Sunday, 19th November 2017

Art & The Good Life

Posted on 27. Oct, 2011 by in LIFESTYLE

Painting by Nathan Röhlander

With the economy still falling down around us (or perhaps laying down around us after the fall is a more apt description), I frequently hear my friends and colleagues discuss new avenues for investment. Some of them sound silly or terrifying (latest Ponzi scheme, anyone?) but others, like buying art, seem like an interesting idea worth preliminary exploring, at the very least. If you’re like me, you skipped those college art history classes in favor of something a little more practical, like that Delta Sigma Pi kegger Corporate Financial Management course, and a deep understanding of how to assess art for its investment potential isn’t one of the top three skills you’re advertising during job interviews.

That doesn’t mean you can’t participate, though. There are a lot of good reasons to buy art, and most of them you already know: it supports creativity, it helps contribute to our cultural awareness, it stimulates the economy, and it makes for fun discussions at our cocktail parties. But buying art can also be a unique investment opportunity, especially if you’re willing to put in just a little work to figure out what makes a piece worthy of throwing down your cash.

The most important rule of thumb is that if you’re investing in a piece of art, you have to like it. This seems pretty obvious, but it’s easier than most people think to get caught up in the hype of what’s hot at any given moment. (Maybe we really will love Banksy for centuries to come, who knows?) Trust your own aesthetic. If you can’t live with it hanging in your dining room for the next several years at least, move on. So, where to begin?

Clockwise starting from top left: Karen Hubacher, Nathan Röhlander, Sam Roloff, Diana Chamberlain

Start talking to people. Who do you know that has art in his/her home that’s currently blowing your mind? What restaurants or shops do you frequent around town whose decorative abilities would make Paige Davis and the cast of Trading Spaces jealous? Ask where people are getting their art.

Do a little research. Figure out where your local, well-reviewed galleries are around town. Drop in the next time they have open hours or are planning an event. Not only is this a great way to meet people in your community, it also lets you cast a wider net for sampling different types of art. If you’re too busy or agoraphobic for an actual art gallery, Zatista.com is a great place to begin online. In addition to being a comprehensive internet mecca of original art for purchase, they have an entire section full of information dedicated to newcomers to the art-buying scene: http://www.zatista.com/ art101.

Know your resources: If you’re going to begin investing in art, it helps for you to have some recreational interest in it. First, learn what educational resources are available in your community. Here are a few in and around the D.C. area to get you started:

The Torpedo Factory, an art center in Alexandria, Virginia that houses both galleries and studio space, offers guided and unguided tours, and artists are often present to answer questions about their artistic process. More detailed information can be found at their website: http://www.torpedofactory.org/tours. htm. For those interested, the Torpedo Factory also offers art classes for children and adults at any skill level, as well as lectures, panel discussions, events, and receptions.

D.C.’s National Gallery of Art also has excellent educational opportunities, including gallery talks, lectures, and guided tours, among others: www.nga.gov/education/index.shtm . For those interested in learning more about art but who already have a packed schedule, the NGA website is full of video and podcast resources that can be explored from the comfort of your own couch: http://www.artasanasset.com .

There are a few significant online resources as well. One is the Mei Moses Fine Art Index, a project started by two professors at New York University’s Stern School of Business. The index tracks the financial returns of paintings by comparing the original cost of the work with its eventual sale price, and then breaks down the profit to an annual return. Basic membership to the site is free, and premium access begins at $100 a year: www.artasanasset.com .

Though we can’t guarantee you’ll make millions off of them, here are a few artists we find especially enjoyable to get you started: Karen Hubacher, a Washington, D.C. based artist and Associate Artist of the Torpedo Factory, has been exhibiting her paintings and collagraphs in the U.S. and Europe since 1990. She had the following to say about her commission process:

“Because I am an abstract painter committed to the formal challenge of dividing space on the picture plane, I choose the dimensions of panel or canvas according to my own personal aesthetic.

The size and shape of the square or rectangle tends to evolve slowly according to my regular studio practice. Commissions tend to push me out of my comfort zone and create new artistic challenges…. I try to make the process enjoyable for both the client and myself. Basically, the work ends up being a collaboration of the client’s and my vision.”

