People assume it takes millions or billions to be able to collect art. We all have images of collectors quietly raising numbered paddles ,or nodding their head, as they bid in million dollar increments at Sotheby’s auction house. It’s something the average person can’t participate in or enjoy.
However to be a patron of the arts, all it takes is a little extra money, and the willingness to educate yourself about your local artists.
The number one criteria for art for the super rich is, “Will this go up in value?” The rich use art to get richer. They donate to museums to keep their taxes down or to resell when the art goes up in value. Crime syndicates are known to use art as collateral. It’s easy to transport and can be worth millions. Why cash or gold when you can use a Renoir?
The criteria for the middle class collector of local art is “Do I enjoy this? Does this bring substance and meaning to my home or office?” Few think of their art going up in value, instead they buy work of a certain painter or artisan because “I value it.”
Supporting a local artist can be of source of great joy to the collector and of course to the artist. Despite the stereotype, most artists would rather not suffer for their art in an unheated attic. They like to eat and pay rent as much as the rest of us. A collector who appreciates the vision and skill of an artist is also supporting the dream of the artist. Every artist had at some point to say “Am I good enough? Will anyone want my work?” A purchase of art, and especially repeated purchases of art, lets the artist make their dream a reality.
My friend William Price jr. collects the work of the Pittsburg area artist Robert Qualters.
The work of Qualters is very reflective of the Pittsburg area. His work often is of real places, such as Kennywood amusement park. He’s not a quiet unknown, selling his painting on the side of the road, but a respected artist and was Pennsylvania’s artist of the year for 2014. Qualters works reflect his love for the Pittsburg area, and I can see why William ,who also loves the Pittsburgh area, loves Qualters works.
Kennywood Memories, 1987 (original) Painted by Robert Qualters. Oil. (Price collection)
Qualters work is exciting in that like most artists it is always identifiable as HIS WORK, but also shows how he’s experimented and grown over the years. This is why as an art teacher I often stressed that people need to see more art in museums, and perhaps less in art fairs or craft shows. It isn’t that the art in a fair or craft show isn’t as good as a museum. Often it is NOT. People are selling to make back their show fee, and what sells is what is painted.
So why a museum? Because even a good artist at a craft show or art fair, isn’t showing you the complete history of their work. The joy of appreciating any artist is seeing their growth. It’s not that their beginning paintings are not as good as their later paintings, it’s that as an artist becomes more confident they feel freer to take chances. They experiment and change their style every few years. A good museum gives the viewer the joy of seeing those changes.
Waterworks and the Allegheny River 1973 (original) Painted by Robert Qualters. Water color. Price Collection.
Anyone lucky enough to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam will see the real Van Gogh. He’s not just one painting. His change from dark to color, from careful strokes to abandoned texture, and the influence of artist friends and Japanese prints are all together in order so you see the history of his work. Why own more than one work of art by any artist? Because each work is a reflection of the artist at the time they created their work.
The painting in the “Price Collection” reflect many different styles of Qualters paintings. Viewing them you see they are different, but you would still know the same artist had done all the paintings. Like Van Gogh, I would love to see all of William’s paintings in person. I would get a better feeling for the artist Qualter, and also I look forward to seeing what works Qualter creates in the future.
I thank William for sharing photographs of his paintings and prints with the blog. While collecting good art is never inexpensive, real art adds warmth to any building. Building a relationship with an artist, and having more than one work of art by an artist, can be a very rewarding experience. You don’t need to be a billionaire to support the arts. Also, unlike the rich collector, you can purchase what you LIKE, not what you are betting will go up in value.