Other Artists, and What We Can Do About Them

And now, for a few words about finding works for you by other artists or, for that matter, works by Picasso that we don’t already own.  I hope this doesn’t come across as condescending and that you’re still smiling by the end, but, listen up, people!  OK, I’ll cop to the charge of paternalism if you wish to invoke it when you find me trying to make sure that you exercise the best possible taste and judgment when acquiring art.  Why do I bother?  It’s risky, after all.  Unsolicited advice may not be welcome, especially if it’s critical. To date, it seems that all of its recipients have been grateful, though some have heedlessly gone on to do exactly what they had intended in the first place.  Which is OK, of course.

I bother, because of what happens when I turn you loose in the shopping mall! I’ll give you but the latest example to illustrate.  A client couple, good clients who have since become friends, when we first met (online) had initially expressed interest in our synthetic cubist gouache.  They passed on it because of price and instead bought some other works from us (an aquatint and an etching) that were more in line with their budget.  But the man still fancies cubism.  Recently, when catching up by phone, he mentioned that they had just bought an oil by a second-tier cubist.  I probably shouldn’t have asked to see its photo, but I did.  Worse, I even had the bad manners to inquire about the price.

We could debate whether the artist is a 2nd or 3rd tier cubist, but his place in the cubist pantheon is less at issue than the particular painting at hand which, trust me, is a loser.  I may not have much talent, but the one thing I can do best (or at least I’ve deluded myself into thinking so) is discerning good art from bad, usually in an instant.  More self-delusion: I’m not just an idiot savant who only understands Picasso’s art.  And I may not know nearly as much about other artists, but, as far as bad art goes, to pervert the venerable former Justice Stewart’s take on obscenity, “I know it when I see it.”

I suppose you’re thinking sour grapes.  But, I swear on the hopefully not untimely grave of the art dealer who sold them the painting, when a friend or client asks me about a purchase made or about to be made from another source, I give my honest opinion.  If it’s a good piece at a fair price, I say so.  But here, it’s such a bad piece of art that I’d have counseled against it at any price.  To add injury to insult, there are many nice works by lesser cubists that are available within my friend’s budget.

Anyway, what does it matter what I think of your art?  I’m not so self-important to fail to realize, the main thing is that you like it. However, you might live to regret your purchase once your taste has become more sophisticated and your eye more discerning.  Often it’s just a matter of looking at a lot more art.  Following that, and maybe with a bit more conversations or reading along the way, you might find some good alternative choices and even grow to prefer them.   And your future purchases would certainly be expected to appreciate more rapidly as a result of their improved quality.

Even through my Picasso-colored glasses, I still accept the presence of many other great artists and styles of art.  Similarly, I appreciate the need for color as an integral part of the décor one’s home and office, and know that colorful Picassos command a huge premium.  Thankfully, there are many great choices to make if one is on a budget.  As long as we’re talking about cubism, some of the third tier cubists have quite nice paintings and are certainly much more affordable than Picassos of the same medium.

Admittedly, we buy only Picassos these days.  I must admit to almost buying a Warhol last year (sorry, Pablo!), but it was a very early self-portrait gouache in a style reminiscent of Schiele.  Gorgeous, important, incomparable, and not just in my opinion—even the Met bid on it.  But in the end, I just had to buy another Picasso instead.  But that is not to say I can’t help you acquire other artists when you absolutely must veer from the straight and narrow, and in a variety of ways.  My service to clients ranges from just rendering an opinion on something you have found (gratis), to bidding at auction for you (not gratis), to sourcing pieces for you elsewhere (ditto). I guess I’m describing the natural habitat of the animal today called an “art consultant”. What I’m trying to say is, well…I want to be your animal.