Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Driving up the Market for Art
Every once in a while something happens that just seems meant to be. If you’re lucky, it could be something really big, like marrying the right person or getting the job that launches you on the career you should have. Even when it’s not that important, it’s still a neat thing.
A couple of weeks ago, I had one of those karma moments, or whatever you want to call them. A woman I know was having an exhibition of her paintings. She had received a fine arts degree years ago, but life happened before her painting took off: marriage, kids, a day job.
A while back, she decided to take up painting again and found herself getting caught up in it. The ouvre grew to the point where she had two shows in a week, at opposite ends of the county. I went to the first to see what she was up to and as a gesture of support.
The Woman in the Scarf
The artist and I know enough of the same people that I recognized several familiar faces when I walked into the show and was quickly put at ease. I walked around the room several times, looking at the paintings. Some of them were more fully realized than others, but the underlying talent and competence were clearly in evidence.
From my perspective, the best painting in the show was a profile of a woman wearing a scarf over her head. Everything clicked — from the jut of her jaw to the thrust of her nose to the pattern of the scarf to the perfect shade of green in the background. Apparently the artist agreed with me, because that was the painting she had put up for silent auction, with a comparatively high starting bid.
I was intrigued. The silent auction closed at 5 p.m., and at 3, I was getting back to the house. If I made a bid before leaving, there would be two hours for someone else to come along and bid higher, so there didn’t seem to be a point.
And then, I remembered what I had learned about silent auctions at Rotary.
You Gotta Know When to Hold ‘Em
It’s the same principle, really, as in poker. You raise the stakes by a higher order of magnitude, chasing away the people who aren’t serious. It often results in a win without any further back-and-forth.
Fortunately, I am in a position where if I want to spend a few hundred dollars on a work of art, I can arrange my finances to make it happen. I did a quick mental calculation about what I could do, settled on a number I could live with, and wrote it down on the auction sheet. My bid was four times higher than the increments bid up to that point. I reasoned that even if I didn’t get it (a strong possibility), I was helping drive the price up for the artist.
At ten minutes past five, I got a call from the woman handling paintings at the show, notifying me I’d made the high bid for the woman in the scarf. It later turned out that someone else had been planning on coming in at the last minute and making the high bid, but had gotten distracted and missed the deadline. The gods were with me on this one. Last week, I took over possession.
Now all I have to do is decide where to hang it.