Buying art can be stressful, especially if you haven’t taken an arts course since finger painting. Chaely Chartier of Charlie LaCroix Art Brokerage breaks down the business of buying art, which is, in fact, her business.
CR: Some people are intimidated about buying art because they don’t know what the piece means, or what the artist is trying to say. What’s your advice?
Chaely Chartier: A lot of people ask me “What does it mean?” or “What is it worth?” You don’t have to know anything about the piece, if you like it and it makes you feel good – buy it. Does it make you happy? Yes. Can you afford it? Yes. There you go, now you’re an art buyer. It’s worth what you’ll pay for it. What’s it mean? It means whatever it means to you, it means whatever it makes you feel when you look at it. It means something different to me than it means to you.
CR: How does a person go about buying their first piece of original artwork, if they are totally unfamiliar with art and the art world?
Chaely Chartier: How to begin buying art really depends on what your intent is as an art buyer. Are you looking to decorate your home or office? Set the mood? Are you trying to make a financial investment? Do you want to impress your guests with your sense of style? Are you looking to name-drop? Maybe none of this matters to you - that’s ok too! All of this is going to factor into where and how you’ll want to procure your original artwork.
For example, if you’re really just trying to make an investment in some artwork that might appreciate in value while you enjoy it for a few years, you’ll have better luck putting in some research or consulting an art broker to get a sense of what the art market looks like and which artists are gaining notoriety. They’ll probably end up going the gallery route, or purchasing direct from an artist (probably online or from their private studio is most common, nowadays). On another hand, I’m the sort of person who enjoys art buying as a sort of sport. I enjoy going to art battles and studio open houses, meeting the artists, falling in love with a piece unexpectedly, coming home with both the artwork and a great story about where it came from. Sometimes I don’t even love the particular piece of art as much as I love the story behind it, because my intent as an art buyer is to relive that story each time I see it hanging on my wall. It’s all about your intent.
CR: If a person loves a certain artist’s work and wants to commission a piece, how should (s)he go about doing so?
Chaely Chartier: In a non-scientific study I conducted just now in this empty room, 4 out of 5 artists agreed that their biggest pet peeve is when someone asks them to create a piece of art that is wildly uncharacteristic of their style. For free. Anyone who creates can be approached for a commission if you know how to reach them. Fashion designers, painters, sculptors, hot rod builders. Though, it is best for everyone if you let the artist play to their strengths by sticking to their medium. You wouldn’t hand a hot rod guy a sewing machine and ask him to sew up a dress, right?
In life it’s always best to just ask for what you want. However, it’s important to remember that you’re usually commissioning an artist’s interpretation of your request. The best thing to do is give your artist the dimensions desired, the subject matter you’re looking for, a color scheme if that’s important, and then ask the magic words: “is this something you’re willing to do?” Maybe your artist doesn’t want to paint a big white unicorn on black velvet. That’s their prerogative. Maybe they’re willing to paint a big white unicorn, but their style isn’t satirical, so if they’re going to paint a unicorn it’s going to be on canvas, in their own style. So instead you agree on seeing a sketch before they start painting to make sure everyone is on the same page. You liked the artist’s style enough to approach them in the first place, so let them run with it a little.
Now you ask the next magic question: “How much will the final piece cost?” If they say “nothing” slip a few dollars in their pocket. Even if you’re just asking for a line drawing for a tattoo design, you’re asking for one of a kind original artwork and it has value. Gratitude is wonderful, but it doesn’t pay for art supplies.
CR: Who should buy art?
Chaely Chartier: EVERYONE, for any combination of reasons. To make you happy, to support small businesses and artists, to take the attention off the stain on your rug or cover a hole in the wall, to impress your friends and colleagues, to remind you of a moment in your life, to bring color to a boring room, to make a statement, to make you feel like a real adult, to freak out your roommate, to make yourself stop and think… the list is endless.
I don’t just mean this like a drug pusher because I want to make money as an art broker, I mean this in the same way that John Waters meant it when he said, ”We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t f*ck them.”
Even if you don’t love art, there’s something so sterile and unloved about a home with blank walls. If you ever want someone to be comfortable in your space, you need to hang something up. Bonus points if it’s an extension of your personality. Bonus points if it’s not thumb-tacked to the wall.