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Sluggish Canadian Art Auction

Artist Tom Thomson
A few things strike me about the reaction to Sotheby's Canadian Art auction on Thursday 27th. Pieces by Jean-Paul Riopelle and Tom Thomson failed to sell, and that has people declaring the event a failure.
  • Contrary to what the good folks on Antiques Roadshow and the various antiques price guides often say, art isn't always more appreciated in its native land. Jesus' words about unappreciated prophets are just as valid.
  • The current catchphrase among art and antiques dealers is that art is selling well 'at the top end'.  I just shrug and assume these people are selling works of art priced much, much higher than I do. But here we have a top end national sale that seems to have been over estimated.
  • Some art critics have very high notions of success. I wouldn't call a sale with a 68% clearance rate a total flop, and if several top works didn't sell, were the estimates too high for tough economic times in the first place? Some pieces met their reserves, some exceeded expectations. A CBC article quotes Sotheby's as saying that the evening came to a perfect close and, basically, that Canadian contemporary art is taking its place among that of other countries. That might be an exaggeration, too: the sale's takings, even with commission, fell just below the low estimate, usually a before commission sum.
The comments on the articles were in some cases worth more than the articles themselves.  There were comments about greed, a general lack of sympathy for the auction house and disdain for the wealthy who patronise it, and a thoughful letter about the need to appreciate one's own culture being independent of fads and price. One person thought the government should spend some money buying some of these pieces for museums. A good point.

Finally, as an arts fan, I found myself agreeing with a writer who stated that the the CBC article was more suited to the business section than the arts section; another pointed out that the Globe and Mail's article would have benefitted from pictures of the artworks in question. I have noticed this tendency in other contexts as well: superficial treatment of the subject that doesn't indicate educated the reader or reveal any particular knowledge of that subject, in this case, Canadian art. These art articles could have been written by any competent writer, which is a pity.  Opportunity lost.

Buying Safely on eBay - Part 2

eBay Pitfall No. 2 - Fakes and Reproductions

This is the second post in a short series we'll do on the eBay pitfalls we identified in an earlier post. Martin and I intend to expand on this in an e-Book.

Blue Onion Pattern

They're not the same thing.  Here's the caveat: there's nothing wrong with a reproduction as long as it's disclosed. Some reproductions can, in fact be worth a pretty penny.  Samson of Paris, for example, made a living reproducing the decorations of the top houses, and today their work is recognised, collectable and often highly valuable.

When work done in the style of another is clearly marked or marketed as such, no one has a problem with it.  After all, the proverb tells us that 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'. It's perfectly fine to buy and sell art done 'in the school of famous name', for example, or a ceramic vase 'in the manner of' Sevres or Meissen.

What is not acceptable is when someone tries to defraud by pretending that a relatively worthless item is a priceless treasure, in order to get more money for it. That's when it's called a fake.

How can you prevent such things on eBay?  You can't.  You can, however, take some simple steps to minimise the danger of being ripped off.
  1. Be sensible.  You are no more likely to find an important antique 'last sold by Christie's' going for $100 on eBay that you are to find genuine silk scarves going for .99 cents at a Hong Kong open air market. Keep your wits about you and be realistic.
  2. Be educated.  Ask questions.  Go look at the genuine article in a shop or two. Know what the prices are like.
  3. Read the spiel.  I mean really examine it.  Once you get to be a bit informed, you can spot discrepancies that should set off warning bells in your brain. 
  4. Examine the photos.  If they're not good, ask for better ones.
  5. Pay attention to what the other buyers are doing.  Are the other bidders experienced?  Do they always buy silver, porcelain...whatever it is that you're looking at...?  eBay has a lot of members; if no one's bidding or querying, ask yourself why.

The Value of a Woman's Time

Today I’m participating in the Ultimate Blog Swap. You’ll find me posting over at Resourceful Mommy about blogging, and I’m excited to welcome Andrea from Simple Organized Living to Aleta's Arty Facts:

If you had to place a dollar value on your time, what would it be?
  • $25 an hour?
  • $50 an hour?
  • $100 an hour?
  • Maybe even $1,000 an hour!?
Whether you're a CEO, a small business owner, a part-time employee, or a stay at home mom, your time is precious and extremely valuable, wouldn’t you say? As women, we wear so many different hats every single day, it would simply be impossible to pay someone else to do everything we do -- which means we are "invaluable"!


But, have you ever felt that your time was being wasted?

Maybe you’ve been on the phone with someone who put you on hold to take another call. Maybe you were in the middle of a project when coworker dropped by to “shoot the breeze.” Maybe your kids keep bothering you when you're trying to finish one simple task. We are all familiar with these common distractions and time wasters, right? Now let’s suppose you value your time at $100 an hour. Imagine throwing $100 down the drain for every hour wasted on hold or chatting with your coworker. You wouldn't do it -- at least I wouldn't! I would tell them I was busy and had to stay focused until my task was complete. I wouldn't let myself get distracted. But if you think about it, we are doing exactly that {letting ourselves get distracted} when we waste time on needless activities like watching TV, surfing the internet, catching up on the latest Facebook gossip, zoning out at work, etc. etc.


We're throwing out $25, $50, $100 every hour we waste!

