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Why is art so expensive?

Why is art so expensive?

July 30, 2019

A few years ago I wrote a blog titled “Why is art so expensive?”  The topic came up again recently so I decided to revisit the subject, this time hoping to clarify some of the confusion about art as investment caused by news of artworks selling for millions of dollars.

The fact is, that very little art will ever provide a solid return for the financial investment, especially in the short run.  The only thing you can be sure of, is the aesthetic, emotional and/or intellectual enjoyment that comes from buying and living with art you love.  However, because collecting art becomes more challenging as prices rise, it’s important to put pricing in a context that is understandable.  To do so, let’s start with artists.

Unlike most professions for which a university degree provides the training to get a good paying job almost immediately, for an artist, this is only the beginning and it generally takes years to develop the skills and, more importantly, the vision, to create work that will stand out in the marketplace.  Personal experience has led me to believe that most artists won’t hit their stride until they are in their thirties.  This means many lean years at the start and the income they sacrifice during this time often has to be caught up once their careers bloom.  Additionally, many artists create highly individualistic artworks that can only be appreciated by a limited number of collectors, thus these artworks are more expensive because the cost of producing and selling them isn’t altered because less people want them.  We’ve also got to consider all the costs artists share: daily living expenses, art materials, running a studio—whether it’s a room in their apartment or separate space required for larger work— insurance, shipping, websites, photography, additional education, travel and advertising.  On top of this, virtually all successful artists rely on galleries to publicize their art, build their careers, instill confidence in collectors and transact sales.  This means that the costs of running a gallery: salaries, rent, utilities, marketing, publicity, insurance, office supplies, shipping, travel and entertainment, get added to the prices.  And, as reputations can’t be manufactured out of thin air, typically the more credible and established the gallery is, the higher their expenses are.

Because we live a world of mass produced and cheaply made goods, it’s perhaps natural to think that artists would sell a lot more art if their prices were lower, but lower prices for remarkable art won’t make it more accessible or understandable.  Only education and exposure do this, and they aren’t easy, cheap, or quick for artists or galleries to acquire and then to pass on to the public. Thus, unless you’re going to buy art from student artists just starting their careers or novices, or you happen to be one of the rare people who has the knowledge and innate ability to recognize what almost everyone else misses, you’re going to find that art always seems expensive.  This is why I encourage collectors to think of art like a vacation and, instead of asking how much what they collect is going to appreciate in value, to value it first in terms of enjoyment, and then decide if it is worth the expense.

Ultimately, collecting art you love is a benevolent process because you understand that by bringing beauty into your life, you’re also supporting a network of people involved in a process that is far larger than it appears to be on the surface.  Otherwise, without this realization, prices won’t make sense and you’ll miss the invigorating, enjoyable experience of living with art.

Timothy Tew
TEW Galleries – One of Atlanta’s Leading Contemporary Fine Art Galleries since 1987

My French Attic: Paris Report

My French Attic: Paris Report

June 11, 2019

Click here to read about Timothy Tew's trip to visit artists in Paris.

 

Now that I’m back in Atlanta and living full-time in my new French Attic apartment on the third floor of the gallery, my bond with the business is changing, and in some ways, all that is old is new again. I was recently reminded of this when I went to Paris and London in February, to visit artists who were key to my early success as a gallerist and still continue to be important to me, despite the fact that many of our newer collectors may be more familiar with recent artists. Thus to bring all of our collectors up to date, I’ve written this report about my trip.

Most of the gallery’s clients know that I lived in Paris and it was meeting artists there that prompted me to get into the gallery business in 1987.  One of the artists I discovered was Isabelle Melchior. I fell head over heels in love with her paintings when I saw them in a show, what the French call a “Salon”, named “Young Painters” at the Grand Palais, just off the Champs Elysées.  The exhibition featured hundreds of artists and I went through it slowly, looking for artists that I might represent.  I found several I liked, but when I came to the work of Isabelle Melchior, I knew I had stumbled onto a treasure. This has proven to be one of the great moments of my life and formed the foundation of my professional success as a gallerist. I feel very lucky to have one of the paintings I saw that day, hanging in my French Attic. 

To read more about Timothy's visit with artists in Paris click here.

Woody Patterson

Woody Patterson "Obsolescence to Relevance"

April 23, 2019

View the digital catalogue

In our commitment to seek out exciting talent, yet undiscovered by the art gallery world; TEW Galleries is pleased to introduce Woody Patterson to our audience of collectors.  Patterson began studying art at a very early age and his interest resurfaced while attending Birmingham-Southern University.  After graduation he attended the Art Institute of Atlanta, leading to a career in graphic design and advertising in Atlanta which continued until 2012 when he decided to rediscover his potential as an artist.  Quite fortuitously he was asked to help a friend clean out a warehouse filled with circuit boards, electronic wire, radios, computers, and everything in between and he realized a new way forward.  Using these artifacts of modern life, he launched into wedding them into his art, creating innovative works that he feels are more relevant to contemporary times.  

Patterson’s worked has developed along dual lines which through materials, joyous color, and a similar foundation, are tied together.  One body of work is comprised of narrow, vertical pieces painted with controlled horizontal stripes of different colors to which he attaches a separate three-dimensional column.  The other is rectangular and square, vertical and horizontal.  It is also striped with color, however, with the addition of meticulously veneered shapes, these works have a sense of circular movement and accompanying energy.  View the digital catalogue

Calvin Jones

Calvin Jones "Portraits Imagined"

April 23, 2019

View the digital catalogue.

Anyone who has been around me long enough has heard me say I am convinced I was a painter in a past life.  However, in this lifetime I'm a gallerist and part of my work is to develop close relationships with artists in order to understand, nurture and share what they create with the world.  This is always interesting, but it is particularly wonderful when an artist finds the courage, fortitude and vision to reinvent himself (or herself) in a powerful and surprising way.  Such is the case with Calvin Jones, an artist we have shown before but whose development I have been following closely for several years.  

Calvin became a highly successful landscape painter in Atlanta in the 1990's and 2000's.  In need of change and new inspiration, he moved to New York in 2008.  Returning to Atlanta two years later and still finding himself in an artistic crisis, he began to focus on new subject matter.  With time, the crisis transformed into a creative rebirth as he slowly gave new expression to his imagination, feelings and extraordinary painterly abilities, some of which were developed in the movie industry, where, as a set painter, working fast, and being clear on how to produce the desired end result, are requirements.  

There are few artists who can create a painted surface that is both athletic and elegant, but Calvin does this and it gives his art a presence that is both manly and incredibly sensitive.  In addition, these paintings, which I call imagined portraits of women with one standout portrait of Tom Ford, are powerful elegies to both presence and absence and speak to the important role women have played in the artist’s life, and the ways in which our society looks at, and also overlooks, the beauty and power of the woman. 

Great art has an ability to both tell us what we see and suggest what we can’t.  However, to pull this off, it requires an artist with highly developed skills and unique talents.  Calvin has both and, using rich, jewel-like colors, he switches between creating complex, textured surfaces, and laying down elegant brushwork, all the while, outlining his world of beautiful women.  View the digital catalogue.

    

Artworks to Inspire

Artworks to Inspire

March 25, 2019

A overview of new artworks we've recently added to our inventory. 

View the digital catalogue

Video interview with Hunt Slonem

March 11, 2019 - Timothy Tew

Hunt Slonem Solo Show

Hunt Slonem Solo Show

February 22, 2019 - Timothy Tew