidding on a painting at an auction. Once she placed a bid it felt like the painting was hers. Once, when she was out bid she was so dismayed she eventually tracked down the purchaser and bought the painting from him for more than he paid at auction.
Brushwork, line, energy, the build up of paint and the arrangement of colors draws her to a work. All those things are visual clues as to how the artist created the work and draw her into the painting, helping her understand what an artist does and in some way enter into that process herself.
Ernest Lawson, Aspens, 1928 from the Barbara Belgrade Sprago Collection
Barbara Sprago says "Art is like a circle of friends. Art is an emotion. Anybody can be a collector". She also said that it's not uncommon to be paying for a work of art over years.
I truly admire this woman. She has entered into the adventure of a lifetime: collecting art.
I'd like to reiterate that anyone can be an art collector. You could take out a car loan to purchase something, or you could find more affordable pieces like drawings, you could bid at an auction or you could arrange to pay off a piece over time.
You could also collect the work of emerging artists and become part of the excitement of being an artist and creating art by visiting their studio, talking with the artist, going to their openings, and following their work on websites, blogs, Facebook etc.. Original art can be surprisingly affordable IF you make it a priority to collect and look for art that you fall in love with and just have to have, as Barbara Sprago did.
Here is examples of a collecting opportunity that is happening very soon.
The Salmagundi Club on 5th Ave. in New York will be having its spring auctions on March 2nd, 11th and 16th. The Salmagundi Club has been a center for American Art since 1871 and is a 501c3 non-profit. I will have a few pieces in the auction, (most likely August Wildflowers above and two other pieces) and it will be an excellent opportunity to acquire original art (including mine!) at extraordinarily affordable prices. I guarantee you will not have to take out a car loan!
This year for the first time you will be able to bid either in person or on line, so no matter where you are you can be part of the excitement. I'll have more about the auction in the next few weeks as more details become available.
Once you begin buying original art you will never regret it and you will always want to buy more! It's amazing how enriching it is to live with paintings on your walls. (See my recent post Don't Die Without Paintings on Your Walls). As both an artist and a collector I can attest to that. It's also amazing how good you feel when you buy that piece you just have to have, it is indeed like adding to your circle of friends.
A good painting to me has always been like a friend. It keeps me company, comforts and inspires. ~
Here's a link to an article I wrote some time ago about collecting art, Owning a One of a Kind, it also includes a video about the importance of art collectors.
I hope you feel inspired to buy original art!