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On Collecting Fine Art
A Collaboration between the Katzen Arts Center and The Washington Art Dealers Association

This summer, a series of free seminars sponsored by The Art Dealers Association of Greater Washington and The American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center provides an invaluable opportunity for new and seasoned collectors to become better informed and to refine their collecting skills.

The seminars are scheduled for Thursday evenings starting at 6:30 pm in the Abramson Family Recital Hall, Katzen Art Center, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW.

The seminars are divided into specialized areas of collecting; June 27, Prints and Works on Paper, July 18, Photographs, Vintage and Contemporary, July 25, Sculpture, Glass and Three Dimensional Art and August 8, Paintings, Washington area, national and international artists. In a comfortable theater setting, each seminar impanels art dealer experts in a specialized area of collecting. The panelists speak to the issues of greatest importance that must be considered to insure the long-term integrity of any collection. Afterwards the floor is opened up to questions and an informal reception rounds out an enjoyable evening. The Katzen Museum encourages visitors to see the exhibition currently installed, Art Matters, a historic look at Washington Art from the 1940's -1980's.

While the seminars are under way I will attempt to capture the flavor of the first two, Collecting Prints and Collecting Photography in the hope that the reader will see the merits in attending the next two panel discussions. The deep knowledge and expertise of the panelists demonstrates their generosity and availability in assisting collectors all year round in their love of collecting art in any medium. Jack Rasmussen, Director of the Katzen Arts Center introduces and moderates the discussions.

Eve Stockton, Washington Art Dealers at Katzen Art Center
Eve Stockton. Big Sea, 2012 (diptych), woodcut, 36 x 72"

Jane Haslem (IFPDA member), Jane Haslem Gallery Tim Davis, International Visions Gallery, Andrea Marinkovich, Burton Marinkovich Fine Art and Jerry Eisley, Eisley Fine Art

The International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) defines an original print as a work of art on paper, which has been conceived by the artist to be realized as a print, rather than as a reproduction of a work in another medium. In evaluating prints, connoisseurship matters—note physical characteristics such as watermarks, print quality, paper quality, ink surface, estate stamps, printers' chops, signatures, and edition numbers. Our Member Dealers are the leading experts in their fields of expertise and will be able to provide you with a full description of your print including information on the artist, title, date, image and sheet size, catalogue references, condition, state, paper type and quality, watermarks, and provenance. All of these items can factor into the value of the work at hand.

Each panelist present addressed the importance of good research provided by accredited dealers and vetted sources such as the IFPDA. A discussion ensued about collecting from emotion and impulse as opposed to research and scholarship. The consensus seemed to be that it takes a bit of both. Once launched the collector owes himself and posterity a commitment to quality prints, conservation and preservation of the artwork. The bonus, of course, is the potential value both in dollar terms and cultural preservation terms. Something that has been lovingly enjoyed and respectfully preserved will continue to enrich our world for generations to come.

Each collector becomes a curator of his own artistic passions. Panelists shared charming stories about discoveries made on the collector's journey.

In the open discussion that ensued the greatest area of concern and confusion came from the sphere of digital print making of any kind. Everyone agreed that printing from digitized files is commonplace, but a deeper understanding was gained about the fact that some artists are using the computer itself as a tool for creating an original work of art and digitally printing it in the final output and sometimes continuing to add to the work by hand after printing. The other area requiring clarification was “editions”. Read the quintessential information about prints, editions etc. on the IFPDA site.

Kenro Izu. Druk #131, Taksang monastary, Paro, Bhutan, 2003, platinum palladium print, 20 x 41"

Kathleen Ewing (AIPAD member), Kathleen Ewing Gallery, Christopher Addison, Addison Ripley Fine Art, and Dale Johnson, Watergate Gallery.

One of the 'coolest' places in town during a punishing heat wave in Washington is The Katzen Arts Center. A gathering of photography enthusiasts were afforded the opportunity of hearing about collecting photography from experienced dealers and panelists.

Kathleen Ewing, who deals exclusively in photography, and who founded The DC Fine Art Photography Fair, had valuable images and clarifications to offer about Vintage and Contemporary Photography. The most important understanding being, that the photographer prints a vintage photograph from the original negative shortly after its capture. A contemporary photograph may use that negative but may be printed much later by someone else. She cited the broad possibilities while collecting photography regarding style and subject matter as well as color or black and white.

Ewing's colleagues from Addison Ripley Fine Art and Watergate Gallery spoke about overcoming their initial reluctance to feature photography in their exhibition schedules until they were captivated by images they hoped others would enjoy. As photography gained wider audiences internationally as well as recognition as a contemporary art form by reputable dealers and museums, more galleries also included photography in their schedules.

* An announcement was made about The Second Annual DC Fine Art Photography Fair. October 5-6, 2013 at Mount Vernon Campus, West Hall Conference Center, 2100 Foxhall Road NW, Washington, DC. For more information: 202-986-0105.

Alla Rogers
writer for