I was the Belushi-esque frat kid who, in college, organized a cigarette-smoking contest followed by a Revenge of the Nerds inspired tricycle race. Everyone got a trophy. The only fine art I thought about was building the most robust beer can tower in the entire bar.
Now I am refined.
I sip off-the-menu cocktails, wear dry-cleaned clothes, and collect art. Here is how you can join the gentry.
Whether any art collector admits it or not, they are in it for bragging rights and/or making money. No one does it for the beauty of hanging a one-off picture, or limited edition signed print, in their foyer entrance. Collecting is the subtle brag about how much cash a man can drop on a thing with no intrinsic value.
Art is the ultimate throwaway toy.
Art Collecting Etiquette
Sales people at galleries say “Buy art because you like it’. The gallery wants you to overlook the fact that you’re paying 5-1,000,000 times markup for $100 of materials and a couple hours of an artist’s time, so they use this line coupled with some white wine to push the sale. The reality is that thousands and thousands of fine art works are purchased and stored in dark, climate-controlled warehouses never to be seen until sold again.
The idea that you must like it is a bunch of hooey. Just buy it, and if you immediately have buyer’s remorse, ship it off to your nearest free port to defer the sales tax instead of hanging it next to your self-portrait in the smoking room.
When you walk into a gallery, how you carry yourself is very important. Initially, the sales people will appear snobbish, but they are usually on some type of commission and want to make the sale just as that used car dealer wants to get that 1999 Honda Civic off his lot. Don’t be afraid to be blunt and ask the receptionist, “How much is that picture?” as you point at it with your umbrella. Referring to it as a picture instead of a “piece” or “work” brings the salesman down to your level. It gives everyone in the room a quick reality check that you know the Matisse gouache (i.e. watercolor picture) they are selling is no different than the Crayola paintings you did of stick figures in your primary school art class.
If you go to an auction to pick up some art to replace the unframed “Dogs Playing Poker” poster you have taped to your wall, don’t expect to bump shoulders with art collecting celebrities. Steve Cohen, the trading genius or insider trading genius depending on who you ask, Steve Wynn, the king of Vegas, or Steve Guttman, the real estate developer turned art collector, will not be in the same room as you. Instead, the Steves will be far away bidding at the evening auction over a phone while you are at the online day auction clicking in your bids on some 1 of a 1,000 print made by some failed artist turned art teacher. If you weren’t bidding the opening price, the thing would have been burned never to be seen again.
How To Be A Big Swinging D*Ck Collector
The Steves don’t buy art because they think it looks unique or inspires them. They buy it so they can run around to all the other Steves at the next cocktail party and say, “You know who just picked up that Lichtenstein, “Masterpiece” for $165MM? I did. Look at how big my crank is!”
Its all ego and purchased pride. Unfortunately, for these guys, there can only be one most expensive painting which forces the Steves to outbid each other at the next auction to remain the alpha of the art collecting world.
How To Be A Big D*Ck Collector If You’re Not Hung Like Tommy Lee
Art pricing is extremely opaque. There is no true value for art in the sense of stocks or real estate. It is all demand-driven pricing.
Everyone thinks the big names of art, Picasso, Rembrandt, Dali, or Monet cost millions of dollars for a picture. However, you can dig up a cheap headliner picture for under $1,000. It will probably be a pencil sketch or print, but it is an authentic Pollack, Renoir, or Warhol. Now you have bragging rights.
Almost all artists have produced these budget buys. Buy that low cost signed picture and hang it next to your bathroom door. The next time a guest is at your home and asks, ‘Hey, where can I take a dump around here?’
You reply, ‘Down the hall, second door on the left, just pass the Chagall. If you hit the poster of “Dogs Playing Poker”, you went too far’.
Instant credibility for your eye as a collector and your social status has risen beyond the Everyman dope with pictures of his family at a waterpark vacation and his bros at Spring Break Acapulco in 1993.
Dealing With The Haters
Now that you’re a big deal in the art world, you are going to have to deal with the ones that want to piss on your class-jumping hobby.
You’re going to hear these dumb comments many times over. Here’s how you handle them:
‘My first grader can draw that.’
“Umm, no he can’t. And even if he could, he didn’t do it first. That is why this picture is worth [10x what you paid for it] and your first grader will be grateful to make it to second grade within three years. Besides, the artist leads a high-risk lifestyle and after he kicks the bucket, his supply is capped and the value of this piece* will explode.”
*”Piece” word choice is used to abase the offending guest as well as illustrate your supreme knowledge of the art world.
‘You paid how much for that?!?!?!?’
“Clearly, you don’t understand art.”
Art collecting is an enjoyable hobby but make sure you do it for the right reasons: financial gain and grandstanding.