The chemistry involved in acquiring a work of art requires a very unique processing of emotional and financial needs. Any purchase, whether made by a dealer, collector, or museum should elicit an exhilarating reaction as a measure of the success of the acquisition. In other words, buying should be much more of an emotionally enjoyable experience than selling. There’s an intellectual pleasure that can’t exactly be quantified, but paying a premium or just getting a great deal doesn’t lend any of this emotional value to a seller.
Buying is challenged by the goal of finding something that has a special connection that you can identify with immediately. You don’t care initially with what the price may be. You just want to own it! It doesn’t matter whether you see it at an auction, dealer, flea market, or a friend’s home; it could appear at any of these venues. The most difficult part is knowing that it is available and being at the right place at the right time.
But emotion, not harnessed can lead to a blurred opinion of an item’s value and condition. I love to buy, and I think I’m pretty good at it, as it applies to the type of inventory I want to carry. Having infinite knowledge is another matter. The buyer who specializes in one area better be well equipped with a competitive edge in an understanding of their subject. I fall into the category of lots of emotion and limited specialization. I am in the school of decorative specialization, where an item must visually create an emotional connection.
Part of the buying experience also entails from how and who you bought the item. That can make a big difference in how the experience of the buy is remembered. Whether at a dealer or auction in New York City, London or Brimfield, Massachusetts, there is an intrinsic connection on the circumstances of the acquisition. There’s an association that is part of item’s history with you, and it should be a pleasurable one.
I recently came back from a buying trip that was gratifying and yet frustrating. I found good merchandise, some I felt were great buys and other that I might have paid more than I wanted. I was able to inspect the items and negotiate prices, build upon my old relationships and create new ones, get a feel for what is going on in the trade. Buying allows me to make contact with the market and the operating conditions of the industry. It involves a learning experience which should be compounded with every foray. It is important that I know what is going on in people’s taste and outlook.
I find interacting with others, as a buyer and a seller, a value added part of the experience; buying at auction presents merchandise within a hyped sterile process and offers no gratifying relationships; a deficient experience for me. Oh, and there aren’t many bargains either, with a 25% buyer’s premium (a la Christie’s)!