Back in December, I did a post about Cleveland’s Velvet Tango Room making the USA Today (due no doubt to all the massive publicity they got being profiled here at the Pegu Blog). I learned about the article from sculptor Juan Zavala, and mentioned that I’d have more to say about him shortly. Shortly is now, as the two pieces I bought from him at the fair have arrived. In addition to being an opportunity to show off my cool new art, I also think that this is an excellent example of what I talked about earlier about buying fine art.
Commission your own art. Seriously. You don’t have to be a Medici to be an artist’s “patron”.
As I said, I happened upon Juan at Columbus’s winter arts festival. He had a number of wonderful pieces that caught both Maggi’s and my eye. He works in simple black metal that gives a feel that is part stained glass, and part Ty Wilson. Here’s a piece from his website, Alchemy Steel, that gives a feel of his (non-cocktail) work:
My eye was drawn, however, to his cocktail themed work. I know, big surprise. He had a nice wine sculpture that I thought would work nicely.
It is reasonably priced, and quite lovely. Done, right? No. I wanted a little something more. Something specific. So I asked him if he could do a companion to the piece I already wanted to buy. The answer, as it usually will be with most artists, was yes. And the price was the same. So I commissioned the second piece.
Why isn’t a custom piece of artwork more than an original the artist already has? One is work already completed, the commission is new work. The commission is exactly what you want, the existing piece is nice, but not, by definition, exactly what you want. To you, the commissioned piece is certainly worth more.
But look at it from the artist’s viewpoint. He is a working artisan, as well as an artist. He will be doing more work soon regardless. This way, he still has his inventory to sell to someone else, and he knows he already has a buyer for his new work. It may seem to you that there is great special effort in creating a custom piece, but not really. Creating is what the artist does anyway. When he works on a commission, he is doing nothing more extraordinary than the extraordinary work he does day to day. And he is doing it with greater economic certainty.
So, you have an economic incentive to pay as much or more for a commissioned piece, and the artist has an economic ability to charge the same or less for one. It is a happy congruence that makes for the resulting price. Also, you are more likely to be a satisfied client when you commission a piece of art. Satisfied clients buy additional art, tell their friends, write about the artist in their blogs….
I have, over the years, commissioned art of all sorts, from sculptures to a briefcase and purse. (OK, Maggi commissioned those.) I have never paid more than the artist’s price for his or her normal work, and in some cases, I paid a bit less. Never be afraid to ask if the artist could do a piece similar to what he is already showing you. You could get exactly what you need.
One sculpture of a Pegu, complete with bottle of Bombay Sapphire. These two pieces filled a blank wall that has been driving me nuts for years. A challenge of decorating Basement Bars is that they are in basements. Basement stairways are often close or even claustrophobic. Artwork opens them up nicely.