Vallejo Gallery
Collecting Basics | Nature Of Digital Photography
Collecting Basics

by Robert J. Piatti

There are methods most successful collectors have in common. It matters not the object: cars, bugs, homes, baseball cards, and yes, fine art and antiques; collectors of these and every other conceivable object cluster exhibit similar straightforward guidelines for being successful collectors.

The first point -and the most important and obvious- is collect what you enjoy. Passion is a necessary tool of a collector. The desire to have and delight in a collection go hand-in-hand, for without the enjoyment brought its owner, a collection might just as well remain stale money accumulating in a bank account so other people can borrow it. There is also the additional benefit of the residual pleasure experienced by people a collector chooses to share their treasures with. A misstep possibly taken is a person who purchases something that doesn’t necessarily appeal to them as an individual, but rather its attraction to someone’s opinion they respect. Seldom will an object bloom to a new reality for an owner who lets someone else decide for him or her. Sure decorators have their roles, but it is not as the decision makers of when to make an addition to someone else’s collection. Individuals who thrill with the hunt, and successfully find those things they wish for are happiest with their collections.

That said, decorators, brokers, curators, historians and gallery directors are valuable allies. They become a collector’s eyes and ears, and often are the conduits to the most successful acquisitions. Such qualified professionals may impart opinions on price, condition, rarity and the other variables of valuation. Collectors who arm themselves with as much knowledge as they can digest from these experts about the areas and objects they desire, as well as closely related things, find that they are confident in evaluating when a piece is right for them. Some work toward completion of sets while others search for certain examples which have notable differences. We’ve met collectors who are looking for only one specific piece, and others that are looking for every piece ever made by a certain artist. The parameter of the collection is devised, set and deviated from only on the choice of the individual. Each can make and break their own rules. Personal expertise, confidence and trust in the expertise of advisors, blend together to make it possible to obtain a great collection.

Now the minefield of collecting, valuation. What is it worth? More money than you know what to do with, buy anything and everything that you want. Now that we’ve advised that very small crowd, the rest of us want to know that we are getting a good buy or paying fair market value. Knowledge of markets, public and private is a helpful guide but it is not an end all. When specifically talking about fine art, for example, the piece is often unique and has its one-of-a-kind value. There will exist comparisons, and relative prices, but each work has its own dollar value. It then becomes a measure of what else the piece brings with it. Art and antiques have an intrinsic value beyond their financial worth. This comes from the tangible nature of the objects themselves. A person can not absolutely quantify the intent and act of the artist. Such a measure will forever be elusive, even when the artist makes a statement about why they create. It is the physical presence of a work of art which holds beauty and history within its form. It is the frozen yesterday, and the idea made solid which makes the intangible appealing. Its monetary value for sale should reflect this as well as its potential resale value and possible appreciation.

So the hunt has gone well, and you have a collection in which to be proud. Now what? The legacy of a collection is sometimes as important as the collection itself. It is a tangible way to preserve your participation with the world after your time has gone. Whether your name becomes attached to a group of works in the Getty Museum or in a shoe box at the bottom of your grandson’s closet, it carries a part of your life forward to be lived with, enjoyed and remembered. Even if the personal choice is to dissolve the collection and sell off the parts, they will pass to join other collections, possibly with your name attached if you care to have it recorded. Collecting is a method of immorality, much like the artistic endeavor itself.

Note on the Nature of Photographs and Digital Images

It is best to remember that photography is an art, not a science. When photographing art, it often becomes a balancing act of light and dark, contrast and color. No picture is going to absolutely represent an object as it is when viewed in the first person. Even a top-flight studio professional must admit that the variables involved make perfect replication an impossibility. The pinnacle of photography, the transparency, still often accentuates the dark and light beyond the actual in search of true coloration.

Now we complicate this with the arrival of digital cameras, scanners and computer monitors. Pixilation and file formats add more variables to the process of trying to accurately portray a work of art or object with an image. A printed picture is further limited by the quality of the hardware and range of the inks. Send an image via e-mail and then lose control over some of the basic look of the output on a screen’s calibration and quality.

With these points in mind, note that we go to great lengths to attempt to provide true visualizations of the objects and art herein represented, but an item must be viewed in person to fully evaluate all of its characteristics. Contact us to discuss the ways available to do this.