Contemporary art can often seem intimidating or difficult to understand. At AGAC, we want to make the contemporary art world and the art market more accessible to the general public.
Therefore, we have launched a Q&A series that aims to provide short and concise answers to basic questions about various facets of the art industry. Whether you are a casual art lover or an aspiring collector, this section is for anyone looking to deepen their understanding of the contemporary art world.
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The nature of the work
The first thing to consider is the nature of the work—in other words, its medium and size. For example, sculptures tend to be more expensive than paintings, which in turn are more expensive than works on paper. Unique works on paper such as drawings, collages or watercolours are generally worth more than multipleprint works such as photographs. It’s also important to bear in mind that print editions for photographs tend to be small (3-15 prints), whereas editions for other types of prints, such as silkscreen works or etchings, are generally higher (20 or more prints are common). The edition size affects the price; the larger the edition, the less expensive the work. The dimensions of the work also influence its value, but to a lesser degree. Works by the same artist will range in price according to their size.
The artist’s career
It’s also important to consider the artist’s professional background. A CV provides several valuable clues about the artist’s career and practice. It includes a list of solo and group exhibitions, the institutional and corporate collections to which the artist’s works belong, residencies, and a list of grants or awards received. The CV also indicates whether the artist’s work has been reviewed in the press or featured in publications. It is always available on the gallery website and the artist’s personal website. Bear in mind that, in the case of many exhibitions, the work has undergone a rigorous selection process by a jury of peers—a competitive process that is also the norm for grants and residencies. The acquisition of a work by a museum is a prestigious form of recognition. The same is true for corporate collections, where works are selected by a curator—a professional whose principal mandate is to manage, build and showcase the company’s artistic assets.
One should also consider the artist’s experience. Generally speaking, the longer the artist’s career, the more valuable the works. An artist who is starting out (often referred to as a new or emerging artist) generally has less than 10 years of practice. A mid-career artist has more than 10 years of experience, and an established artist has over 20 years of practice. Although these are approximate measures, they will help you to better appreciate the artist’s experience and to compare his or her prices with those of artists at a similar stage in their career.
Corporate collectors benefit from considerable tax advantages from the Quebec government in the amortization of the purchase of works of art.
For any work of art acquired for the purpose of displaying it in its place of business and whose author is a Canadian citizen or resident at the time of the creation of the property, the company can amortize 33.3% of the cost of the acquisition annually on a residual basis.
Conditions to be met :
– The work of art must have been produced by an artist who was a Canadian citizen or permanent resident at the time it was created;
– The work must have been acquired from a person at arm’s length;
– The work must have been acquired for the exclusive purpose of earning business income, such as decorating a reception area, meeting room, hallway or shareholder’s office, and must be in full view of the company’s customers. The recipient may not take the work to their personal residence unless they have an office where clients visit, as is the case for some self-employed individuals (lawyers, accountants, consultants, etc.).
In the case of a donation to a museum, the fair value of a work of art is increased to 25%.
However, not all artworks are eligible.
To understand all the tax benefits available to businesses, talk to a registered tax professional.
For complete details on eligible works of art, refer to the articles of law provided below.
Regulation respecting income tax, chapter 1-3, r.1, sections 130R1 and following.
Gallerists are passionate professionals whose role is to build the career of the artists they represent and to promote their work at the local, national and international levels. Gallerists act as an intermediary between the artist and buyer, in addition to managing the business aspects of the gallery.
Gallerists play a key role in helping you make the right choice. They are more than art sellers; they bring your attention to certain points and help you develop your eye and preferences. By talking to a gallerist, you’ll find out everything you need to know about the artist’s career, approach and intentions, about the work and its value, and about collections that feature other works by the same artist. The gallerist will also guarantee the authenticity of the work you’d like to purchase.
The main role of an exhibition curator is to conceive and organize a temporary exhibition, alone or as part of a group. The curator is essentially the author of the exhibition. Curators are responsible for defining the subject of the exhibition, carefully selecting the works to be presented, writing the exhibition texts, determining the layout of the works, and following up with the artists.
Curators sometimes work for public institutions such as museums, where they generally hold the position of a curator, sometimes for private organizations such as commercial galleries, or for major art events such as biennales.
There are also many curators who are self-employed and who work on an ad hoc basis for organizations, within the framework of one or more projects. They are then known as independent curators.
Oftentimes, we are intimidated by the mere idea of entering a gallery. Dare to overcome that fear of not being knowledgeable enough. You will see that above all else, visiting a gallery is about being curious. Contemplate the works and let yourself be charmed by them. It’s as simple as that.
It is an opportunity to spend a privileged moment with an expert who has it at heart to help you discover the artists he/she loves and represents. You can thus feel comfortable to ask a multitude of questions, according to your level of knowledge, your desires and your personality. Some galleries display the prices of works on a label, and others have a price list. Feel free to ask gallery staff for the price list, and they will gladly provide the information.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of questions suggested by numerous AGAC member galleries and that concern the artist, the exhibition, a specific work, the contemporary art market in general, and even the gallerist.
In what context was the work created?
How much does this work cost and why?
May I see the price list?
Where has the artist exhibited his/her work (here or abroad)?
What type of training does the artist have?
Can you tell me about this artist’s process and the projects he/she has produced?
You are his/her gallerist. For what reasons do you especially believe in his/her work?
How does the artist’s work fit in the current and overall art context?
What ideas or concepts are reflected in his/her work and exhibition?
What techniques were used to create this work?
When, during the artist’s career, was the work created?
What are the artist’s upcoming projects?
Is the artist part of major, public or private collections?
What is unique about your gallery?
How did you come to be a gallerist?