We are sometimes approached by artists we have not collected offering to sell us particular paintings. The context of these inquiries can be a little awkward. Usually, the artist has created a work that they are very proud of and are anxious to show us in an effort to find their way into our Collection. And, much of this work really is extraordinary.

For us as collectors, however, we find that we establish a “rhythm“ to our collecting, call it a “beat” that we are pursuing. Maybe it’s big paintings (or little ones, for that matter), or paintings with a particular emotional feel, or paintings from a particular historical period. And, we dance to this beat, this rhythm, until we are satisfied that we have taken it as far as it will go, at least for the time being. When this point is reached, we don’t abandon this beat as a focus, but we recognize that there are other directions in which we’d like to take our Collection, other dances we need to dance. Put another way, it’s time to change the tune….

Of course, all of this is opaque to the artist who is offering their work. They have no way of knowing that the artwork they are presenting may not, and probably does not, match the music we are currently dancing to. The result is that our rejection of the work is almost always a discouragement to the artist, and almost certainly misinterpreted as a rejection of their vision, style, craft, etc. We are painfully aware of this.

But, in this case, turning down a painting is not necessarily a rejection of the artist or their work. The timing might just not be right. We have many times gone on to acquire pieces by an artist whose work was initially passed on in the context of an unsolicited offer.

So, our advice is:

(1) Don’t stop offering the work. The mere offer of the work is flattering to the collector and keeps your name in front of them.

(2) Listen carefully to the words spoken by the collector. “This doesn’t quite work for us right now” is different than “your style doesn’t fit our collection.”

(3) Remember that collecting is like a dance, sometimes the music is wild and crazy, and other times it’s swaying with your partner slowly. But in those instances when the artist’s work and the collectors’ rhythm intersect, it’s beautiful no matter what the tempo is.

Image Credit: Embracing Impermanence, Michelle Jader, 2016, Oil on both sides of 4 Acrylic Panels, 49" x 36"