Buying Art: Do we know what we want?

I am consciously aware of the marketing of art as a commodity, rather than having something that we enjoy owning and looking at on a regular basis. There are many different mediums in art that are not meant for houses but for museums and cultural institutions. These most often include video and conceptual art. Serious collectors who have multiple residences or venues to show this kind of work are able to do this, but in most apartments or houses the space is an issue.

Why do you purchase an artwork? Is it to impress your friends and associates? Is it for investment, or is it simply for pleasure because you can relate to the piece? The one thing to remember here is, unless you are dealing at a very high level of what is called “Blue Chip” — works by Andy Warhol or Frank Stella — your chances of selling or trading in art is slim. The point here is to buy what you like. Your taste will change over the years and there are pieces that will continue to give you pleasure and there will be others that you will find less interesting as your collection grows. Do not be intimidated by work that is controversial or strident; if you like it take a chance. Art is meant to stimulate you.

Current Exhibits in the Bay Area - December, 2009

New Images of Man and Woman at the Alphonse Berber Gallery in Berkeley: curated by Peter Selz and Cameron Jackson, the co-director of the gallery. The show includes established Bay Area artists: Stephen de Staebler, Nathan Oliveira and Theophilis Brown, who were in the original landmark show. curated by Peter Selz 50 years ago in NYC at MOMA and 5 emerging artists working in the Bay Area today. As you enter the show you will view 2 large canvases by Ursula O’Farrell. These paintings are brash in both color and movement. The painting style is loose and more abstracted than many other pieces in the show but look for a small canvas from her mother and daughter series that is more self contained. There are two elegant paintings by Brown of figures in domestic settings that have a feeling of thoughtful tension. Marianne Kolb is a self taught German painter who now lives and works here. Her works are a compliment to Nathan Olivera with their blurred figures that are emerging from the canvas in a mystifying manner. There are several de Staeblers with their fractured figures or portions of them and some surprising Oliveiras, in particular one study of a portrait of a woman with an accentuated nose. Ryoko Tajiri is a Japanese artist whose paintings carry on the Bay Area Figurative school, in particular Richard Diebenkorn who in his later career turned to abstraction. Her work shows semi abstracted figures in an almost cubist landscape. At the back of the gallery are numerous works by Fran Lerner. These are curious studies of puppets in industrial landscapes (see below). They are small paintings that are diligently painted enticing the viewer to ponder their origin and reason for being.

This is a gem of an exhibit. Most of the works were done in the 60’s and 70’s and include a few figurative works by Diebenkorn and Oliviera from this period when the three of them were in a group specifically meeting weekly with a model to draw the figure. These are tumultuous drawings in black and white with figures, clothed and unclothed in angled poses. Lobdell is a professor emeritus at Stanford and we are more familiar with his large abstracted canvases.

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