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Why is art so expensive?

Why is art so expensive?

July 30, 2019

A few years ago I wrote a blog titled “Why is art so expensive?”  The topic came up again recently so I decided to revisit the subject, this time hoping to clarify some of the confusion about art as investment caused by news of artworks selling for millions of dollars.

The fact is, that very little art will ever provide a solid return for the financial investment, especially in the short run.  The only thing you can be sure of, is the aesthetic, emotional and/or intellectual enjoyment that comes from buying and living with art you love.  However, because collecting art becomes more challenging as prices rise, it’s important to put pricing in a context that is understandable.  To do so, let’s start with artists.

Unlike most professions for which a university degree provides the training to get a good paying job almost immediately, for an artist, this is only the beginning and it generally takes years to develop the skills and, more importantly, the vision, to create work that will stand out in the marketplace.  Personal experience has led me to believe that most artists won’t hit their stride until they are in their thirties.  This means many lean years at the start and the income they sacrifice during this time often has to be caught up once their careers bloom.  Additionally, many artists create highly individualistic artworks that can only be appreciated by a limited number of collectors, thus these artworks are more expensive because the cost of producing and selling them isn’t altered because less people want them.  We’ve also got to consider all the costs artists share: daily living expenses, art materials, running a studio—whether it’s a room in their apartment or separate space required for larger work— insurance, shipping, websites, photography, additional education, travel and advertising.  On top of this, virtually all successful artists rely on galleries to publicize their art, build their careers, instill confidence in collectors and transact sales.  This means that the costs of running a gallery: salaries, rent, utilities, marketing, publicity, insurance, office supplies, shipping, travel and entertainment, get added to the prices.  And, as reputations can’t be manufactured out of thin air, typically the more credible and established the gallery is, the higher their expenses are.

Because we live a world of mass produced and cheaply made goods, it’s perhaps natural to think that artists would sell a lot more art if their prices were lower, but lower prices for remarkable art won’t make it more accessible or understandable.  Only education and exposure do this, and they aren’t easy, cheap, or quick for artists or galleries to acquire and then to pass on to the public. Thus, unless you’re going to buy art from student artists just starting their careers or novices, or you happen to be one of the rare people who has the knowledge and innate ability to recognize what almost everyone else misses, you’re going to find that art always seems expensive.  This is why I encourage collectors to think of art like a vacation and, instead of asking how much what they collect is going to appreciate in value, to value it first in terms of enjoyment, and then decide if it is worth the expense.

Ultimately, collecting art you love is a benevolent process because you understand that by bringing beauty into your life, you’re also supporting a network of people involved in a process that is far larger than it appears to be on the surface.  Otherwise, without this realization, prices won’t make sense and you’ll miss the invigorating, enjoyable experience of living with art.

Timothy Tew
TEW Galleries – One of Atlanta’s Leading Contemporary Fine Art Galleries since 1987

My French Attic: Paris Report

My French Attic: Paris Report

June 11, 2019

Click here to read about Timothy Tew's trip to visit artists in Paris.

 

Now that I’m back in Atlanta and living full-time in my new French Attic apartment on the third floor of the gallery, my bond with the business is changing, and in some ways, all that is old is new again. I was recently reminded of this when I went to Paris and London in February, to visit artists who were key to my early success as a gallerist and still continue to be important to me, despite the fact that many of our newer collectors may be more familiar with recent artists. Thus to bring all of our collectors up to date, I’ve written this report about my trip.

Most of the gallery’s clients know that I lived in Paris and it was meeting artists there that prompted me to get into the gallery business in 1987.  One of the artists I discovered was Isabelle Melchior. I fell head over heels in love with her paintings when I saw them in a show, what the French call a “Salon”, named “Young Painters” at the Grand Palais, just off the Champs Elysées.  The exhibition featured hundreds of artists and I went through it slowly, looking for artists that I might represent.  I found several I liked, but when I came to the work of Isabelle Melchior, I knew I had stumbled onto a treasure. This has proven to be one of the great moments of my life and formed the foundation of my professional success as a gallerist. I feel very lucky to have one of the paintings I saw that day, hanging in my French Attic. 

To read more about Timothy's visit with artists in Paris click here.

Woody Patterson

Woody Patterson "Obsolescence to Relevance"

April 23, 2019

View the digital catalogue

In our commitment to seek out exciting talent, yet undiscovered by the art gallery world; TEW Galleries is pleased to introduce Woody Patterson to our audience of collectors.  Patterson began studying art at a very early age and his interest resurfaced while attending Birmingham-Southern University.  After graduation he attended the Art Institute of Atlanta, leading to a career in graphic design and advertising in Atlanta which continued until 2012 when he decided to rediscover his potential as an artist.  Quite fortuitously he was asked to help a friend clean out a warehouse filled with circuit boards, electronic wire, radios, computers, and everything in between and he realized a new way forward.  Using these artifacts of modern life, he launched into wedding them into his art, creating innovative works that he feels are more relevant to contemporary times.  

