Art Matters Part 3 - Is fashion important when buying South African art?

Art Matters Part 3 - Is fashion important when buying South African art?

ALWAYS. Fashion is stimulated by change and a different statement or in this case imagery. People catch on and lust for the look, colour, forms and shapes until it becomes commonplace and clichéd.

During the Eighties, Iztak Tarkay painted and created limited edition silkscreens and posters of colourful ladies at cafes and in group poses. They were lovely and will become lovely and desirable again but popular demand 'killed the look' - just too many Tarkayesque images around. People yearn to belong to taste patterns but be different! Where possible, always buy an original, original graphics, original hand coloured engravings in preference to a pure print. It has no value except as a copy of an original and, the framing that supports it.

Fashion has also been important in the resale of art on the secondary market - i.e. via auction or private treaty. Many artists produced many beautiful original oils and watercolours in the Victorian period in England. They sold well when they were first painted and most conformed to an identifiable style and colour usage. Some were incredibly sentimental and it was this aspect which was severely criticised during the 1920's through to the 1960's

During the 1970's the whole school of English Victorian painting was rediscovered and yes, you've got it, - the prices rose and are still rising. The art and its style are unchanging but tastes and fashion came and went with the regularity of the tide at the seaside. Prices now attained are in some cases over 5 000 times higher than the original value paid to the artist or gallery. In this case the artwork doubled every 10 years up to 1960 and then every 5 years. Let's see what happens to a member of the 'Newlyn' (Cornwall, England) school of Victorian painters' work. Purchase price in 1905 - £2.10. Price now could be £10 240 and in many cases much higher - again almost 5 000 times the original price paid.

I have a *%&d$* Painting. What is it worth? What can I get for it? Do you want to buy it? 
Best thing to do - photograph it, measure it, write down its history and take it or the photograph to one of the state or municipal galleries or to a good auction house to get an estimate. To get the best price, advertise it specifically with as much detail as possible to appeal to a genuine private collector. Remember that in this market you, as a willing seller, need to find a willing buyer.

I would like to buy some South African art but don't know what I am looking for or what is good.
All art originated in South Africa is South African, whether it is by black, white, coloured or any other ethnic group - the same criteria outlined earlier applies as well.

This is not to be dismissive or to show a lack of appreciation for different styles and use of material. We have a large range of different work by different 'African' artists, all of which have something to say and say it well!

What one should be careful of is tokenism - the purchase of any piece of art because it is by a disadvantaged artist, regardless of cost or artistic merit. This is a common mistake when buying township art, which is why we only list the finest quality of art that will not 'pall' in its taste to you later on.

Such a purchase may be well inspired and put some bread on the table for the artist - but, if one is only buying for this motive, then in time the demand will dry up for his or her work.

This is not to say 'chaotic mistakes' are not good teachers when continually evaluated. The market 'is' the ultimate evaluator and we are all part of the market. Just think of Jackson Pollock in the 50's and 60's riding around a canvas on a bicycle flicking paint around. His actions freed up the whole genre of abstraction painting and created the sub-group called "action painting". Until this time, spontaneity was seldom practiced in art.

These notes are offered to widen the discussion about art. They are not hard and fast rules but are based on knowledge of over 30 years experience in the International and South African art market. You may agree or disagree – both opinions are good since it broadens the discussion and appreciation of art.

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