Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Current State of the ART Market Series # 2 with Art Collector/Writer and Fellow Art Blogger- Lisa Hunter

Lisa Hunter

ARTmostfierce had another Q & A this time, with our dear Intrepid Art Collector, Writer(The Intrepid Art Collector book is a must read and have) and fellow Art Blogger Lisa Hunter.Lisa is one of the people in the art business that, I usually consult with, share, provide and receive information from. Her point of view is at times different and more objective from most people, I know and that is why, I find her so interesting for this profile /interview series. I consider Lisa a pretty serious art collector with a approachable, education oriented , engaging , well informed and non pretentious desire for art collecting .Lets see what Lisa has to say!

Ruben Natal-San Miguel-.As an avid art collector, what are your thoughts about the current state of the Art Market? Has it changed or modified your Art collecting ways?

Lisa Hunter-For me personally, it’s the market I’ve been waiting for. For the past few years, I haven’t been able to afford my taste. I was lucky to buy a couple of great photographers, like Amy Stein, early in their careers, but mostly I’ve been lying in wait. I’ve never had big money to throw around, so I can only buy big when the market’s down, as it was in the early 90s.

RNSM - Is there anything that you are collecting more now than prior this whole economic crisis?

LH- Yes and no. My collecting interests are largely thematic: staged photography, vintage Hollywood film stills, and art about costumes/identity or performance. Since the collection crosses different genres and eras, I have some flexibility.

During the recent contemporary bubble, I trawled for great vintage Hollywood stills, which are ridiculously cheap. Few people realize how many major 20th century photographers worked as still photographers in Hollywood at one time or another. It’s interesting to see their staged work, and how contemporary some of it looks.

But now that contemporary work is more affordable, I’m going to try for some of the bigger pieces I was shut out on before.

RNSM-.Is your price point when purchasing art changed or you feel since the inventory in the market is greater, you can take greater risk investing?

LH-I think there’s a rare opportunity to buy major works now, so I’m willing to spend more than I might normally. I don’t want to kick myself in ten years for the one that got away. But I’m being very choosy.

Anything I buy now has to pass what I call “the bear test.” When I took Amy Stein’s “Watering Hole” [which features a bear confronting a young girl at a swimming pool] to my framers, they all fell in love with it. The next time I took in a photo, they said, “Well, it’s nice, but not as nice as the bear.” That really clarified my thinking about quality. If it’s not a stunning image, I’ll pass, even if it’s well-priced, even if I like the photographer’s other work.

RNSM-.What would be the average price point while purchasing lets say for example a 11 x 14 edition print from a so called emerging artist right now?

LH-Good question! At the moment, small prints tend to be inexpensive pieces for fundraisers, so we all expect the price point to be low. But if the market stays down, more artists may make smaller editions, instead of huge expensive ones, to support themselves. In that case, I think we collectors ought to be willing to pay more. The artists deserve to eat. But I’m not sure collectors who paid $300 for a small Alec Soth benefit print will be willing to pay more for small print by an unknown. I’m concerned about what happens to the photographers who are just now coming into the market.

RNSM-.Are you seeking now more emerging artists work vs. lets say Mid-range or Established ones?

LH-I have a wish list that’s a combination of all three, as well as vintage. I just bought Zoe Strauss’s “Mattress Flip,” which has been high on my list for a long time, and I’m on the hunt for Andre Kertesz’s “Satyrical Dancer.” I love it so much my stomach hurts. And there are a dozen other specific images on my list.

But I’m realistic about my ability to buy established artists. I’d love a great Cindy Sherman Film Still – it would be the lynch pin of my collection, tying everything together -- but I’d hate to see the art market get bad enough that I could actually afford one. (Ditto Nan Goldin’s “Trixie on the Cot,” which few people realize was made on a film set where Goldin was the still photographer.)

Sure, most established artists have some of their crappier prints floating around at affordable prices, but I’m holding firm on buying only great images. Realistically, that means emerging and mid-career people for me.

RNSM-What type of modus operandi or formula you recommend for ART collectors out there on recession budget and that would like to keep purchasing.?

LH-When I was in my early 20s, I decided to buy one good piece a year, figuring that in ten years I’d have a nice collection. (That it ended up going to my ex in a divorce is another story.) No one buys that deliberately anymore, not even me. The market’s been so go-go-go that we’re all used to making impulse purchases. But I think that with limited means, a fuddy duddy budget and wish list is the way to go.

RNSM- Since you are based mostly in Montreal, Canada ...would you recommend the overseas art market vs. the local US market ?

LH-I almost don’t want to tell you how much talent there is in Montreal, because everyone will drive up the prices. There’s a lot of government support for the arts, so artists aren’t so dependent on collectors. That means prices are affordable ($5,000 is considered expensive here). Of course, it also means that some galleries close whenever they feel like it, and don’t return phone calls unless you’re the Canadian Council for the Arts.

RNSM-What web sites do you endorse the most while purchasing art and why?

LH-I love Humble Arts Foundation, Light Works, and Aperture. I’ve had good experiences buying from all three, at affordable prices. And Jen Bekman’s 20x200 site is basically crack.

RNSM- Being the economy the way it is now...are you taking a different approach about promoting and broadcasting art? If so please explain.

LH-I’ve always felt that collectors have a “silent partner” role in emerging artists’ careers. When people come to my home and admire a photo, I tell them about the artist; if they’re collectors themselves, I follow up with an email linking to the portfolio website. I give photography monographs as presents. And whenever I’m chatting with a gallerist or museum director or journalist, I always talk up the people I believe in. As I see it, when young artists let you have their best work, you have a responsibility.

I’m uncomfortable, though, with the way my blog is sometimes seen as a market endorsement. My book was about collecting; my blog is really just about what interests me, or what I think will interest my readers.

RNSM- What would be your best assessment on the future of the Art market in the near future?

LH-I’m the wrong person to ask. While I care about value, I’m not in this for investment. To me, market ups and downs only influence whether I can buy now or have to wait.

RNSM-Lisa, Thanks for your thoughts and opinons!


Anonymous said...

Another great interview. Although I disagree about Jen Beckman. Jen is too schizophrenic. It is rare that I want to buy from her.

Lisa Hunter said...

Ruben, Thanks for asking such thoughtful questions! This was fun.

Jen's taste is definitely eclectic, but the quality of the prints is surprisingly good. I give them as gifts all the time. Although most of the 20x200s aren't the type of work I collect for myself, I was thrilled to see Nina Berman's "9-11-02" on the site. It's an image I'd seen, adored, and wanted to buy even before it popped up as a 20x200.