Patterson’s worked has developed along dual lines which through materials, joyous color, and a similar foundation, are tied together.  One body of work is comprised of narrow, vertical pieces painted with controlled horizontal stripes of different colors to which he attaches a separate three-dimensional column.  The other is rectangular and square, vertical and horizontal.  It is also striped with color, however, with the addition of meticulously veneered shapes, these works have a sense of circular movement and accompanying energy.  View the digital catalogue

Calvin Jones

Calvin Jones "Portraits Imagined"

April 23, 2019

View the digital catalogue.

Anyone who has been around me long enough has heard me say I am convinced I was a painter in a past life.  However, in this lifetime I'm a gallerist and part of my work is to develop close relationships with artists in order to understand, nurture and share what they create with the world.  This is always interesting, but it is particularly wonderful when an artist finds the courage, fortitude and vision to reinvent himself (or herself) in a powerful and surprising way.  Such is the case with Calvin Jones, an artist we have shown before but whose development I have been following closely for several years.  

Calvin became a highly successful landscape painter in Atlanta in the 1990's and 2000's.  In need of change and new inspiration, he moved to New York in 2008.  Returning to Atlanta two years later and still finding himself in an artistic crisis, he began to focus on new subject matter.  With time, the crisis transformed into a creative rebirth as he slowly gave new expression to his imagination, feelings and extraordinary painterly abilities, some of which were developed in the movie industry, where, as a set painter, working fast, and being clear on how to produce the desired end result, are requirements.  

There are few artists who can create a painted surface that is both athletic and elegant, but Calvin does this and it gives his art a presence that is both manly and incredibly sensitive.  In addition, these paintings, which I call imagined portraits of women with one standout portrait of Tom Ford, are powerful elegies to both presence and absence and speak to the important role women have played in the artist’s life, and the ways in which our society looks at, and also overlooks, the beauty and power of the woman. 

Great art has an ability to both tell us what we see and suggest what we can’t.  However, to pull this off, it requires an artist with highly developed skills and unique talents.  Calvin has both and, using rich, jewel-like colors, he switches between creating complex, textured surfaces, and laying down elegant brushwork, all the while, outlining his world of beautiful women.  View the digital catalogue.

    

Artworks to Inspire

Artworks to Inspire

March 25, 2019

A overview of new artworks we've recently added to our inventory. 

View the digital catalogue

Video interview with Hunt Slonem

March 11, 2019 - Timothy Tew

Hunt Slonem Solo Show

Hunt Slonem Solo Show

February 22, 2019 - Timothy Tew

America Martin in conversation with Timothy Tew

October 1, 2018

Interior Designer Resource Catalog 2018

August 23, 2018 - Jules Bekker

The purpose of this designer-specific catalog is to give people in the trade an easy-to-use reference resource and an overview of all the artists we carry.  We are hoping that it will provide you a useful time saver for gauging your client's interest in specific artists or particular styles of work.

As a gallery, we understand your business needs and are happy to make every aspect of our mutual association as seamless as possible. 

Timothy Tew, owner

 

Timothy Tew speaks about the paintings of Chris Segre-Lewis

May 15, 2018

CATALOG OF NEW PAINTINGS: Chris Segre-Lewis: A Sense of Flight

May 4, 2018

Opens Friday, May 4  6:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Through June 15

TEW Galleries is pleased to present its first show for Chris Segre-Lewis, a young painter originally from Jamaica who spent his youth in Florida and now lives in Kentucky.  While completing his MFA at the University of Kentucky, he discovered the horse country west of the Allegheny Mountains.  Learning it had once been the “New Frontier”, this quickly developed into a reverence for the American landscape and a fascination with how artists envisioned it for more than 200 years.  It also inspired him to develop his own approach to landscape painting.   

Modernity is part of this approach and it is particularly evident in the quasi aerial perspectives which transform crisscrossing rivers and roads into bold, undulating lines and reshape the landscape into geometric shapes and abstract planes.  Chris also achieves modernity through color combinations that are a daring and which would have once been considered fraudulent or even brazen.  But these paintings also convey the sweep of past events, as if a camera lens had been left open for a long time, leaving us with a hazy sense of history.  Curiously, this keeps pace with our short attention spans and actually causes us to slow down and take in these monumental vistas.

There is a final thing that makes these paintings modern and it is related to the Overview Effect, a term coined by American astronaut Frank White to describe the cognitive shift he experienced seeing earth as nothing more than a free-floating ball of vanishing boundaries and celestial wonder.  Though Chris’ perspectives are far more familiar to our senses, he too has experienced a cognitive shift and through paintings that express the spiritual appeal of the perceptually overwhelming, he makes it possible for us to experience the earth as celestial as well.

