How not to buy art

I went on ebay this morning and found you some great masters. Here, a Joan Miró for $75... or was it $90?... dollars. The only difference in buying this from a gallery is the bland assurance of the gallerista that it is genuine. And when you get it back to your brokerage office in Des Moines, it will hardly matter.

The Wall Street Journal ran an article called “How to Buy Warhol, Degas and Renoir on the Cheap.” I hope they were using Sarcastic Font, because it should be read as a story of how to get suckered.

What are people buying when they purchase a smudgy scrap of paper or a print overrun from the hand of a master? Not art, for sure, but bragging rights. And they’re not even particularly good bragging rights. Experts can’t agree about the authenticity of paintings that, if accepted into the artist’s oeuvre, could be worth tens of millions of dollars. Does anyone believe they apply the same level of scholarship to a painter’s grocery list?

And here, a genuine Pablo Picasso. You can tell he really did it because of the bull.
There was a time when it seemed like every gallery in New York had a Joan Miró print for sale at a knockdown price. And yet they were anodyne, unmemorable, and their only selling point was that the collector could say they had a ‘name’ work in their collection.

I once sold a Leonard Baskin print on ebay. I needed the money more than I needed the print. Someone got a far better deal than had he or she bought one of those Mirós. But that buyer knew art and knew the market.

And who would try to forge an Egon Schiele anyway? Just everyone, that's who.
The buyer who loves art but doesn’t know anything about it should try to learn something about it under the tutelage of good advisors. He shouldn’t be buying putative Old Masters; he should be buying new works that have room to appreciate. And if he isn’t willing to put even that much work into it, he should stick to collecting old LPs and band posters.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click 
here for more information on my Maine workshops!

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