Category Archives: Buying Art

Who The *$&% Is An Art Expert?

I’ve had one art DVD on my wishlist for years now, but I hadn’t given it much priority until today.

Who the *$&% Is Jackson Pollock? is the 2006 documentary about 73-year-old former long-haul truck driver Teri Horton, who purchased a $5 painting from a thrift shop. The painting was supposed to be a gag gift for a friend — but now Horton believes that the painting is an original Jackson Pollock.

If the painting is by the famous abstract expressionist, it would be worth millions. What the documentary does is show the lengths this woman has gone through to try to prove the painting is a Pollock work, including fingerprint identification. But the road is not easy, as Randy Kennedy explains:

The filmmakers were initially fascinated by the science-versus-art angle of Ms. Horton’s story, about how forensics may be starting to nudge the entrenched tradition of connoisseurship from its perch in the world of art authentication. But as they spent more time with her, they began to see the movie as being about something more important than whether the painting was a real Pollock, a question left very much for the viewer to decide.

“It became, really, a story about class in America,” [director Harry Moses] said. “It’s a story of the art world looking down its collective nose at this woman with an eighth-grade education.”

The story obviously catches my attention, but it wasn’t until I read Frank Messina’s article, Nicolas Carone: Jazz, Poetry, And Jackson Pollock, in which Nicolas Carone, an expert on Pollock discusses his role in the saga of Horton’s painting, that I became motivated to move the film to the top of my wishlist:

In the film, Carone is brought in to physically inspect the painting. In a pivotal scene, Carone is asked by the film’s director, Harry Moses, whether or not the painting is authentic. Carone said he could not determine one way or the other. And with those few words, the painting remained in a cloud of mystery. After all, if Nicolas Carone couldn’t tell if it was authentic, then who could?

Relaxed in his favorite armchair in his studio, Carone spoke at length about the movie, and admitted being less than forthcoming when Harry Moses asked him about Teri Horton’s painting. “I was worried. I worried. I was advised not to tell that it is or it isn’t.” When I asked who had advised him, he ran his fingers across his lips as if closing a zipper. He then referred to a particular scene in the film when the Horton painting is compared side-by-side with an undisputed Pollock, “No. 5, 1948”, once owned by art collector Si Newhouse, chairman and CEO of Advance Publications and Conde Nast, (New Yorker Magazine, Vanity Fair), and more recently, record producer David Geffen. “The thing is, when they spliced the painting from Geffen, and they showed it with hers and they put it together like that. It looked exactly the same. That made me worry,” Carone said. I asked in what way. “In a way that it could’ve been a spliced painting. What she had, I looked at the canvas in the back. You know how you turn the painting, like this, the canvas, you turn it around,” Carone said, shaping his arms into a square. “All this on the side is still a continuation of the painting, and it’s cut there. This part is cut. I think that that painting was cut from another painting. It’s cut,” Carone said. “As if Pollock cut it?” I asked. “Yes,” he said.

And while Carone wouldn’t outright tell me whether the painting was authentic or not, he did offer a cryptic assessment when asked about the recent offer of $9,000,000 Horton received and refused for the painting. “I think if she holds out a little more—I think the Teri painting will go for more than nine million,” Carone said.

Despite this, there’s no news that Horton has received the $50 million she’s been holding out for; or that she’s even sold it at all. However, knowing Carone’s thoughts certainly adds a new layer to the story and makes me want need to see this film. In part because the story simply will not die.

Plucking A Picasso From A Thrift Shop

Another thrift store find; this time a signed Picasso. Purchased for $14, the man sold the Picasso print designed to advertise a 1958 Easter exhibition of his ceramic work in Vallauris, France, for $7,000.

Aside from being a reminder that real art can indeed be found in thrift shops, there’s this tip on the value of numbered linocuts from Lisa Florman, an associate history professor at Ohio State University who has authored a book on Picasso:

There’s certainly some collectors who really place a premium on a single-digit number because it indicates the artist’s greater involvement with the actual printing, so those particular prints can fetch a higher price.

There Is Only Art!

In Memo to budding art collectors, art collector Paulino Que gives three tips for beginner art collectors — but the best part of the article or interview is this part:

[I]n the course of merely listening to him, you will realize that what you have been doing since the day you were born has been a big mistake. From the start, there was no need for psychoanalysis, higher education or your vaunted profession, even if you happen to be a mind reader. In fact, going to college or chasing after your career goals were red herrings if they did not lead you to life’s biggest bonanza which Que spoke of with much zeal: the pursuit of Juan Lunas and F.R. Hidalgos, the chasing-after of Fernando Zobels. If there’s one thing that explains itself, it’s “You should have been collecting art in the first place!” No need for repetition or explanation. There’s no golden pot somewhere over the rainbow. There’s only art, art, art!


Photo of Paulino Que posing before Imagining Identity, a selection of a hundred self-portraits by Filipino artists in Que’s private collection from the Business Mirror article.

