The Scathing Art Review: How to Buy Art

No one says mean things about art any more. There was a time when people said really nasty things- comparing an artist’s work to a pile of dung- or berating their lack of talent. It used to be that a few folks bought art and basically decided what “good art” was. Nowadays we all get to decide- not as jury members at the Orangerie (heaven forbid) - but through the art that we purchase (or don’t purchase). For better or worse art has become accessible to the masses. (And by accessible I only mean affordable- most of us who can afford art still don’t really understand it.) However, don’t let that stand in your way. Education, Comprehension, money, and taste are four elements that are rarely seen together in the wild. My suggestion: just go for it. You need art. Your house is boring. Your life is bland. Art can help that. Do not leave that wall blank- and for the love of all that is creative- do not- purchase some ridiculous, mass-produced, overpriced print by someone who lives a million miles away. Art can be a tricky, foreign, and sometimes intimidating world- so I thought I would put together a little guide to buying art. Here ya go- a few tips to get you started…

+ Find an artist whose work you enjoy and purchase at least three pieces

+ Buy local. Get to know the gallery owners- they will gladly give you a heads-up on cool new stuff that fits your tastes and budget. My friend Sue owns Michigan Artists Gallery in Suttons Bay. When one of her artists brings her a new piece she is thinking: “who would go absolutely crazy for this?” Then she calls them right away. You want that kind of service- and you could probably use that kind of advice.

+ Get to know your artists. You are their patron, darn it- send them cookies- they are probably hungry. Visit their studios- (if they are the social kind of artist). Buy more art. The opening parties at the Evence Studio in Traverse City are a great way to meet less expensive yet talented artists who are just getting started. Also check out other local artistic haunts like the Insideout Gallery and the Good Works Collective.

+ Art is rarely a financial investment for anyone other than the artist. It can be an investment, but only if done correctly- perhaps I will elaborate soon.

+ Budget for art. Plan ahead. Even on a limited budget you can build a “good” collection. If the idea of a “good collection” sounds daunting- then think about it in terms of how much you will allow yourself to spend each year on art.

+You will probably spend more time with a good painting in your home than you will with that expensive sports car your wife won’t be allowed to drive, or the new pair of shoes you absolutely had to have but will only be able to wear for 1/3 of the year anyway. Think about it. Art is generally worth the money. When I help people with styling or buying clothes I always tell them my personal policy: establish ahead of time how much you want an outfit to cost each time you wear it. Then figure out how many times you would wear a particular garment before you tired of it. Voila! I always say “twenty-five cents”. I want to wear each item enough times so that it only costs me twenty-five cents per wear during the first year. That helps me pay more for more versatile and long-lasting items and less for more trendy pieces. You can use this with art. How often are you in your house? How often do entertain on that back patio? Chances are you could use an interesting sculpture. You should be spending more money on meaningful art for your dining room than an outdoor grill. It’s more cost-effective.

+ Buy the art you like and gradually tailor your home to it. Do not purchase anything to “match” your sofa. I will slap you.

+ Good art is invaluable. Art you love is priceless. Some people may overprice their art, but here is the general rule: hourly wage the artist could be making at another job (experience + education + talent) multiplied by the number of hours it took to create the work. Most artists end up getting paid less than six dollars an hour for their creations- therefore…. NEVER scoff at gallery prices.

the painting shown is by:
Lennon Michalski
Places with Teeth
Oil on canvas, 42x 54inches

his work is available here:

my birthday is in August. Please?