Bettina Huang’s Art Buying Guide – SURFACE



The brainchild behind Platform, the David Zwirner-backed digital marketplace for contemporary art, shares its list of things to consider for first-time buyers.

By Bettina Huang

July 13, 2022

Breakfast accompanied by places I have been with helicopters from Azikiwe Mohammed #8.

In the confines of the art world, innovation happens at a glacial pace. Then there is Bettina Huang. After cutting her teeth at Christie’s more than a decade ago, Huang fled to e-commerce design site, where she discovered it was possible to make an elite pursuit accessible to the masses. Anyone who has ever walked past a gallery and peeked into its unwelcoming surroundings knows that buying art is not an egalitarian sport. In the midst of a pandemic, Huang decided to change that. With the support of gallery owner David Zwirner, she launched the contemporary art market Platform. The selection of prints on the website rotates monthly, is cleverly organized into categories such as Scenes from Life and Unearthly, and includes helpful primers – “how to display art” and “how to collect art without collect art”, among others.

Since debuting a year ago, Intruder has been making waves thanks to a well-curated mix of talented up-and-coming artists, affordable prices, and a non-judgmental vibe that encourages first-time consumers to get involved instead of making them a snub. . (A surprising development has been the enthusiasm of some high-profile collectors.) The platform also overturns the long-held belief that physical art cannot be sold online.

In honor of Platform’s first anniversary, Surface contacted Huang for some pointers for curious art buyers. We will admit that even knowledgeable veterinarians like us have found his advice instructive.— Nate’s story

The first thing to decide is: do you want art or decorative art?

And what does that even mean? Decorative art exists solely for the purpose of looking pretty on a wall. It is not made with the intention of being an expression of creativity, uniqueness, or technique, and so it is often mass-produced. Think: art class at West Elm. Fine art is meant to be a true expression of the talent of the artist, and when fine art is good, it also engages the artist and the viewer by pushing boundaries and doing something original.

For these reasons, fine art is more expensive, usually starting at $1,000. It takes skill, good materials and many hours to create good fine art. Also, when you look at highly sought-after artists (like those on Platform), their unique works are very hard to come by, and that’s where the principles of supply and demand come into play.

Perhaps surprising coming from someone who sells really good fine art, but I think there is a place for fine art and decorative art, potentially even in the same house. For example, I would never put a painting that interests me in a bathroom, it would be spoiled by humidity. Or, if you’re just not as interested in the originality, rarity, and collecting of fine art, and your goal is simply to fill your walls, decorative art may be just fine. But when some stores are charging $1,000 for a mass-produced giclee canvas print, why not take it to the next level?

Bettina Huang. (RIGHT) A candelabra in a dark night by Emma Kohlmann decorates a home office.

If you want to buy art, buy art because you love it.

Anyone who gives advice on how to buy art will say that you should buy what you like. It’s a cliché, but it’s absolutely true. Art is a really interesting conduit between the artist and the owner because it is a form of self-expression for the artist but also for the person who owns (and loves) it. As with other types of love, you may need to do some research before you know what triggers this feeling in you:

There are many very different reasons a person might fall in love with a work of art, ranging from visual appeal to rarity. If you don’t know how to determine what you like:

a) Do some self-exploration to find out if there are certain topics that matter deeply to you. You may find that you care about images that, for example, depict family life in inner cities, or that you are drawn to artists who identify as women of South Korean descent.

b) Go to a museum and see what you like, and think about why you like it. Or browse a site like Platform, where the art is varied but curated, and where we make it easy to learn about the artists and artwork on offer. You don’t have to become an expert, but having a feel for the terrain always helps, no matter what you’re buying.

c) Think about how you buy things in other categories, like fashion, watches, and furniture. If your main reason for buying a handbag is that it was created by a young, hard-to-get, up-and-coming designer, you might also be attracted to the art of young, hard-to-get artists. Or you might find that the shapes and color palettes you love in furniture and clothing are also shapes and colors you love in art.

d) Imagine the artwork in your home. Granted, this isn’t always easy, as the mainstream art world only shows art on blank, white walls. But there is a feature on Platform called the Virtual Preview Tool, which allows you to take a picture of your home and preview what the art we sell would look like in your space. Does it make you happy to think about having this piece of art in your home for years to come?

Art is a hybrid of a luxury item and a piece of cultural history – and you can think of prices that way.

Art (self-actualization) ranks high in the hierarchy of needs, but it’s clearly not an everyday necessity, so you can think of it in terms of other luxuries you might buy. What would you spend on a handbag or a watch? A handbag and a painting may cost a few thousand dollars, but you may or may not love the bag for as many years as a truly accomplished painting.

You may never have thought about the value you place on culture, but that’s also something to think about here. Often, the cultural value of an artist’s work is tied to its financial value. In other words, if an artist has participated in exhibitions in important museums or galleries, or if his work belongs to museum collections, he contributes to contemporary culture. In fact, that’s a big part of what we look for when inviting artists to submit work on Platform. Cultural value is a factor that makes art good in the first place, which then relates to prices. It’s not a perfect correlation, but generally speaking it’s a good rule of thumb.

Under for Opening Eyelids of the Moon by Marcel Dzama. (RIGHT) Aufwärts by Neo Rauch.

Untitled by Nathaniel Robinson.

Galleries and auction houses have incredible expertise, but buying from them can seem impossible. [That’s why we created Platform.]

Galleries and auction houses are still where most art is bought and sold, and in some ways they are good sources because they are full of experts who know what to look for. Galleries in particular exist to identify talented artists and develop their careers, so there is a level of quality assurance that you get by buying from a good gallery.

But even in a world with auction houses and galleries, most people don’t know (and maybe don’t even care) how you would buy art from them. Galleries require you to establish a relationship with a seller before you can even start asking questions about pricing and availability and moving toward a purchase. Auction houses require you to actively compete for what is available. I care enough about art to work in this industry, and even that doesn’t interest me. What’s exciting about Platform is that we sell artwork by the most sought-after artists from the best small and medium galleries, then make it easy to buy…no need to be an art world insider . And if you want to ask someone questions, you can ping our expert who will try to answer any question, from where the price for a specific artwork comes from, to why you should care. a certain artist that we sell.

Robert Zehnder’s Hollow Underpass illuminates a living room.

Don’t get stuck in your head.

Many people hesitate to buy art for purely psychological reasons. They think art is only for people “in the art world”, or they don’t know exactly where they will hang a piece once they buy it. But at the end of the day, you can always move a work of art to another place in your house if you feel like it; nail holes are surprisingly easy to patch. And you can buy art (especially from a source like Platform) just because you like it, without being a serious collector or an expert in art history, and without even wanting to be those things. The traditional art world is intimidating and critical – but what does tradition have to do with anything these days?

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