Making your first art purchase is intimidating if you weren’t raised in the art world. Where to begin?
This is how I did it: When law school was over, I found myself living in an apartment with walls covered in framed posters that I had collected over many years as a student. None remotely resembled what one might consider “art posters,” but all had landed on my walls as either hand-me-downs from roommates or cheap purchases I had made. One day it hit me that I wanted to transform my home into an “art house” full of real, original art. I’m not sure where this passion came from, perhaps a combination of my interest in history, visiting homes with art collections and endless trips to museums. The other part was my desire to be surrounded by eclectic and interesting artwork, but being blessed with no talent of my own.
Unfortunately, like many law students, I had absolutely no money, and student debt to boot. Buying art was not high on the list of my husband’s priorities…somewhere behind food, furniture and paying the mortgage. (A couple of new suits wouldn’t have hurt either.) But my own priority became the idea of a home with beautiful art. I was just lacking the resources. I slowly began to enter an unknown community of artists, galleries and talent that I did not have. I grew up in a family of lawyers, with not an artist in sight.
Down the street from my apartment was a gallery/poster framing store where I had my less than beautiful posters framed. The gallery owner and I chatted often as I flipped through stacks of affordable posters. One day I wandered upstairs to the gallery with “real art.” I fell instantly in love with two signed silkscreen prints (getting closer to original art), both completely beyond my financial means. I walked away determined to own one.
The next weekend, I went back to the gallery and looked at them again. Yes, I still wanted them, and my second trip made me want them even more. As I gazed at them longingly, the gallery owner walked over and asked, “Which one do you want to buy?” When I replied, “Both, I can’t decide,” he said, “No problem, just pay for them with $200 installments over time.” That put a smile back on my face, and a few hours later, both pieces were hanging on the walls of my house. Two hundred dollars a month was a chunk of cash for me at the time, but it was an amount that I could actually afford. So what if it took me two years to pay them off? They were mine, sort of…and I could enjoy them.
What did I learn? Never be afraid to ask questions and never be afraid to buy art. People ask, “How did you know what to buy and how did you know that was the right decision?” I just took the plunge on pieces that I found a way to afford. It was like love at first sight and to this day, I fall in love with every work of art that I buy. While some of us collect shoes, purses, watches or cars, buying art is my passion. Collecting art lets me meet and talk to artists, gallery owners and to study the history of art. It takes me away from the law to learn about something different.
My first two pieces of “real art” include a semi-abstract image of a mother and child on a beach by Israeli artist Ori Reisman who died in 1991 and a simple signed silkscreen of a vase of flowers by Ed Baynard. How do I feel about them today? Love or yuck? Stay tuned.
Susan Wortzman is an ardent art collector and lover of all things e-discovery. While she is not traipsing about galleries at home in Toronto and around the world, she runs her law firm Wortzman Nickle, surrounded by paintings, photographs and sculpture. Have questions or a column idea for Susan? Send them here.
Ori Reisman image courtesy of Nikola Rukaj Gallery