Chicago Art Collector’s Core Philosophy

The art market is different from all other markets in one stunning way: the perceived value is the value.

In every other market, there are concrete metrics: How many items will you ship next year? What’s the profit margin? is it faster, is it moldy, how long before it breaks? All solid data upon which value can be based. But in visual art, if there is some degree of consensus that an object is valuable, it becomes fact. The perceived value is the value. A painting from 1950, sold at a flea market for fifty cents is seen by an important curator – a tastemaker – and is deemed a work of genius. The same dusty canvas has suddenly had a radical change in value, merely because it is perceived as being more valuable.

In visual art, opinion becomes a monetary reality.

Chicago Art Collector is a venue for discussions about this most unusual of worlds. It examines the aspect of the art world where art becomes a product that can be owned, a world where the intangible elements of art crash into logistical realities. Yes, art becomes a product, but it’s not to say that it’s a commoditized object, nor that it’s not valued, respected or treasured. But it is, at that moment, “someone’s thing”, even if it exists as a description, a document, a contract, performance or empty space.

So one major element of Chicago Art Collector is to unpack the methods of how hard numbers and contractual language can be applied to high art. What is said? How are things agreed upon, negotiated and settled?

Now to some, everything said above is absolutely cringeworthy. From the word “product” to the idea of art being something negotiated, it can seem a bitter pill to swallow. However, everything mentioned above can be a positive as well. Contracts can protect artists and ensure they get paid. Agreements, certificates, and insurance for collectors offers the same legal protections afforded other types of items.

Art must also be taken care of, insured, conserved, maintained. And when it’s damaged, it needs to be fixed (unless of course, those times when it’s no longer connected to the artists’ intent. But that’s an issue we’ll discuss later.)

It’s also our belief that to deny the realities of these things is the real danger. For artists who enter into the arts with the hope of being rich and famous, yet no understanding of collecting, gallery representation or the world beyond bohemia – that’s quite worrisome. For collectors to begin spending money based on promises that every piece of art will increase in value over time – that’s charlatanism.

And the art world is growing. More people enter every day. So it’s time to finally sit down and talk. Not in elaborate, long form ways (we be merely pointing to resources that can provide thorough analysis), but instead, this magazine is designed to spotlight how wild and interesting it all is.

In order for art to survive for posterity, there must be a moment when all the power, beauty and mystery of art must fit into an equation and become someone’s property. If we understand this process, great choices can be made, and collecting becomes a great service to the art world.