A collector’s perspective: Worth may depend on beholder

A collector’s perspective: Worth may depend on beholder …
By Richard Lovrich
Thursday, September 30, 2010

The time: Quite a few years ago.

The setting: The Dakota, the legendary 1880s co-op complex on Manhattan's Central Park West.

I accompany my friend, art gallery manager Richard Stoddard, and his boss, Brooks Jackson, co-owner with Alexander Iolas of the Jackson-Iolas gallery, on a visit to an artist/housesitter at the home of an art patron on a long trip abroad.

The artist's name: Ioannis Kardamatis. He is working on a gold sculptural piece deep within the cavernous apartment. He entertains us in the living room -- the focal point of which is a huge, gold Buddha. The scale of this statue is enormous, its head nearly scraping the ceiling, notably high in this building already notable for so many things.

I recall that seeing it makes me wonder how it had gotten in there. But, I don’t ask, having already heard stories of removed outer walls, reinforced floors and other artistically accommodating sacrifices from other wealthy collectors at openings at the gallery.

Brooks stands before the glowing, peaceable behemoth with a rigid poise that betrays his youth as a dancer with the New York City Ballet. Lithely pointing at the Buddha, his other hand pinching his chin in a manner that suggested its complicity in an act of mental focus, Brooks asks Kardamatis, "Is it any good?"

Kardamatis rises from his chair and stands motionless, a more casual bookend partner by Jackson's side, both of their backs to me. After a moment of contemplation, matching Brooks' gaze in focus if not intensity, he answers, "It had better be. I pray before it every [expletive deleted] day!"

Worth to the art appreciator and worth to the art dealer still remain two different things entirely. World markets may decree that No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock is valued at a purported $140,000,000. It can bring no greater joy to its owner, American record executive, film and theatrical producer and noted philanthropist David Geffen, however, than a cherished piece picked up on Art Night at Proctors or the annual Stockade Art Show can give to its lucky buyer.

Imbued with its beauty, message and associations, any painting or sculpture can be priceless. Works, once invited into the home, take up residence and insinuate themselves into the lives of its occupants as much as any living thing. Turning a corner in your own home and coming upon a piece can remind you of a time, place, person, feeling, or even of your own relevance or existence.

What is a piece of art worth? What is a memory worth? What is inspiration worth? What is beauty worth?

A most recent exhibit in the Fenimore Asset Gallery at Proctors highlighted the works-to-date of artist Patrick Porter. Most of Porter's smaller pieces topped out at less than $100. His work inspired the buying public to purchase 15 paintings -- the most ever sold from one of the Proctors exhibit spaces by a single artist in a normal two-month display period.

Who were the buyers? Contractors, other artists and just plain folk who were moved by the freedom of expression, quirky subjects and humor that are the hallmarks of Mr. Porter’s work. Are these little paintings spread now across the Capital Region any good?

I hope so –- and that they will give great joy to their owners every (expletive deleted) day!

Richard Lovrich is art director at Proctors arts and entertainment complex. He is the prime mover and curator of the monthly Art Night at Proctors events. This is the first in a series of three commentaries by Lovrich on the fun and excitement in collecting art -– that reflects individual taste and resources and meets one's personal assessments of value and worth. Lovrich produces Art Night at Proctors on the third Friday of each month. The event is always free and open to the public.

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