Art Buying FAAQs
"Collectors should buy from their hearts–what they love, not what decorators or salespeople say." - Diane Waterhouse
We do give buyers the advice of "buy what you love." You don't need an art degree or to visit a galleries or purchase art. (Much like how you don't have to know how to build a combustion engine when you go to purchase a car.) Our gallery owners got into the business of selling art because they love it. And they want you to love it, too.
Visit any of our galleries, they are approachable and knowledgeable about the artists they represent. They're not the stuffy/fake accent gallery owners you see in movies. We promise. Ask any question you'd like and they'll gladly answer it or get the answer for you.
Here are some short articles we've collected over the years as advice and background how to buy art and to answer some Frequently Asked Art Questions (FAAQs):
Frequently Asked Art Questions
Buying: Art Buying and Car Buying | Art Gallery vs. Art Gallery | Selecting Art | Why a Commercial Gallery?
Caring: Frameworks | Hanging and Installing Art | Lighten Up
Miscellany: Monogamy and Art | Prints vs Reproductions | The Red Dot | Why Saskatchewan Artists Are So Darn Good | Aesthetics as a Function | Monet or Nothing
One of the fallacies about collecting art is that you need to be able to talk Artspeak in order to go into a commercial gallery. "Oh, wow, I really love how the magenta breaks up the negative space." (Whatever!) It's untrue. You don't need to have a degree in fine arts in order to buy original art. All you need to do is go to commercial galleries, see lots of art, find out what you like and buy what you love. If there's a term you don't understand, just ask the gallery owner what it means. If they answer in a way that feels comfortable and welcoming to you, it's a good place.
The term, from the French verb gicler (pronounced "gee-CLAY") meaning "to squirt or spray", refers to the process of reproducing original art on canvas, or any kind of media, using high-end ink-jet printing with archival ink. Giclées are often high quality; however, as a buyer, it's good to know exactly what you're purchasing. Because the original art is being reproduced digitally, the number of pieces made can be limitless, at almost any size (large formats included), at any quantity and at anytime. Giclées can vary in price from $100 to several hundreds of dollars or more. With anything over $200, be sure you know exactly what you are buying. A good guideline is; if it's a well-known artist, and the price is quite low, there's a good chance it's a giclée.
The term raku means enjoyment or ease. First developed in Japan in the 1500's, Raku is a firing technique for ceramics. After drying, the object is bisque-fired (a special process designed to make the clay porous). Then special raku glazes are applied one at a time before the work is fired. For the raku firing, the work is in an electric or gas kiln for a short time and removed when the glaze surface has melted. The work is removed while hot (980-1000 degrees Celsius/1800-1900 degrees Fahrenheit) and placed in combustible material, such as shavings and shredded paper. The combustibles start on fire and the piece is covered quickly with a metal lid. To try to keep burning, the fire pulls the oxygen from the glazes, which lifts the metallic elements to the surface and stains the exposed clay surface with carbon. It is this oxygen deprivation process that gives the beautiful metallic lustres and the inky black quality to the unglazed areas.
Now, when you go into a car dealership to buy a car, do you think you need to know exactly what carburetor is and how an combustion engine works or what style the exhaust system is? No. But you buy it because you like it, because it's in the right price range you were looking for and because how you feel when you drive it and look at it. The same goes with art. You don't need to study art history to buy art. You don't need to know if the artist was in his or her "blue period" to purchase. You just need to follow your heart. Follow your soul. And buy what you love.
What makes a commercial gallery different from a museum gallery? (Besides the donation box.) Commercial galleries are owned and operated by knowledgeable art buyers who sell art to the public. Each commercial gallery's collection reflects the passion and eye of the gallery owner. Each owner screens the artists for you so you benefit with art that is of value and is an investment. They have an eye for what people like to buy and they help put art lovers and artists together. In a museum or public gallery, you get to enjoy art from a variety of artists, over a variety of periods, that's put together by curators. With SPAGA galleries, you get to look, dream and actually take something home with you ("Look, it followed me home, can I keep it?")
The biggest piece of advice SPAGA commercial gallery owners have on buying art is this buy what you love. The next piece of advice is three-fold: visit, visit and visit. Visit as many different commercial galleries in person as you can. Visit their websites first, if you want, to see if you like any of the art or artists they represent. Visit friends whom you know collect art and talk with them about how they buy their art. Another approach you can take if you're thinking about a piece, is to try it out on approval. Many galleries will let you "test drive" art for a little while to see if you like it. Essentially, selecting art should be a fun process that results in a piece of art that speaks to you and gives you joy every time you look at it.
Often the term print is used interchangeably with the term reproduction, but it's actually not an accurate way to go about it. A print refers to an image transferred from a block or plate coated by a wet-media, such as ink, and then pressed onto a flat surface, such as paper or fabric. The artist then numbers and signs each piece. The fragility of the block or plate often limits the number of prints the artist can make. A reproduction is an unlimited photomechanical copy of an image. Typically a photograph is taken of an image, which is then reproduced using a commercial printing press. (The works of art reproduced in this calendar are classic examples of this process.) One way to check is to examine the image with a good magnifying glass. A regular and repeating pattern of dots is a standard way of identifying a reproduction. There you have it.
