Buy Art from Living Artists

The dead ones don’t need the money


Buy Art from Living Artists

In the early 70s, travelling with my family to London, my dad frequented a lot of art galleries that featured works that only the landed gentry could afford. At one gallery, the art dealer showed him a 5 x 7 squiggle that looked like some sort of abstract rooster drawn by a child in about 45 seconds. So much for my appreciation of art. It was, in fact, an original Picasso squiggle, and the year after Pablo died, I think it was fetching £2000. That was a princely sum even in those days, but I remember saying to my dad “do you really think Picasso needs the money?” Now if my dad had bought that Picasso squiggle, he might’ve had a much more enjoyable and financially secure retirement than he did, but the point still resonates with me. Why buy art from dead artists when the living ones could use the cash? So, think about that when you are buying art for law office or your house.

Living by those words, all the art that my wife and I have collected over the past 30 years was purchased when all the artists were alive to enjoy the money. My latest purchase was an original piece by Australian artist Sally West who paints a lot of seascapes of Bondi Beach in Sydney. While looking at her work over the internet, I was blown away by one piece in particular, and bought it for my 65th birthday; a year before I ever saw Bondi.

My wife and I seem to have a pattern of buying art over the internet. We were stranded in Cairo when the pandemic hit, and while on hold for hours trying to book a flight home, I found a Vancouver artist on the web named John Ferrie who did an amazing painting of False Creek and Vancouver House. We liked it so much, we bought it from our hotel room on the Nile and picked it up when we came home. I believe it’s our only souvenir of Cairo.

While in Las Vegas in 2014, we stumbled into a gallery displaying photographic art by William Carr and were mesmerized by a massive photograph of Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre where we had been a few years earlier. The photo seemed to glow even when the showroom lights were dimmed. Rather than being backlit with neon bulbs, Carr’s photos are created using a substrate that gives the work luminescence. When we got home, we measured where it might go and bought it (again, over the internet). It’s become the centerpiece of our living room.

In a Tofino gallery a few years ago, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of a glass salmon created by Vancouver Island artist Christopher Smith who specializes in, you guessed it, glass salmons. Tofino has some great galleries, including the Tofino Gallery of Contemporary Art.

Another local artist, Angie Hemphill, did an amazing painting of our house in New Westminster, which my wife gave me for my birthday in anticipation of us downsizing when the kids left. “Wherever we go, we’ll always have the house,” she said. The painting caused us to cancel our downsizing plan and stay in our house; probably forever.

Our last renovation led us to buy art by another neighbour in New West, whose “art name” is J. Charles but he’s the father of one of my daughter’s closest friends, who we’ve known for 25 years. We have about three of his pieces.

Finally, I commissioned a piece by Vancouver artist Larry Tillyer of our kids in a little yellow dingy on the beach near Gabriola Island when they were small. I gave Larry some photographs for his painting. Larry removed their lifejackets for the piece, but the kids are now happily floating in Monet’s Pond, which I guess is what artists do. Mind you, I have to remind people that they had their lifejackets on for the original photo.

None of our art was particularly expensive and we bought it because we liked it, not because we thought it would increase in value. I’m sure all the artists appreciated that they got paid for their art while they were alive rather than after they died.

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