Well, not really -- but I find that placing a dollar value on my time helps me determine what I'm willing, or not willing, to spend time on. Don’t sell yourself short; establish how much your time is worth and use that value to make decisions on how you will spend it.

Andrea Dekker is a professional organizer and founder of Simple Organized Living. Her goal is to motivate and encourage others to “create their best life” through simplicity and organization. If she’s not working with clients or blogging about clutter, you’ll find her documenting the renovation of her 120-year-old farmhouse over at Farmhouse Love.
photo credit

Visit Life…Your Way to see all of the Ultimate Blog Swap participants!

Ya wouldn't wanna read about it!

We're back!

As you know if you've been paying attention, we just made our debut at the Australian Fine Art & Antiques Fair, run by the extremely competent, organised and helpful Jim & Helen Johnson.

We had a blast!

More on that later.

First, though, I have to let you know about the grand series of disasters that attended our debut:
  • Total computer hard drive failure, the Saturday before (had to happen on a Saturday, right?)
  • Problems with truck (well, at least it didn't break down on the way there, and we had plenty of time to hire one)
  • Display cabinets were very late in arriving (already told you about that one)
  • Little problem with our credit card terminal (not that that's serious - aaaarrrrrrghhh!)
Everything was deal-with-able, except that because of the timing of the computer failure I couldn't get my name cards printed the way I would have liked to.  So we had hand-written labels. As I said to Martin:  well, at least we had proper labels in stock!

So, we had to do a little bit of adjusting to our setup during bump in (the best laid plans, and all that) but once that was done things went smoothly and we were all set well before the gala opening.  That was a champagne affair with people seeing and needing to be seen. It was fun seeing all the antiques dealers who had been in jeans and boots a few hours earlier (ourselves included) all clean and spiffy for the evening's festivities, although I was tired beyond human endurance by night's end.

More later!

Microsoft Confirms Skype Purchase

A boy! One boy for sale!
He's going cheap!

-How much?

Only fifty guineas

-How much?!

That...or thereabout....

- Sung by the late Harry Secombe as Mr Bumble in Lionel Bart's Oliver!

Microsoft has just confirmed that they've bought Skype. My mind boggles at the $8.5bn price tag.  Hey!  That's less in Australian dollars at the moment! (Maybe I should make an offer?)

Okay, okay, so, strictly speaking, that isn't art news.

It does, however, have an effect on international communications, which of course means that all of our businesses are affected, unless perhaps you run a Mom-and-Pop Shop, but chances are that Mom and Pop use Skype to talk to the grandkids, which helps their bottom line, and these days, even itty bitty local businesses have email, websites, and Skpe, and who knows what the next great thing will be?

Or what it'll cost?

Further, this affects online sellers across many industries, including ours, because e-commerce giant eBay still owns an interest in Skype.

Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.

Countdown to the Fair - eight days out

Meet me in St. Louis, Louis
Meet me at the fair!
Don't tell me the lights are shining
Any place but there!

Meet Me in St. Louis - Kerry Mills and Andrew B. Sterling

It ain't St. Louis, and it ain't the turn of the last Century. No, we're heading to the Australian Antiques Fair, Moore Park, Sydney, 18-22 May. I'll admit to being nervous.

Now, I'm doing all the print materials, admin and publicity for the Fair.

We've been sharing the buying.

I am NOT, however, doing any of the packing!

Why? Because a certain Mr Curry keeps reminding me that the breakage count is 3-nil, against me! This includes dropping the lid of a museum-quality Davidson glass sugar bowl (no sh*, there's one in the V&A), a couple of years ago.

On that occasion, I just stood there dumbfounded staring at shards all over the floor.

Curry just said, 'Jaaaaysus, wumman! What are yer doin'? Here I am tryin' to earn a livin' and you breakin' up the place! I'm goin' ta tell yer mothr!!'

Did I marry the right fellow, or what?

That kind of support makes the nerves calmer.

The countdown continues....

A Loss for Philography: The End of Joined Up Writing?

Imagine not being able to read the original manuscript of the US Declaration of Independence, or beautifully written letters from times past. Well, as the harbingers of doom say:  'the end is nigh'.

Though I've seen the signs coming, I've optimistically thought that reports of the end of that grown up penmanship that Americans call 'cursive' and the rest of us call 'running writing' were premature.

Sure, keyboards have taken over, but people will always be taught how to write right, right?

This New York Times Article points out that although running writing is still taught at US schools, it is for a much shorter period of time. Of far more concern to me is the reaction in a Seattle, WA blog where (presumably) adult respondents not only contemptuously dismiss the use of cursive handwriting, but do not even consider, or are unaware of, the relative merits of learning joined up writing, such as the value to a child's developing motor skills, its artistic value, and, importantly to me, at least, the fact that people who can only print may leave themselves open to being victims of forgery.

It is the latter two, artistic value and the importance of handwriting in establishing identity, that are of paramount importance to businesspeople, and the purveyors of antiques and collectables, especially. What effect will the loss of running writing in society have on the collectability of historic documents, letters and philography (collecting signatures)? What is happening to our notion of 'art for art's sake'?

In an age where identity theft is of increasing concern, and is becoming something of a specialty among the criminal classes, do we really need to give them more tools for their fraud arsenals, just out of thoughtlessness, a lack of vision and a myopic reliance on technology?

Worthy of more than just a passing thought.