When you go to a professional art gallery, you benefit from the experience of the gallery owner to help you buy your art. Rely on their knowledge and expertise, that's what they're there for. Ask whatever questions you like. All questions are welcome and there's no such thing as a stupid one ever. ("What's Dadaism?" See, that wasn't so hard, now was it?) In addition, you have the confidence that commercial galleries, like SPAGA ones, represent professional artists. Another benefit of going to a commercial gallery is that the gallery owner has already sorted through artists and art for you. This helps you focus on figuring out what you like versus wondering if the art or artist is of good quality or not. And lastly, commercial galleries represent a variety of different artists and styles, so you can choose from a wide selection of work to figure out what fits your taste the best.
How you frame your art is just as important as the art itself. Oil paintings are painted on canvas or pieces of wood, so don't put them under glass (they need to "breathe"). A good idea is to ask about box frames (or floater frames), which are special boxes placed over the canvas that just cover the edges. On the other hand, watercolours, pastels, ink, charcoal and pencil drawings need to be put under glass with a mat border. The mat keeps the art away from the glass: so if moisture gets in, your art won't stick to the glass. Specific types of glass need to be used for these pieces to protect them from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and to keep your valuable purchase safe. Because you've spent the time carefully choosing your art, make sure your framer uses the right materials (such as acid-free paper mats, glazed glass, etc.) to keep your art looking as beautiful as the day you took it home.
When it comes to hanging art, you may be a pro at it or maybe you're not regardless, here are some tips from SPAGA gallery owners on how to hang your art. To start, you need a tape measure, level and small, round, coloured stickers (they're easier to see than a pencil mark on your wall). We suggest using proper hanging hardware (rather than the ol' nail on the wall approach, it's not always dependable) and good hardware on the back of the painting to make sure your beautiful art is secure. Next, it's a good idea to hang paintings on a centre line (or eye level), which is approximately 56" to 58" inches from the floor to the centre of the painting. If you are not sure about your placement, cut out a piece of paper the same size as the artwork and hang it to see how it looks. Or you could skip all these steps and have the gallery where you bought your piece from come and hang the art for you. (They're usually more than happy to do so.)
We all love bright, sunny light. But it can be really damaging for the art in your home. Direct sunlight or other harsh light can fade paintings and prints. When you purchase your art, talk with the gallery owner. Let them know where you're planning on putting your art. They can tell you how to protect and display it. Here are some easy tips to remember. Hang your paintings away from direct sunlight. Use low-wattage incandescent lighting for your paintings (there's no art-hurting ultraviolet/UV light in them). If you have fluorescent lights, use UV filters or sleeves or use UV glass on the art. And avoid using "picture lights" that attach to the top of the frame, they can damage the art by causing localized heating.
Should you be monogamous to one artist and their work or should you be a real swinger and collect many artists? In art collecting, you can be at either end of the spectrum or somewhere in between, whatever you like. Some buyers collect one artist solely and enjoy watching how their style changes over the years, while others collect a wide variety of work from a wide variety of artists. There is no right or wrong. It's about buying what you love. It's about turning a corner in your home or business and seeing a piece of art and being taken away from the ten things you have on your mind to a place that's soul-stirringly beautiful. So in summary, if you find yourself monogamous to one artist, and for some reason another artist catches your eye, it's okay to look -- you're not cheating. Not at all.
When you see a red dot next to a piece of artwork in a retail gallery, that means the piece has been sold. Galleries do this as a courtesy so you don't fall in love with a piece only to find out later it's been sold. To the artists involved, it means an appreciation of their work and what it means to both themselves and the buyer. To the gallery owner, it is an expression that the hard work and expense of mounting a show has been worthwhile and meaningful. That's why SPAGA chose the red dot as our logo. It is an indication of our goals as professional galleries to present and sell the work of our artists, to educate the public on that work and to conduct our business in an ethical manner.
Some say it's our long winters (they give artists more time for making great art). Some say it's the light, how it changes, slants and plays with our surroundings. But perhaps it's because the cost of living here is easier on the pocketbook. Or maybe it's because we don't have to add commuting times to our day (studios are mere minutes away instead of eight subway stops). And some say it's because the Saskatchewan Arts Board supports many artists as they hone their craft. Regardless, all agree that Saskatchewan artists are as diverse as the landscape. From Cypress Hills to Great Sand Hills and from the still blue deep of Thomson Lake to the untouched land in the Grasslands National Park, the land reflects the people. Textile artists, sculptors, painters, pottery artisans, poets, writers, dancers, musicians, filmmakers, and so many others. Let's face it, we just make really, really good artists here.
Sometimes customers ask, "How do I use this sculpture, it doesn't have a function?" Beautiful art pieces that bring you joy when you look upon them serve an aesthetic function: they nourish your soul, they connect you with beauty. This is something we all need. (It's the life equivalent of stopping and smelling the roses.) Furthermore, personally chosen art is a way for you to add your signature. When you surround yourself with unique objects, you will find yourself and your guests responding to them. Move your art around and try it under different lighting. At various times and seasons you will respond in new ways and see it differently. It's just another element of what art brings to your quality of life. Because a room and a home become that much more intimate when personal art of the owner is placed in it.
Yes, a Monet costs a kajillion dollars. But did you know that you don't need to buy a big-name artist in order for your heart to skip a beat (or two) when you look at a piece of art? There are many local artists who are doing intriguing and exciting work that's affordable (and stunning). This is in addition to established artists whose work is already in demand nationally and internationally. You'd be surprised at the choice and wide range of prices available to you for buying original art. (Heck, you can even buy art on a payment plan, just like you would furniture or electronics.) Essentially, if the piece speaks to you, if you smile when you walk by it, if it makes your soul giggle, then it's a Monet to you.