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Ali Shops Blog

Shopping for Art

April 11th, 2011
by Allison Kaplan

It’s going to be a big weekend for art buyers in the Twin Cities with two major events happening in town:

American Craft Council Show: More than 240 new and established artists, local and national, present their latest handcrafted jewelry, clothing, furniture, home decor and more in the 25th annual show. New this year, find an entire area devoted to items $100 or less, plus live demos and more eco-friendly art. Friday, April 15 to Sunday, April 17. $12 per person; $20 for a three-day pass – or $5 after 5 p.m. on Friday. St. Paul RiverCentre, 175 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, 800-836-3470

Minneapolis Institute of Arts Print and Drawing Fair: MIA welcomes a dozen art dealers from around the world for this 18th annual event, with a wide range of art for sale, from contemporary to centuries-old, starting at $200 up to six digits. Free. MIA, 2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-870-3000

Don’t be intimidated – you need not be a serious art collector to attend either event. In fact, sales like these can be a great way to learn a thing or two about art, from artists and collectors themselves. Artists are only too happy to discuss how they made a piece, and that may help you understand the price. At least at the Crafts Council show, you can try to negotiate, but don’t be surprised if the answer is no. Best chance, if any, of course, is on the last day.

When it comes to prints, prices vary  according to an artist’s reputation, the rarity of the object, and the condition of it, particularly with older works of art, says  Rachel McGarry, MIA’s associate curator of prints and drawings. “I think a good rule to live by is never spend more money on the frame for the object than the object itself. I buy standard size, inexpensive frames myself, and have framers glaze them with UV-filtering plexi. This gives me a bigger budget for art.

“For someone new to collecting prints, or any art,” McGarry says, “I think the most important thing to do is spend time looking at lot and lots of works to find out what you like exactly. Don’t let the arcane language of printmaking–states, editions, pochoir, sugarlift–turn you off.”

I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that I wasn’t even familiar enough with a pochoir to be turned off, and the only sugarlift I’ve encountered is the one that happens when I’m trolling the kitchen around 10 p.m. But she did reassure me of this: “Dealers love to share their knowledge or expertise with people showing an interest in their field.”

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