The Art Party
A New Way to Buy Original Art - By Julie O'Driscoll BA.

For a new type of social
painting activity, see:
Art Jam Ireland.

Art Parties

Art parties are a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland, but they look like becoming the fashionable fun way to buy original works of art from contemporary Irish artists, at bargain prices. But before going any further, let's take a brief look at the Irish art market and how art is bought and sold.

Mixing Beauty With Profit

Nothing compares with owning a beautiful work of art: especially if it appreciates in value. Unfortunately, as most art collectors will tell you, investing in a painting or sculpture is an unpredictable activity. In fact it's so unpredictable that some art experts recommend first-time buyers to forget all about the 'investment' aspect, and instead focus on the aesthetics.

For information about the world's
most highly priced works of art
and record auction prices, see:
Top 10 Most Expensive Paintings
Top 20 Most Expensive Paintings

For facts about the most valuable
art from painters in Ireland, see:
Most Expensive Irish Paintings.

For a list of important dates about
movements, styles, famous artists,
see: History of Art Timeline.


However, for those of you who like to mix beauty with profit, there are several options when it comes to buying art. But first, consider one important fact: Irish fine art is no longer the 'bargain' it used to be.

Irish Fine Art is Becoming Expensive

Thirty five years ago, a Jack B Yeats painting was auctioned off in a packed salesroom for £15,000. Nowadays his work sells for anything between £200,000 and £1.4 million. Other Irish painters have done well, too. According to a recent survey, sale prices among the top 25 Irish artists have risen over 1,750 per cent in the last 30 years. For the most successful painters, the rise has been an astonishing 2,356 per cent. The moral? Irish art is no longer cheap.

Options When Buying

Until fine art becomes a retail commodity, or until regular investment plans include fine art portfolios, there are two basic options for anyone wanting to invest in a work of art. Either, you can buy from a gallery, or at an auction.

Buy From a Gallery

Most Irish art galleries offer a range of excellent services to buyers. In particular, they aim to select works by reliable artists, thus reducing your chance of buying something that loses value. Unfortunately, maintaining an art gallery in Ireland costs a truckload of money. Quite apart from sky-high rents, the cost of research, brochures, and expert staff makes owning a gallery a hazardous business: never mind the risks involved in selecting reliable artists. Which is why galleries need to add a healthy premium to the price of a painting or sculpture. (See Irish Art Exhibitions).

Buy From an Auctioneer

Bidding in a crowded salesroom takes strong nerves. Instant, possibly costly, decisions are required. And even if you get the painting you want, you still pay a premium for the privilege. Because Irish fine art auctioneers also have high costs, and, like galleries, they too add a significant surcharge to the price - anything between 10 and 25 percent.

Insuring Your Purchase

In addition to art gallery or auctioneer fees, buying a painting also involves annual insurance costs, which can take up to 1 percent of your annual profit. The more established the artist, the more expensive the work of art is likely to be and thus the higher the insurance premium.

The Art Party Option

Instead of collecting works by established artists from galleries or auctions, another option is to choose unknown or emerging artists. Although the risk of buying from an unknown painter/sculptor is much higher, the lower prices involved can help you to spread the risk across several artists - and, who knows, you might get lucky and choose the next Vermeer or Van Gogh!

A new way of meeting and buying from lesser known artists, is the art party. It can also be great fun!

What Is an Art Party?

Art parties are primarily social events, to which an artist is invited to talk about and demonstrate his/her works of art - usually paintings or small-scale sculptures. A type of sophisticated 'tupperware party', they are typically organized by a householder (the host) who invites friends and neighbours to view and buy the artist's work. The latter is typically an unknown painter or sculptor who is not yet sufficiently 'established' to acquire a gallery contract, and whose works are therefore much more inexpensive. There is rarely, if ever, any obligation to buy, although social peer-pressure is a factor. However, these informal art events - in effect, mini-artist demonstrations - are often the only time that people can meet an artist face-to-face and experience original artworks at first hand. And most artists are only too happy to take on special commissions or to create paintings for specific colour schemes. What better way to acquire an original work of art to suit your living room?

Julie O'Driscoll

• For more info about painters and sculptors from the 32 counties, see: Irish Artists.
• For more details of visual culture in Ireland, see: Homepage.

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