okanaganarts Brochure
Okanagan Arts

Culture and Community

Spring 2007

An Ongoing Series of Lectures and Presentations that Celebrate the Creative Okanagan

Okanagan Institute
Thursday Express
4:30pm Thursdays
at the Bohemian Cafe

Click here for schedule
and information.

Arts Council of the Central Okanagan
Arts Council of the
Central Okanagan

8-1304 Ellis Street
Kelowna BC Canada V1Y 1Z8
Email: Click Here.
Elke Lange, Executive Director

Produced in association with
Okanagan Bookworks


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Okanagan Arts: Spring 2007

Robert Setters: The Art of Collecting

Own What You Love

Collecting art is a form of self-expression. It is an artistic talent by itself, and reflects one's personality. To qualify this assertion is to admit that outside influences are critical. If you search out experienced help choosing artworks, chances are your collection will develop more tastefully. An artist needs a great master to become great, so does a collector. What are the drawbacks of having someone else meddle in something that might be regarded as "personal taste"? Not many! It all depends who you befriend as your mentor. Developing an eye, understanding the underpinnings of what you collect, graduating as a discerning collector - these can all be helped along by those already experienced in the field.

A word of caution. If one uses a self-interested party for advice, there is a risk of being misled. The novice will be paying close attention to market price with little hope of benefiting from the discovery of the proverbial hidden treasure. Alas, experienced people know what is best, which of course can be expensive. It is better to keep your collection within budget by keeping the size of it - rather than the quality - at a minimum! Collectibles can range in character from the most modest Beanie Baby to the most ostentatious Louis 14th ormolu-embellished furniture. High culture is always the safer bet (for example, art nouveau glassware versus kerosene lanterns). Keep away from damaged or heavily worn items.

It took years to understand what spoke to me at a deeper level, and what truly had "value." My tastes evolved as I learned, and after thirty years they are still evolving. What is value anyway? Altruistically, it can relate to historic and/or cultural importance; or on a mundane level, it might be little more than financial worth. A combination of the two seems often to be a comfortable balance. There are those who blindly count their nickels and dimes as they estimate and re-estimate their baseball-card collection. Don't let this be you! If beautiful and interesting things speak to you, you cannot help but succeed. The following list will help to fine-tune your acquisitive ambitions.

General points to consider when choosing a treasure

  • Is it portable?
  • Is it easy to store?
  • Is it easy to protect; does it fit into a vault or safety deposit box?
  • Lifestyle; do you have a small or large home, apartment or country estate?

    Durability/ Fragility
  • Consider the proposed use of your new acquisition, and if it is suitable for its new location and purpose.
  • Shipping; will it require special packaging?
  • Longevity; is it subject to environmental degradation?

  • This is good for immediate resale.
  • Conversely, as an intermediate- to long-term investment, popularity is a negative factor (a fad soon passes).

  • Has the piece passed through the hands of a respected collector or dealer? This helps to establish authenticity and gives the piece prestige. Although celebrity bestowed by a former owner may perk interest in the short-term, the recognition of most famous people fades with time.
  • Has the piece sold through a major auction house and is the firm still willing to stand behind it?
  • Collect as much literature and history on a piece after acquisition; this will prove invaluable if resold.

  • The dealer motto: "buy low/sell dear"; the right dealer will help you to accomplish the same, and help to predict popular trends before they become full-blown.

  • Is the piece important enough to interest major dealers, museums, or auction galleries?
  • Less important pieces are acceptable additions to a collection if they are meant to make it more complete or meaningful.

  • Is this easily established?
  • Have similar items sold at major auction galleries?

  • Recognizable items (antiques and art forms) are easier to classify and often develop into unquestioned commodities. This is helpful for authentication but may suggest the piece is not all that rare.

    International Demand
  • Is the item attractive to nations with strong economies relative to one's own? Such demand can have a two-fold benefit: liquidity and exchange-rate advantage.

  • This is important but is relative to age, material, and rarity.

  • If a potential new treasure is aesthetically appealing, then it will command greater appreciation.
  • Has it been produced by a skilled artisan, craftsman, or talented artist?
  • Decorative quality increases demand and raises price.

  • Historic (appreciated by scholars and connoisseurs)
  • Heritage and sentimental value
  • Educational value
  • Cross-cultural appreciation

    Psychological Market Forces
  • Has there been negative or positive publicity surrounding a particular class of collectibles (diamonds, fur, ivory, guns, etc.)? One must consider the legal consequences of international transport of restricted items.
  • Impressionist paintings, the art deco style, Ming porcelain - learn to recognize how publicity reinforces the popularity of many such collectibles. This can help predict market trends.

    Sentimental Value
  • Heirloom
  • Heritage

    Desperation and greed are the dark sides of collecting. One must be vigilant not to fall into this abyss or be taken advantage of by others who have done so. Trickery and skulduggery can take many forms. Be wary of people who appear too anxious to sell something to you or buy something from you. A mistake can make someone else unjustly jubilant. Mercifully, you may never realize your mistake. Some of my mistakes haunt me to this day.

    In due course, try to specialize. No one will ever learn everything about what has been produced by every culture of the world. It would be nice, but there is just not enough time. After a broadened understanding of the art and antique world, one must become more selective. Don't be a pack rat. Part with those things you have outgrown. Like a child with a new toy, curiosity and discovery might be the greatest treasures you win while becoming a discerning collector.

    Robert Setters is a Penticton writer and art and antiques collector, and the former owner of an antiques sales and valuation business.

    Wild Blue Yonder at Thursday Express