Friday, August 21, 2009

Art Broken

Whenever I sell one of my large enamel paintings, I provide instructions on how the work should be cared for. I sometimes attach a short note with my invoice. The information is basic, uncomplicated and requires very little of the buyer.
With minimal attention, it's easy to keep my work in bright, pristine condition for decades and I am always available to collectors to give further advice or in some instances, effect small repairs.
Occasionally, paintings of mine turn up in the secondary market looking less than a hundred percent. Art is often bought for love but it is also a significant asset, an investment. Given the value of my paintings, these days, I'm shocked that people don't take better care of them. Then again, reading the condition reports of other artists' work at various auctions, even of important, very valuable pieces, I've noted tears, scuffing, scratches and lots of other avoidable damage, so it's a common problem.
The first owner of one of my favourite paintings, Dolores Haze, who is a serious collector, had a custom-built crate to transport it during the time it was in his collection. Despite having travelled all over the world with it for over eight years, the picture remained in exactly the same condition as the day it left my studio – until it was sold to make room for more works of mine.
I saw it not long after, on the web site of a Melbourne gallery, and enquired about buying it for myself. The gallery sent photographs that revealed a long scrape across the surface: a lighter layer of base paint was visible. I always paint from two to five coats of each colour, so the scrape must have been deep. When I raised this with the gallery, I was told that the "imperfection" was my fault – that lighter paint had mysteriously "risen to the surface" of the work: technically impossible with industrial enamels and totally at odds with the experience of the first owner.
Today, I looked at Sotheby's online catalogue for the forthcoming sale in Melbourne of
Important Australian Art. When I enlarged the photograph of my painting, I noticed several small marks on the surface. I had to subscribe (giving all my personal details) to be able to read the condition report, which stated: "There are three stable hair-line cracks (upper right). There is some scuffing to the painting surface (centre left and lower left) and similar scuffing (centre right). There are two minor spots of paint loss on the left and right edges on the underside of the corners of the canvas. The work is otherwise in good stable condition."
I am happy to be consulted regarding damage to my early works. In many cases, I will undertake whatever is required to bring them back up to scratch (so to speak) myself. The investment is miniscule compared to the value of the work. My only concern is that my work is maintained. Besides, I believe collectors should be able to re-sell one of my works for a profit (you can read my view on droit de suite
I have called and emailed Sotheby's, offering to repair
Ultra Violet One after it has been bought. I've suggested they let interested collectors know of this when the lot comes up at auction.


Anonymous said...

Its not unusual for women these days (more often than men do) to live into their 80s and 90s, which means you are not nearing middle age until your 40s and hitting it in your 50s. Hazel, at 30 you as far away from middle age as I would love to be. You can enjoy your youth for some time to come.

Anonymous said...

I would think they could mention your repair offer at the preview, perhaps with a note attached to the painting for interested people to consider as they examine it close up. I can't imagine the auctioneer bringing attention to any flaws/damage during the auction but of course it might happen. I will be there and be interested to see how they deal with it on Monday night. Its a pity the owners didn't take more care with it. Perhaps when they first purchased the painting it was not as expensive as it is now and they never dreamt it would have such a great future in the art market, which should not have meant they could be careless but it may have. The more people pay in the future the more respect for the work/s they will be more likely to show. My theory anyway.

Vee Gee