Home Is Where the Art Is: Shopping

By Rachel Strutt | Boston Magazine |

When it comes to art, what, excatly, will your money buy you?


“Get what you like and don’t be cheap about it,” asserts Green Street Gallery director James Hull. “Get the best thing you can afford by that artist, or you might regret it forever.” A variety of factors help to determine an artwork’s price, including medium, size, the artist’s résumé, and hype. The following breakdown—and examples—can provide a sense of how far your cash will go. Remember that framing may not be included (though many galleries will do it for an added fee, ensuring that you get the proper UV glass and archival mat.)

$500 OR LESS
“If you can find a canvas or a sculpture you like for under $500, it’s a steal,” says Hull. One medium you might consider in this price range is a drawing or other work on paper, like the Paul Inglis piece above. “Drawing is very hot,” says Hull, who launched the “Boston Drawing Project” with Bernard Toale at Toale’s SoWa gallery in 1999. “It’s a great way to get work by artists who might not be in your price range otherwise.”

$500 TO $5,000
In this price range you can buy sculptures and paintings by emerging to midlevel artists, or small paintings, prints, or works on paper by more-established artists. Bubble Up is a still—of a limited edition of 25—from an evocative video by Boston’s Suara Welitoff, who won the MFA’s prestigious Maud Morgan Prize in 2002. Beth Kantrowitz of the Allston Skirt Gallery reports that a few of the two-minute looped videos have sold, and now the stills are selling well, too. “We will probably raise the price as these sell,” says Kantrowitz, “simply because they will become rarer.”

$5,000 TO $15,000
If you lay out cash in this range, says Hull, “you’re buying a significant work, a centerpiece in a show.” Peter Hujar’s photos have garnered increased acclaim since his death in 1987. In 2005 the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York staged a solo Hujar show, and the Matthew Marks Gallery in Manhattan and other galleries and museums worldwide have shown his work. So, even though Boys in the Car, Halloween is a print, the price is high because the artist is deceased and continuing to gain critical attention.

$15,000 OR MORE
These prices tend to represent “investment-grade art buying,” says Hull—certainly not advisable for novice collectors. “You’re buying works that you see in magazines.” For Untitled (Bull), an 84-by-60-inch oil painting by Belgrade-born Miroslav Antic, three factors dictate the price, says Tom Smith of the Kidder Smith Gallery. “First, there’s Miroslav’s résumé; he’s had some museum shows and critical reviews in national publications. There’s also the size of the painting: It’s big. And…technically, it’s nothing short of an A-level painting.”

The Art of Bargain Shopping

Although no replacement for galleries, these sales are ripe with deals.

FALL
Open Studios
During October, November, and December, open studios occur practically every weekend in the Boston area. For information about upcoming events in Fort Point Channel (our favorite), Charlestown, Dorchester, Allston, and many more locations, visit the Boston Open Studios Coalition website at bostonopenstudios.org. For information about Brickbottom Artists Association Open Studios in Somerville (November), visit brick
bottomartists.com.

Photographic Resource Center Benefit Auction
This auction packs in some 200 contemporary and vintage photographs by more than 150 artists, including stars like Duane Michals, Jerry Uelsmann, and W. Eugene Smith. Works range in value from $50 to $5,000. Get there early to hobnob with local art scenesters and nibble on hors d’oeuvres, then grab a seat for the action-filled sale presided over by Skinner Inc. auctioneer Stuart Whitehurst. Proceeds benefit the PRC, an independent nonprofit. Preview exhibit through 10/1; auction 10/5. 808 Gallery at Boston University, 808 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-975-0600, bu.edu/prc/auction.htm.

Artists Foundation Affordable Art Sale/Fundraiser
Artists are often asked to donate work for charity auctions, which is all well and good—except that those artists are often struggling to pay the rent and could use a fundraiser themselves. That’s what makes this event unique: Proceeds go to the foundation, which in turn supports a gallery program giving proceeds back to the artists. All the items for sale are works on paper, costing a mere $50 apiece. 11/4–12/16. 516 E. Second St., Boston, 617-464-3561, artistsfoundation.org.

Green Street Gallery Mad Dash
For this cultishly popular annual event, the gallery offers a two-week preview of 150 mostly small-scale works priced at $150 each, then shoppers dart to snag their desired pieces as soon as the doors open on sale day. It’s a great opportunity to purchase works by feisty emerging artists. But this year marks the Mad Dash’s swan song: Director James Hull is closing Green Street in December (the space will host another gallery, called Axiom). Proceeds will go toward creating a catalog to chronicle past shows. The Mad Dash take places in December; visit website for details. 141 Green St., Jamaica Plain, greenstreetgallery.org.

New Art Center Icons + Altars Fundraiser
Each year the New Art Center invites artists—including many represented by galleries—to respond to the theme of “Icons + Altars.” The results range from the deeply spiritual to the provocatively irreverent. To obtain an artwork, you purchase a ticket for $225; at the closing event, a drawing determines the order in which ticket-
holders choose their pieces. You’re not guaranteed to score your first choice, but the proceeds will benefit the center’s education and exhibition programs. 11/17–12/17; opening reception 11/17, 6–8 p.m.; closing reception and drawing 12/17, 3–5 p.m.; 61 Washington Park, Newtonville, newartcenter.org.

WINTER
Barbara Krakow Gallery AIDS Benefit
This annual show features small-scale works by artists either represented by or who are friendly with Barbara Krakow. In past years, art celebs Michael Mazur and Kate Shepherd have donated pieces. Proceeds go to the Boston Pediatric AIDS Project or the African AIDS Initiative International. Doors open at 10 a.m. on 12/1; show runs through 12/22. 10 Newbury St., Boston, barbarakrakowgallery.com.

School of the Museum of Fine Arts December Sale
The largest public art sale in New England typically features more than 4,000 works in a wide range of media and price, and showcases work by current students, faculty, friends, and alumni, including such luminaries as Ellsworth Kelly and Jim Dine. Proceeds benefit SMFA scholarship programs. 12/6–12/11; opening reception 12/6, 5 p.m. 230 The Fenway, Boston, 617-369-3718, smfa.edu.

SPRING
MassArt Auction
Even if you don’t bid, you’ll find plenty of entertainment at this raucous and often thrilling event, which features silent and live auctions. On offer will be more than 300 works by MassArt faculty, students, and alumni, as well as friends like Aaron Fink and Claes Oldenburg. Serious buyers usually check out the art beforehand, as the auction can become so crowded it’s difficult to see the items on the block. Preview 3/27–3/29; auction 3/31, 7 p.m. David and Sandra Bakalar Gallery and Stephen D. Paine Gallery, Massachusetts College of Art, 621 Huntington Ave., Boston. For ticket info, visit massart.edu. —R.S.