I can’t imagine letting someone else tell me what I like in a piece of art!
Our personal tastes are one of the few things no one can really know or change without our engagement. But VALUE is something else again entirely.
As collectors, we once looked at one of Lino Tagliapietra’s major pieces. It was very expensive – over $50,000. Perhaps not more than we could spend, but certainly more than we felt comfortable with for a single piece at the time. We knew that we could have bought 10 excellent pieces by artists that have not been bid up to such a level.
Without even thinking much about selling the work, we felt like would have overpaid relative to the average value of a piece of Lino’s work over time. If we had been fortunate enough to have purchased a piece 30 years ago for $10,000 we certainly would have felt great about it later.
The notion of having an upside in the piece someday is attractive. However, it is not a good reason to collect and great collections rarely start out with that way. Check out the original “Art of the Steal” documentary about the creation of one of the world’s greatest modern art collections by John Barnes, who loved the pieces he bought.
But no one wants to feel that they overpaid either. There are several issues with buying glass art by household names. Some artists are so prolific (think Chihuly) or work so late in their career that it strains credulity to think they actually produced the full range of their marketed ouevre. The quality of a glass artist’s work may also vary, not just piece by piece, but broadly over time.
However, we think the more important issue is what you are paying right now for the piece you love, versus the average price over time (including into the future) for that artist’s work. The Barnes Collection included 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 59 Matisses and 46 Picassos – but none purchased for the premium prices they commanded later. The same dynamic is still at play today.
For instance, major works by Alexis Silk once sold for $2,000 – $3,000. In recent years the value of her large scale pieces increased to $10,000 – and sometimes quite a bit more. Her most recent major works start at about $25,000. So it would not be surprising to regularly see six-figure works by Silk in the future.
Would an average piece selling for $100,000 in ten years be worth it? Sure, if someone loves it enough to buy it. However, the person who bought the $10,000 piece two years ago is probably in a better sweet spot on the value curve. It is likely that they missed the artist’s earlier, perhaps lesser work – and they also missed the run-up in price! For us, that means looking for younger artists that seem be working near a peak of their ability and their connection with the market.
We know that when we sell a piece by one of these artists that we are offering an excellent artistic value; we only sell pieces we love, by artists we admire! However we are also confident that these pieces represent a significant economic value as well.