The other day, I had a wonderful conversation with a Houston collector and dealer, Michael Page. He provided some insight into the culture of art collecting.
One of the biggest concerns that emerging artists face is how to price their work. For example, pricing too low might give the impression that the work is not valued; pricing too high might price the artist out of the market. Michael explained that "if a collector has connected with the work and really wants it, he or she will do whatever it takes to buy that work-- regardless of price."
I take that to mean that an emerging artist should price his work at an amount that he is comfortable with-- taking into consideration cost of materials and compensation for his time. Once an artist has decided on a price range he is comfortable with, he needs to go find that audience that is willing and able to buy within that price range.
I am also excited about beginning to collect art myself. As a student, I did not have any disposable income to allow me to buy art, but I hope to start building a collection over the coming years.
Michael is a very avid art collector in Houston. I asked him what makes him so passionate about collecting and enjoying art. I was very astounded to learn that his passion for art collecting began when he met John Biggers. John showed Michael his own large collection at his Houston home, and explained why art collecting was important to him. From then on, Michael became a collector and dealer of John Biggers works, as well as many other prominent artists and emerging artists.
I asked Michael what drives him to purchase a particular piece of artwork. He said that first of all, it was important that the art touched him in some way. This is something that he could realize instantly. Whether or not the artwork is economically valuable in the art world is only a bonus, he said. He also said of course, that it doesn't hurt to have a good eye for which artists are going to be hot in a few years. He told me about one of his friends who bought a Wangechi Mutu for "a very nominal amount" several years ago. That collector was able to turn around and sell the same work for over $60,000 recently.
Michael Page is featured in the book, Houston Collects : African American Art, by Dr. Alvia Wardlaw, available at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.