Why should I trust you?
That is a simple enough question for most people in their daily lives, but it takes on added significance when you are dealing with art, artists, and art gallery owners in the on-going endeavor of selling works of art. To the average Tom off the street, on entering an art gallery, art is an entertainment to be admired, questioned, and laughed at. But, to the art purchaser, the business owner, homeowner, and/or art aficionado, art is more than simply materials worked into another visual dimension.
You must begin by examining what the position of art in modern society is, what role does the artist and art play, and why acquiring art makes a difference to the buyer and to the viewer. After World War II as people moved into the suburbs and then became better educated, upward ‘class mobility’ became a preoccupation and taste became the means of attaining the goal of ‘social’ acceptability. It was easier to demonstrate taste by buying and displaying the ‘right things’ than by acquiring a thorough knowledge of art and of literature.
As business and opportunities started to move people around the country there was a loss of much needed community identity. Not being a part of the community led to the need to establish one’s identity by proving, either through knowledge or by possession, that you had taste, which in turn led to the need for more and more money. Big money became necessary to purchase the ‘right things’ that would establish hierarchy, sophistication of culture, and social breeding.
The four key factors that established the individual during the Renaissance period were material prosperity, social ambition, competition for personal splendor, and civic pride. These same four factors control a wide range of personal and civic activities and accomplishments in our consumer oriented, homogenized, and uniform society today.
Where does one start to explain fine art? What is the stepping off point? Just how fundamental does one have to become to explain to the potential art buyer what art is, and just how much is art worth? Begin by explaining there are four different ways to initially look at a work of art.
First, looking at a work of art in terms of dimension: the objects height, width, and depth. Second, looking in terms of craftsmanship and materials: a surface can be painted, modeled, sculpted, carved, or treated in many other ways, sometimes in multiple ways. Third, looking in terms of the artworks physical state of being. How is the work presented and what condition is the work in? And lastly, looking at an artwork in terms of the point of view of the artist, the point of view of society, or in terms of the buyers own physical point of view.
The art buyer looks to the gallery owner to be the art critic, the judge and the jury. The desired effect of significant art criticism is to increase the enjoyment and understanding the buyer derives from the work of art. The four main Elements of Criticism are:
Description or observation- When, where, and by whom the work of art was created.
Analysis- Distinctions, characteristics and unique features of the artwork compared and contrasted to the features found in other works of art, to determine its artistic value.
Interpretation- Recognize how artists are influenced by the world around them, especially by the establishment of meaning and organization.
Judgment and evaluation- Facts relevant to making a decision about an artworks’ importance in the history of art.
The underlying premise is the concept that to create art, to respond to art and to live with art is a natural response to living and, that life and art form inseparable and mutually sustaining relationships.