BlogNovember 16, 2009

The Canadian Art market for novices | A SERIES

Late in the summer of 2009, while in the ancient imperial city of Fès, Morocco, I stood in a carpet shop staring at the dozens of Berber and Rabat carpets stacked and hanging all around me.   I had gone to Morocco with the hope of bringing home a good quality, handmade carpet for my new apartment but I was at a total loss. Not only did I not know what I was looking at and what to pay, I didn’t even know how to figure it out or where to start.  Information about the market for fine carpets is even harder to come by than information about fine paintings or sculpture.  I had been warned by wise people to avoid buying expensive second hand carpets, which like art can be an impassible minefield for novices.  Here in Morocco, without a trustworthy expert and an endless supply of choices in front of me, the only tools of discrimination I had were my taste – what I liked and disliked – and, of course, my budget.  How handy it would have been to know what questions to ask, I thought.   I could have walked away satisfied not only with the aesthetic appeal of my purchases but also with the comforting knowledge that my money had been well spent.  Despite bargaining the salesman down to 50% of his initial asking price for one carpet, I knew I would have to settle for only one of the two. Reflecting on this experience and others we at the gallery have had when dealing with art collectors of all levels of knowledge and income, we have a great understanding of what obstacles people confront. In what I like to call a "black box" industry, where outsiders are not privy to the complex inner workings of the market, and where young and newly monied individuals put themselves under significant pressure to buy, it's all too easy to make mistakes. In a market where paintings can sell for significant sums of money, those mistakes can be costly. This series of articles will presents readers with a unique and concise insider’s view on how to participate in the Canadian art market with intelligence.  I, along with my father, who has spent 35 years buying and selling fine art, will also dispel some of the common misconceptions held by novices.  At the end, we hope that this rough guide will serve as a useful tool - the tool I so critically lacked in that Moroccan carpet shop – for those who are just beginning their fine art collections, and for those who are considering it.

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