Art, in its simplest function, can give us visual pleasure. In its most complex function, art can create a depth of feeling we'd not be able to reach on our own.
Though many are aware of art's power and would like to begin collecting art to live with at home, the prospect of buying art can be intimidating. On Friday, the staff of Winnipeg's Gurevich Fine Art and an art collector will appear at the Free Press News Café to talk about how to collect art and develop an artistic preference, with the aim of easing the intimidation felt by so many.
Galleries, after all, have a strange hush. There is a perceived condescending and exclusive attitude that can make it uncomfortable to spend time, let alone money, in one.
Recently, a collector in New York paid $142 million to purchase a Francis Bacon triptych at a Christie's auction. While art auction prices are newsworthy, learning about the amounts of money tossed around by a privileged few only serves to make the rest of us believe buying art is a far-fetched idea.
The goings-on of the blue-chip art world may be fiction to Winnipeggers, but the reality is we live in a city where art created by world-class artists is becoming easier to access.
This is thanks in part to Winnipeg's commercial galleries, such as Mayberry Fine Art and Fleet Gallery, both in the Exchange District. Martha Street Studio, home of the Manitoba Printmakers Association, carries prints by renowned artists such as Wanda Koop and Aganetha Dyck, to name a few.
Newest on the block is Gurevich Fine Art, another commercial gallery in the Exchange. Since opening its doors in 2006, the gallery has steadily increased the number of artists it represents. Visitors are often impressed by the wide variety of styles and media on display, which includes abstract work and art that is more representational. Gurevich has also recently opened a satellite gallery at McNally Robinson Booksellers at Grant Park Shopping Centre.
"Gurevich Fine Art represents emerging, mid-career, established and historical artists, all which come with different pricing. We are a gallery that is approachable for the beginning collector all the way to the most experienced of buyers," says Toby Bartlett, the gallery's director of communications.
It is the approachability that helps commercial galleries remove the intimidation factor for novice collectors. Both Bartlett and Elise Dawson, Gurevich's head of sales, who are also artists, acknowledge that while they love talking about the ethereal nature of art with patrons, there are a lot of nitty-gritty things like payment plans and framing options that also need to be discussed.
Dawson acknowledges the seemingly relative prices of art pieces can be confusing. She helps those who are interested to understand the investment aspect of collecting and the factors that contribute to the cost of the art.
"The reasons you should purchase a piece should be based not only on you liking it, but on the artist's career path and where it stands when you are making a purchase decision," says Dawson.
Dawson also acknowledges that there are many who struggle to trust their own taste and need someone to tell them the work is good.
Rather than tell them what to buy, she helps instil confidence in first-time collectors. She says a purchased art piece is something you'll experience repeatedly, so it is worth thinking about how and why it speaks to you.
"Consider when building a collection that the works will build a cohesive narrative, not because they match, but because they make contextual sense to you -- because you chose them," Dawson says.
Indeed, finding and choosing a piece of art can be a profoundly personal experience. Perhaps this is why art collectors have the reputation for being a rare breed, driven by an acquisitive instinct as much as by a quasi-religious enthusiasm for art.
Some argue collectors who truly appreciate art become like artists. The art they buy tells a story, in a way, of their own lives.
Bartlett says the rewards of collecting are great.
"Each time you purchase a piece of art you're investing in a piece of history -- not only the artist's but your own."
Sarah Swan is a Winnipeg artist and writer. She will host Art Talk/Art Walk at the Free Press News Café on Friday in a discussion of art collecting. Call 204-697-7069 for tickets to the event.