Art Comment Quarterly
"No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did he would cease to be an artist."- Oscar Wilde
Star-making and Collectability
When I read recently on CNN.com that renowned Art Dealer and Art Historian Peter Hastings Falk had decided to invest considerable amounts of money to take some Iraqi artists under his wing and make them famous in New York and throughout America, I paused to reflect on that curious divine-like process of 'star-making.' See three of Falk's new stars: ArtVitae.com members Ahmed Al-Safi, Esam Pasha, and Qasim Al-Septi.
In my estimation there are thousands of talented artists who are as equally deserving of achieving artistic stardom as are that fortunate minority of artists that somehow become 'discovered'.
Could one human really be the magic key that starts the string of gears and cogs all cranking along inside that Hand-of-God Machine that plucks some unwitting artist from relative obscurity and lifts him into the otherworldly realm of the 'discovered' artists? Is success in art really like a macro version of the mechanical arm amusement at the carnival? Does some benevolent benefactor really put an almighty coin into the slot and with divine adeptness operate the levers to gingerly lift his chosen prize out of the glass box of obscurity? Surely, that would be too simplistic.
And yet, still I wonder. Could it be that some people could act as a conduit for the hand of a benevolent God to work through? Could a single mortal indeed be the incarnation of that magic key to the Hand-of-God Machine? Or am I suffering from naive delusions. Perhaps there could be more sinister agents operating behind the scenes. Are 'star-makers' simply mercenaries for cabals of greedy capitalists, perpetuating the rich-get-richer axiom?
The answer to the questions above is I suspect somewhere in between good and evil and talent and luck. One thing that is certain however is that once 'established' a 'collectable' artist is fairly simple to identify. The next article gives some pointers.
ArtVitae promotes "Collectable Art"
ArtVitae.com will be exhibiting selected member artists again this November 25 to 27 at the RDS in Dublin at the international Art Ireland art exhibition. ArtVitae's theme this year is "Collectable Art".
So, how does one know who is a 'collectable' artist?
For Irish artists, your safest bet is to refer to the Irish Arts Review's publication, 'Annual Price Guide to Irish Art'. If the artist is listed there, s/he is 'collectable'. In 1992 artist Francis Tansey sold "Solid Red" for about Euro 4000. The 'Annual Price Guide to Irish Art' indicates that in 2004 "Solid Red" sold at auction for Euro 15,000 - a very fine profit by any standard. A comparable profit was made in the same year when the gavel went down Elizabeth Cope's painting "Goldfish, Lemon and Braun Violin with Roses at Window" fetched £ 11,400.
Another measure of 'collectability' is to examine an artist's 'collections' list. If the buyers are celebrities, corporations, our wealthy collectors, it is very likely that these artworks will eventually end up at auction or into state museums. Irish Genre painter David Shanahan can boast Ben Kingsly, Lord Weymouth, Lord Bath, Lord Sawyer, and David Bowie among his list of buyers. Again, a safe bet.
In 2003 ArtVitae.com launched a campaign to promote talented, but isolated Baghdadi artists. As a result, a number of them have been 'discovered' by the high-profile American Art Dealer and Art Historian, Peter Hastings Falk. In an email to ArtVitae Falk relates, "I am supporting these artists by purchasing groups of their works. And I intend to consign them to top galleries, thereby setting up an ongoing commercial stream for them. Thanks for your pioneering website." Paintings by one of those 'discovered' Baghdadi artists, Ahmed Al-Safi, will be on offer by ArtVitae.com at Art Ireland - clearly a foolproof investment.
Yet another guide to 'collectability' is to watch global art market trends. With the emergence of a new very wealthy Russian upper class, established Russian artists are what's currently HOT in the world's major auction rooms. Included in "A Dictionary of Twentieth Century Russian and Soviet Painters", the late Impressionist painter Vasilij Belikov fits that trend perfectly.
ArtVitae is proud to be offering works by Francis Tansey, Elizabeth Cope, David Shanahan, Ahmed Al-Safi, Vasilij Belikov, and other exceptional artists at Art Ireland 2005 Exhibition (at the RDS November 25 to 27). See you there.
Tax Benefits of Collecting Art
Tax regulations, of course vary from country to country. However, most countries share basic similarities. We can use ArtVitae.com's home country Ireland, for example.
In Ireland if a buyer is a business, he can write off the cost of the purchase of the artwork against his income tax, provided that the artwork is placed in a location where the public can view it - in a lobby for example. The annual wear and tear allowance on this 'capital expenditure' is 15 % per year. So over a few years the cost of the art is recovered. In other words, the establishment of a company collection of art is essentially free.
Additionally, for a business or a private collector there are other substantial tax relief benefits when an artwork is either loaned or given to an Irish state institution.
Plus in humanistic terms, having art in your workplace improves your quality of life, and lets the public know that you care about more than just the 'bottom line'.
And of course you can also sell the artworks for a profit when they appreciate in price. Such a turn-around of artworks helps to vary and expand your collection.
Check with your local tax advisor or revenue department for specific regulations in your country. You will find that collecting art is a definite win-win situation.
Katrina's Cultural Toll
On a personal note, I am lucky to possess an old sepia photograph of my great-great-grandfather, the sheriff of Lamar County Mississippi, astride his handsome black horse. As the story goes, in 1905 Great-great-granddaddy slapped his horse on the rump sending him home with a note attached warning the locals of the impending greatest and most infamous hurricane of that century. Since I was an infant, I have regularly visited Biloxi and the Gulf Coast. So the devastating loss of the lives, property, and livelihoods of friends and associates have been particularly poignant for me. My heart weeps for all those kind souls affected by this terrible catastrophe.
Also lost are hundreds of years of artistic and cultural identities.
I immediately thought of the ceramic art of George Ohr (1857-1918), the "Mad Potter of Biloxi." What had become of his fragile collection and indeed the new museum that was to house it that was in the process of being constructed on the coastal route 90?
For the answer to that question and more reports on the state of the artworks in the path of Katrina, please read 'Buried Treasures:Storm's Toll On Culture' by Linda Hales of the Washington Post.
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