Besides being a wife and mother I have done lots of different kinds of work over the years. One of the things I have excelled at is real estate. I have purchased and sold 7 homes since 1989. I currently own 2. I know a little bit about the real estate industry. As I delve into the Art World, I try to make sense of it through what I know. In the real estate world, the slogan most oft repeated is: location, location, location.
In the art world it seems that the most important information in building a strong collection of art is: name, name, name – the artist cannot be an unknown or the purchase becomes “risky” not unlike the risk of buying a home in a poor location. For typical home purchases buyers consider the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square feet, garage, fireplace, and so on. Still, in real estate the most important and relevant information is location and price.
How does this correlate to the increasingly complex and growing art market? Is the name of the artist and the price the most relevant information? What else is relevant? In art, as in real estate there are variables to consider such as: size of work, type of work, idea behind the work, where the work has been before, cost of production, and more.
In a gross simplification of the process of bringing a home to market, a builder constructs the home and then the home is sold to the first buyer of the property. A typical sale of that same home after the current owner has decided to move includes: sellers’ agent, sellers’ agent’s broker, buyers’ agent broker, buyers’ agent, buyer and the mortgage officer. Typically the brokers are invisible for most of the sell/buy transaction; a process that can take anywhere from one month to over a year. However, brokers have the highly important function of branding and maintaining inventory.
In the art world, the artist is like the builder. Roughly speaking, the brokers are the galleries and the auction houses. The art consultants are the agents that work with buyers and/or sellers. I have worked with several wonderful real estate agents over the years, both as a buyer and as a seller, as well as an assistant to a Damien Hirst type agent, the art consultant chapter in the “Collecting Contemporary Art” by Adam Lindemann felt very familiar. Each transaction is nuanced and involves many players.
The relationships that I built with my real estate agent(s) made all of the difference in how smoothly my transactions to purchasing or selling a home worked out. Often, it is all about who they know and the relationships they have developed that can seal (or break) a deal. In fact, in situations such as mine, where I was the seller 7 times (3 of those in the same town) my relationships to key players also played a role in the service I came to expect and in the deals I was able to put together. I completely loved the process of hiring contractors to re-create homes to my specifications (I created the drawings and shared my vision) and then I would ready the home for sale to work with my agent and find a buyer.
In my life before grad school, I was able to play the role of creator (remodeling with the help of contractors) and collector. As I begin to see these correlations I must ask myself – what role do I see myself in after school? Where would my talents best fit? How can I incorporate what I already know how to do in creating the life I want to live? Have I been thinking big enough? I have, in the past, worked with budgets over $10,000 and now in school spending $1000 on art supplies feels like too much.
A home can shelter a family and art – well, I want to believe in its importance and I am searching for answers. One answer came to me a long time ago. In 1984 when I went to the mall to buy some prints to decorate my first apartment, I came home with no purchases. It occurred to me while I was at the mall that I could paint my own wall art. I have been doing just that ever since. I have been painting in order to not spend money on other artists’ work. If thinking big and spending $10,000 on creating an art piece seems ridiculous to me now then I really do not have a chance in hell of building my career as an artist. Yet I did not start with budgets of $10,000 in real estate. In fact, in the first home I bought and re-sold in Mountain View, CA I think I spent $1000 to “fix-it-up.” However, it DID sell. I see far too many artists, including myself, sitting on unsold inventory – therein lies the rub!