View more of her work or request a piece for commission at www.karenhubacher.com.

Diana Chamberlain, another Associate Artist of the Torpedo Factory, currently creates sculpture from her home studio in Woodbury, Connecticut. She had this to say about her artistic process: “I work in porcelain for its suppleness, delicacy and strength. Porcelain’s willingness to be transformed, both in form and texture, makes it a perfect medium for exploring the iconic meaning of dress and the concept of shelter. My interest in the history of dress and fashion gave me the inspiration to make porcelain vases in the shape of dresses, and I am now occupied year-round creating custom wedding-dress vases. I work in porcelain for its suppleness, delicacy and strength. Porcelain’s willingness to be transformed, both in form and texture, makes it a perfect medium for exploring the iconic meaning of dress and the concept of shelter. My interest in the history of dress and fashion gave me the inspiration to make porcelain vases in the shape of dresses, and I am now occupied yearround creating custom wedding-dress vases.”

Explore a greater selection of Diana’s pieces or order a personalized wedding dress vase of your very own by visiting her personal website at www. dianachamberlain.com.


Nathan Röhlander
(who’s especially cool because his last name contains an umlaut), is a California native currently living in South Pasadena. His work, featured in both national and international galleries “brings a contemporary approach to realism,” according to his website. He describes his style as one that works to “crystalize moments in time from observations of the world around me,” and says that he finds inspiration form “taking time to see the often overlooked.” Röhlander feels that “[his] work is sequential— one painting leads to the next, creating a dialogue amongst images.”

Learn more about Nathan Röhlander by visiting his website at www.rohlander.com.

Sam Roloff, another California artist, is an eclectic painter who refuses to limit his style to one specific genre. With a background in printmaking, for about the last two decades he’s worked mostly in oil painting, creating anything from portraits to landscapes to collages. In discussing his most recent series of work, “Backstory Underpainting,” Sam said:

“When collectors purchase one of my paintings, they are actually purchasing a multilayered collection of all the paintings and scenes within their many layers of imagery, symbolism, ideas, and emotion. The crux of this approach harkens to the tradition of what the Italians call pentimenti: the ghosts of images hidden beneath a painting’s surface. Today, with the aid of radiographic imaging, we can peer through the histories of masterpieces by Renaissance masters such as Leonardo and Michelangelo and see the “rough drafts” that went into the making of the final images. I believe it is important for viewers and collectors of my paintings to possess evidence of the stages or scenes the paintings passed through on their journeys into their present forms. Using high-resolution images and video editing programs, I document the geological/archaeological strata that build up as the pieces evolve in my studio.”

To view more of Roloff’s artwork or to purchase or commission a piece, visit www. samroloff.com.

A dealer or no dealer, is that really the question? Research seems to indicate that buying (or more importantly, selling) art through a dealer rather than doing so privately or via auction house is the best way to go. Because dealers have knowledge and experience that private buyers and sellers may not have (especially newcomers) and because dealers don’t have the same time constraints and competition as large auction houses, using an art dealer appears to be the best way to get the highest return on investment. If you’re a buyer, it’s a good way to invest in something that’s legitimately worth the time and money you’re likely going to spend.

We recommend beginning with the Art Dealers Association of Greater Washington: (www.washingtonartdealers.org), where you can find more info about specific dealers as well as a calendar of open galleries. Even if you’re not quite ready to buy, this is a great starting place for your venture into the art world. Art aside, it’s an excellent way to explore more of DC’s culture, to meet new and interesting people, or even to do a little networking as you’re rubbing elbows with some of DC’s finest. Happy buying!

Post By Kirsten Clodfelter (4 Posts)

Kirsten Clodfelter

Kirsten Clodfelter holds an MFA in fiction from George Mason University and teaches English Composition at Jefferson Community and Technical College in Louisville, Kentucky. Her writing has been published most recently in The Iowa Review, Brevity, Avery, and Modern DC Business Magazine. She recently received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s 2011 Family Matters competition for her fiction and was the recipient of GMU’s 2010 Dan Rudy Prize.

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