- Timothy Tew

Cathy Hegman Catalog of New Paintings 2018

March 8, 2018

Cathy Hegman, an artist who lives on a farm in Mississippi, has established a reputation for creating thought provoking and emotionally evocative paintings inspired by the natural world. Since women, animals and the landscape are her preferred subject matter; her imagery is both familiar and comforting. However, because the women and animals are inwardly rather than outwardly focused and the landscapes are fragmented with very little detail; the paintings take on a mysterious, otherworldly quality. This is enhanced by the use of muted colors, surfaces that are alternately worn down and built up and by shrouding everything in an atmospheric haze, suggesting the passage of time even though we are actually just experiencing a single moment in the story.

One of the most intriguing things about Cathy Hegman’s paintings is how they seem to go in various directions at the same time. On the one hand the figures and animals are intimately connected; on the other they appear almost oblivious to the outer world; then alternately they seem to exude some authority over it. This leaves us wondering what is real and what is imagined, and what is in the past and what is actually supposed to be in the present. Cathy partially explains this when she says that she relives past feelings as she paints and the canvases serve as a mirror for her to see herself. The paintings also serve as mirrors for us to see ourselves and, because we cannot help but respond emotionally, they allow us to interact with situations and experience feelings that might otherwise be too uncomfortable to approach directly.

Looking at these painting we are quickly aware that Cathy has great empathy for people and animals, and that she portrays them as deeply connected and on a shared journey. This has symbolical importance and she says: “My most prevalent and personal symbols are animals and because I feel I have learned so much from them they represent protection, love, companionship, trust, loyalty and serenity.” There are also other symbols in her work, notably the circle which she uses to represent wholeness, perfection, eternity, timelessness, the Self and God and by placing a figure or animal on it, this symbolizes both wholeness and balance.

One of the great things about paint is the way it allows an artist to create layered imagery and atmosphere and to use marks and surface to represent thoughts, feelings, and the passage of time. It is to this end that some of what we see in a Cathy Hegman painting has been actively reworked. In fact she sometimes paints a figure as many as twenty times in order to arrive at a sense of authority. More importantly, this is what gives her art its sincerity.

TEW Galleries has represented Cathy Hegman since 2012 and we are pleased to present her first solo show with us in almost three years.

- Timothy Tew

Charles Keiger Catalog of New Paintings 2018

January 20, 2018

Charles Keiger and I met soon after I discovered his art in an exhibition in Atlanta in 1989. At that time, his paintings were abstract: not much more than slashes of nuanced color and interestingly arranged patterns and shapes. His art has evolved enormously since then, and instead of using sizable brushes to cover large areas, he now paints with very small brushes and spends countless hours creating precisely controlled, immaculate imagery. Another enormous change is his subject matter, which is now highly individual, entertaining and tends to border on the mystical. But a few things have not changed: his love of color, pattern and form, and these underly everything he paints.

After Charles and I started working together, he began using watercolors to paint funny figures in circus-like settings surrounded by lots of negative space. I’m sure this reflected how odd he felt going from non-objective abstraction to representational imagery. Then he changed again and, painting in oils, his figures became more lifelike as his colors became more earthy. The narrative soon turned personal and more sober, and by combining surrealistic elements, for instance a tree growing a face on it, and quirky characters, like a man smoking a corncob pipe in a rural setting, Charles began to comment on his southern roots. More changes followed, many or them indicative of greater command of his craft, but also a far more original vision, and there were lots of entertaining things to look at. This latest body of work marks another shift, and this one is substantial. While the color has become verdant, atmospheric and pleasingly cool; the paintings are sparser. But more importantly, they are more masterful, thus more serious, and without losing their otherworldly quality, they are more real. I think Jules Bekker, our gallery director, describes them best when she says this is Magical Realism.

It takes a long time for one’s work and dedication to coalesce into success. Having watched Charles make the 30 year climb from abstraction to Magical Realism, I know how each step transformed his art. But still, without wands, potions or even a hog wart (though Charles does have a black cat), there has been no amount of magic in getting to this point. But then, what are fortitude, an overarching sense of destiny, belief in one’s vision and the support of a spouse?

When I asked Charles to tell me about this body of work, he replied: “I’ve been thinking a lot about something I read which said that an artist creates in order to expand happiness. I really like that because that’s what I’m trying to do. But I’m not interested in defining what happiness is, only encouraging it in other people.”

Charles Keiger has been represented by TEW Galleries since 1990.

- Timothy Tew

Brian Rutenberg interviewed at TEW Galleries

January 13, 2018 - Jules Bekker

Timothy Tew interviews Kimo Minton

September 29, 2017

Timothy Tew on Investing in Art

August 11, 2017

                                                                                                                                                                                    




Timothy Tew explains the Hunt Slonem Phenomenon

May 29, 2017

Charles Keiger - The Good Stuff

December 1, 2010

Isabelle Melchior - The Bohemian Life in Paris

November 30, -1