fART: A guide to buying art for the pretentious

(This article has previously been published in The Global Times, an Amity publication, and is being reproduced here with the consent of the author.)

p2You walk into an art gallery. It is a Friday night, and you’re hoping to pick up some nice pieces to display at your house party over the weekend. There is a new exhibition on, and hoping to look cultured and sophisticated, you walk in. Suddenly, a man runs in and flicks the light off, on, and off again, every five seconds.
Welcome to the new art world.

Buying art can be a scary task, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for. These six steps should get you a decent art piece, without leaving you too bewildered.


Figure what the zeitgeist is
Exactly how contemporary is contemporary art? Pinning it down is next to impossible, since it seems to change every day. If you want to play safe, Mondrian’s squares are always welcome. Instantly recognizable, these paintings stink of money and MS Paint. That big, white painting in the corner that has a single white circle in the centre and a crowd of admirers in front? Buy it.

Big is better
This one might seem obvious, but a larger piece will impress friends and intimidate enemies faster. In the case of Damien Hearst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living – a 4.3m long tiger shark encased in formaldehyde, you can even keep aside an entire room for display purposes. Remember, nothing says ‘I’m richer than you’ than a giant tiger shark in your bedroom.

Be prepared to spend
Art is not cheap. In fact, to one-up your friends, you’ll need to dig deep into your pocket to impress. Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ recently sold for 2.2 Million dollars. ‘My Bed’ is literally Emin’s bed, from another time in her life. In fact, a guard watching over the exhibit tried to tidy it up, suspecting it of having being vandalized. Guess somebody forgot to clean up.

It’s all in the name
Do your research. Do you want a Kandinsky or an Ono? Keep up with the latest big shots in the art world, and hire someone to find art pieces for you. Don’t enter a gallery or auction without doing your homework, or you could walk away deeply embarrassed. MF Hussain’s always a good choice. It doesn’t matter if you understand it, as long as people have heard about the artist.

Avoid art students
You’ve zeroed in on a couple of pieces, and are going to speak with the exhibition manager. You can feel eyes on you, eyes thickly coated in eyeliner and partially covered by oversized berets. They follow you through the crowd, silently judging, constantly trying to catch up with you so they can tell you just what they think of your choice. They are the art students.
Do not let them catch up with you.

‘Is that a Malcolm Hill piece?’
‘Um, yeah, it is.’
‘We thought so.’ Contemptuous sniggers. Re-evaluation of life choices. Flashbacks of playground bullies.

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