Fred Sandback, Untitled, 1975. Six color lithographs in blue on Japanese paper.
What should a collector do during the recession to get a deal? According to Artnet’s Richard Polsky, it involves paying struggling artists, dealers, and auction houses a whole lot less. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—collectors struggle too—but amongst some fairly obvious obvious tips there’s at least a few points likely to make artists and dealers alike see red. “Don’t buy an atypical work,” writes Polsky, even though this is precisely the kind of practice that makes it difficult for an artist to grow and can easily result in a negative long term effect on the artist’s development. Another piece of advice I’m sure gallerists and artists love is the one reading, “Don’t accept a mere 10 percent discount from a gallery.” You can’t blame a collector for trying to get a deal, but I would add that this tip shouldn’t be applied evenhandedly. Fixed costs such as art handling and shipping represent a much greater percentage of a gallery’s profit when dealing with less expensive prints. Those purchasing prints or drawings under $1000 dollars should not be haggling with dealers to get the 20% discount Polsky suggests.
One final point on Polsky gloss. His instruction that buyers should wait to buy an artist’s work right after they die isn’t entirely incorrect—it’s not unusual for a market to become flooded with every scrap of paper the artist ever touched. But artistic production presents greater variables than Polsky acknowledges. Some artists produce very little through out their life, or have very little in the hands of collectors wishing to unload. So while Pablo Picasso presents a very good example of an artist whose market fell after he died, Fred Sandback offers a very recent counterpoint to that argument.