Last Friday evening, March 10 2006, the Peter Buckland Gallery on Prince William Street presented the Art of the Mixer. This highly popular event is geared at a more youthful demographic-indeed, it was directly pitched at FUSION members-in the hope of introducing a new clientele to the world of collecting art.
I admit I went only briefly and mostly for the cheese; this was a Mixer, after all, a social event where one can meet other folks interested not only in the fine arts but also the fine art of hops, grapes and various cubes of dairy product. Although I must admit I find the two go hand in hand. I was short on time because I was working my day job, that of bartender, and was on a quick break.
I had stopped by the gallery earlier in the day to speak to owner Peter Buckland about some of his tips for collecting art, as well as to drop off a painting of my own. In my rare spare time I like to pretend that I'm an artist, too. Every now and then I also like to dust off the $35,000 piece of paper that indicates that I am indeed a trained artist, and in case I am in need of further convincing I call my student loan collection officer.
But I digress. Peter has condensed his advice for new collectors into a helpful ten-point document called the Art of Collecting. It is indeed a helpful document that can help orient those just beginning their collection. Here are some of his tips I find the most helpful:
"Spend time looking." This should be common sense but it is probably the biggest hurdle: look at what? And how? By visiting galleries, of course, and becoming familiar with the works of different artists. It's akin to reading; we all are subjected to advertising, and read a lot of drivel without much thought. Why not divert some of that energy into seeing what local artists are up to? Simply crossing the threshold is not an obligation to buy anything. My brother likes to take cars for test rides; he doesn't buy each time.
"Buy art because you love the work." Within ten minutes of visiting the gallery I was asking for a red dot to be placed on a fabulous little Colin Smith ink drawing titled Cat Adventure or something of that nature. I couldn't help it: his quirky penmanship and bizarre imagination produced a zany image of a woman careening down a steep hill on a bicycle, a man draped in the handlebars with a cat on his lap. As a cat lover, and lover of funny, witty art, I couldn't resist. Sold!
So what's an often 'starving artist' doing buying another's work? Adding to his collection, of course. Art for me is more than a frill or simple decoration. It is something that infuses the everyday, that makes us think, that affects our emotions. Just because I can draw and paint and make stuff doesn't mean I can't collect other work (although my student loan collections officer will disagree. Vehemently). I've often traded work with other artists, something I consider a perk of the job.
"Beware the guy who rolls into town offering work by European masters." I love that line. It reminds me of the giant 'art and fake plant' peddlers that roll into town once in a while, hawking those mass-manufactured 'original' oil paintings of beaches and country roads and sunsets. Or the stuff one might find at Wal*Mart or Winners. Probably made by kids in Mexico or China. Assembly line art, and not the cool conceptual stuff, either. Who buys this stuff, really? Hats off to the marketing genius that lands the big contract to sell a gazillion of these horrendous 'paintings' to the big box stores, and my condolences for the suckers that buy them. Simple trips to local galleries will often reveal original works for a similar price, with proceeds going to more deserving artists. Like those making the work.
Big box stores also hawk reproductions by old masters: everything from Picasso to Da Vinci to Van Gogh. Pretty and colourful though they are, proceeds from the sale of these items does little to help living, breathing artists. Copyright on many of these famous images expired eons ago and was often snapped up by distant relatives of the artist, or in some cases, complete strangers. Why give them the profit?
Supporting local galleries in turn supports local artists and gives them additional resources to continue to make new work. Can you think of many other professions that have no health or dental plan, no pension, no fixed hours or salary, no stability whatsoever? When one considers that many galleries will offer a payment plan to fit most budgets, is there any reason not to start an art collection? Think original, think local, think outside the box (especially the Big Box) and visit some local galleries already. I suggest Peter Buckland Gallery, 80 Prince William Street, www.peterbucklandgallery.ca (and not just because I show there!), Trinity Gallery at 128 Germain Street, www.trinitygalleries.ca, Cobalt Gallery at 89 Canterbury Street, 4th floor and Handworks at 12 King Street, www.handworksnb.com. You'll find each gallery has a different roster of artists, with almost something for everyone. The hops, grapes and cheese, however, are usually reserved for openings and mixers.