Handmade Craft Shopping Parties

Back in the day, I offered and held a few home parties for selling my artworks. Being about 15 years ago, ish, I felt like I was charting new territories.

I had a bunch of catalogs and brochures from other successful home party plan businesses — and my vast knowledge of attending such parties — to build my plan on, but even then, the concept was just that — more concept than anything else.

I made sales at the parties (and secured plenty of commissioned works as well), but found I really had to sell the idea of such a party by educating the potential host or hostess more than anything else.

Now that home party plans are so mainstream that a woman between the ages of 20 and 35 fears invitations in the mail, the indie crafting party isn’t an educational exercise — and the lure of less common products is far stronger than say the usual home party suspects, resulting in more attendees and an increase of wallets being opened.

I mention this trend for two reasons.

One, if you’re a crafter, craftsman, or artisan looking for a way to make sales and connect with your local community, you might want to consider using home craft shopping parties. Even crafters who just have an over-load of made things could probably find an occasional party a good way to rid themselves of surplus handcrafted items, and those with mad skills could combine selling creations with workshops at parties.

If this sounds at all like you, Miss Malaprop has a great article, 5 Tips for a Successful Handmade Craft Shopping Party, which also includes links to some great resources. She even peddles the stuff other folks make at the home parties she demonstrates/sells at. (Keen idea for those who want to increase their offerings past their own skills.)

I respectfully disagree with CraftyTammie, when she says that she wouldn’t throw a party and invite her friends because “they all know i have an etsy shop, and i figure if they want to buy something they will let me know.” Shopping for art, for gifty stuff and crafts, is very much a visual in-the-moment thing. And people need to see it.

The second reason I mention the home party plan idea, is that if you are not a maker of things but a lover of them, you might wish to host a craft selling party in your own home. You and your pals can get together, shop, maybe even become inspired to make a thing or two yourself, all while you support arts in your community.

The only real tricky thing with hosting one of these home parties selling handmade things is finding a willing artisan or crafter. To that end, The Ungulate has started an Art Directory, including a category for listings of creative folks who are willing to do home parties selling their arts and crafts.

Image Credits: Handmade goodies from MissMalaprop’s shop.

A Word On Buying Antique Paintings At Auctions

auction painting I hate putting a value on art. I think you should pay what the artist asks, so long as the depth of your affection for the piece matches the depth of your pockets.

But, because I mostly write about antiques and collectibles, people often ask me about how much they should pay for art at auctions, or at least want a rule of thumb to guide them at their local farm or estate auction…

I’m no art appraiser; most of my experience with antique paintings has been observed at (countless) smaller local auctions, Antiques Roadshow episodes, and those Roadshow style trash or treasure events. But I feel rather confident saying that any antique painting purchased for $150 or less is a bargain. Seems like no old painting is ever, unless the canvas is completely shredded, deemed worth less than $150. Even antique paintings by unknown artists with small tears and in need of professional cleaning seem to be valued at or over $150.

That said, expect to pay more. Not just for big name artists, but for paintings which charm. If the painting charms you, it likely will charm another bidder or two, increasing the price. That said, console yourself with the following rational reasons to spend as much as you’d like buying antique paintings at auctions:

  • Consider how much something else covering that space would cost — be it a framed poster or generic starving artist art.
  • Spend as much as you are comfortable with; you’re going to have to live with it.

Hugh Grant: Lessons In Buying Art

In the January 2010 issue of Elle magazine, there’s an interview of Hugh Grant by Holly Millea. Whatever you think of Grant, there’s an interesting bit on the actor as an art collector.

Elle: Tell me, is it true that you bought an Andy Warhol painting of Elizabeth Taylor for $4 million in 2002 and sold in it 2007 for $23 million?

HG: Those numbers are not quite correct. It all began with a drink… And I was thinking about some stuff in the Sotheby’s auction and I saw this Warhol, so I drunkenly rang up the girl who helped me with art, and said, “You’re going to bid for that.” And to my horror, she did, and even worse, got it. I slightly regret selling it now, even though it made me rich. My contemporary art collection began with just needing to put things on the wall. I was looking around my Victorian house thinking, “What would be the coolest is contemporary art — it will make me look young and interesting.” I’m more than 80 percent skeptical of the whole thing. Having said that, the stuff I own, I have come to love now.”

See, it doesn’t matter what the size of your wallet celebrity status is, lots of people seem to think owning art will make you seem “young and interesting.” And Grant seems to at least have been intimidated or “skeptical” about art.

elizabeth-taylor-by-andy-warhol-1963 I can’t (ethically) suggest you get drunk and buy art (let alone bid on anything at Sotheby’s or other big auction house); nor do I even hint at a promise of millions in return on your art investment. But if you relax and sort of view buying art as a means to cover your walls, you can do quite well. At least you’re likely to end up with stuff you’ve come to love.

Scans of the interview in its entirety here.