Whether novice or experienced collectors, many still struggle to differentiate fine art from more commercial art. Given all the different mediums, techniques, and approaches being used today to create art, how does one differentiate? Does it even matter?
- Greg Head, Atlanta arts enthusiast
All art is commercial if it is being sold. The question is how to understand the art being made today, the places where it is being shown, and the motivation of those supporting and buying it. This takes time and energy, seeing and reading, talking and comparing. Galleries, art centers, museums, magazines, lectures, and art fairs can all contribute to the gaining of knowledge and perspective. Exposure to different kinds of art—self- taught, conceptual, formal, site-specific, ephemeral, abstract, representational—can help one decide personal preferences and interests. The same goes for mediums—drawing, painting, sculpture, video, photography, printmaking, sound art, installation, and performance. What do you like and why?
There are artists who care about selling, others who take pride in critical writing about their work, and others who yearn to be included in important exhibits. Most artists want the whole enchilada—commercial viability, articles and reviews, and numerous showing opportunities around the globe. Each artist tries to make choices that will garner what they most desire. Some are successful, others not. There are no guarantees. Do you like talking with artists and getting to know about their ideas?
There are galleries committed to supporting certain artists and their vision no matter how many sales they generate, and others that show people whose works they can sell to an established clientele. Some dealers want to show young artists like Beep Beep Gallery, others focus on more established ones like GetThis! and Marcia Wood and Alan Avery Art Company. Jackson Fine Art specializes in the medium of photography. Some galleries are in affluent areas, others in more industrial parts of town. Some spaces feel like a showroom, others like a relaxed store. How many galleries in Atlanta do you go to?
There are collectors who want to live with something pleasing or elegant in their home. Walls all over Atlanta (and elsewhere) are filled with such work and the owners are happy. They can afford the works and so they purchase what they like. They enjoy it when their friends and family come over and say nice things about the art they own. There are other collectors who enjoy living with more challenging works-- paintings and sculptures that might be unwieldy, grotesque, and might offend visitors to their house. They enjoy it when their guests are confused or are curious about what motivated them to purchase such a troubling item. Walls and floors in Atlanta (and elsewhere) that are filled with this kind of art tend to be more rare. Which of these scenarios do you feel best describes you?
The best thing for any collector to do is see all kinds of art on a regular basis, ask questions of themselves and others, and be engaged in their community. Go to events and openings. Read. Talk with art professionals who have knowledge to share. Become a member at institutions. Go to galleries and art centers in your town, and ones in other cities when you travel. There is some kind of art for you out there. It is your job to find it and figure out the relationship you want to have with it.
- Stuart Horodner, ACAC Artistic Director
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