Turning Point Magazine
May/June/July 1999, p31.

Collecting Art

by Eric Hanks

Palmer Hayden
Negro Matador
20" x 24"
© Miriam Hayden Estate
Courtesy M. Hanks Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

"I collect African American art in order to preserve and perpetuate the fact that black people of interest and beauty walked the earth, and that their voyage was noted and smiled upon by artists of superior talent," says one collector.

"My art collection reflects my uniqueness as a human being," says another. "It also transforms my living space into a personal sanctuary where my spirit is renewed and my energy reinvigorated."

William Pajaud
Church Sister
20" x 25"
© William Pajaud
Courtesy M. Hanks Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

Collecting art offers many rewards. Most of the benefits are deeply personal and unique to each individual, but there is a common thread that runs through everyone's experiences. All collectors say collecting art is a great way to learn about the world outside, with all of its variety and physical manifestations, as well as the world inside, with all of its depth and spiritual qualities.

But what is a collector and what are the steps to becoming a one?

Someone once defined a collector by drawing a distinction between a collector and an accumulator. An accumulator, he says, is someone who buys without thought, or who responds to fads and whatever is said to be the thing to collect.

In contrast, a collector is someone who takes time to learn about his or her interests, makes careful choices, is an independent person who trusts his or her own judgment, and is passionate about what he or she collects.

Pheobe Beasley
Fine China
26" x 31"
© Phoebe Beasley
Courtesy M. Hanks Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

Everyone should avoid becoming an accumulator and strive to be a collector. Some of what it takes to be a collector is contained in the above definition but here are some steps that will make the process a little easier.

First, discover what you truly like. Visit museums and galleries. Take art appreciation classes. Develop a relationship with art dealers. Speak to artists whenever possible.

Second, set up a budget for art. One common misconception is that it takes a lot of money to build an art collection. Many collectors, however, have built fine collections with limited funds. Often, the most expensive art is created by established artists. Take a chance. Buy works by emerging artists. Just think, before he became famous, Vincent Van Gogh couldn't sell his work. Now his art sells for millions of dollars.

Third, buy only what you like. Don't purchase art to make money by later selling it. One study suggests it takes an average of seven years for a work of art to appreciate to the break-even point. If you want to gamble go to Las Vegas or play the stock market.

Fourth, to avoid being ripped off, check the reputation of the dealer you're purchasing from. In addition, make sure a full description of the work, including the title, medium, artist's name, and dimensions, is written on your receipt. And, if it's a print, ask for a certificate of authenticity.

Fifth, if the work of art you bought is on paper, make sure it's framed properly. That means all materials inside of the frame, such as the mat and the backing, should be acid-free. In addition, the glass, or Plexiglas, should not touch the artwork. If it does, water from condensation could stain it, or the work could get stuck to the glass.

Sixth, make sure the work is properly insured. Check to see if it's covered under your current insurance policy. If not, perhaps a rider can be purchased.

Finally, have fun. Enjoy the journey of discovery. You'll find out many things about nature and people, but you'll also discover many things about yourself.

Eric Hanks is owner of M. Hanks Gallery at 3008 Main Street in Santa Monica.

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