Buying Art

I’ve never thought about buying art in the same way I’ve never worried about the price of gold or considered real estate in St. Bart’s–it’s a rich man’s hobby.  I thought that to buy art you had to be nursing a Pim’s cup in the back row of an auction at Sotheby’s, your derriere placed just so on a velvet Lous XIV chair while an effeminate man with a pencil-thin moustache called out prices that seem reasonable when you subtract a few zeroes.  When your art broker signals, with a tap on the left nostril, that a piece is ripe for the taking you lift your gilded paddle to indicate that, yes, the gentleman in the back would counter with five point SEVEN and do I hear a five point seven five?  Then the art piece is shipped off to some estate where you never visit except once a year when you’re feeling, oh what’s word, peckish, for an escape to the Loire Valley.  Serge and Anastasia nod their approval and you get a “what ho, good fellow” from the Colonel, a mutton-chopped buffoon from the royal dragoons who served in India and inherited his family’s grocery fortune.

No.  No, no, no, I have it all wrong, that’s COLLECTING art.  Buying art is a whole different thing, governor.  Buying art is about seeing something, stopping, looking at it, starting to walk away, going back to look at it, and thinking, “I could look at this forever and always find something in it.”  Buying art is about giving in to pure emotion, to a connection you feel with a piece that you don’t get from anything else in life.  It’s a unique relationship.  The first caveman passed by a thoughtful smear of charcoal on a wall and thought, “Hmm…Grok like.”

So it went when we visited my friend Doug Yee in San Francisco recently.  An artist of incredible talent he has found his voice and vocabulary and creates massive canvases and tiny ones, each with as much layering and color and complexity as an entire wing of pastoral scenes.

Yee in studio

Once you’ve seen Douglas Yee’s painting you begin to understand what color is, what paint is.  Orange isn’t just orange, it’s a flame through which you see a civilization, figures and dreams.  When we walked into his studio, packed with art on every surface, I was immediately drawn to this piece, title Sunrise Sunset.

Sunrise Sunset


A digital image doesn’t do this picture a fraction of the justice it deserves.  Let me put it this way:  you’ve never seen such a dark and velvety purple on anything in your life as the bottom of this painting.  I don’t know how he did it but Yee made a blackness so rich and confounding to the eye which always looks for scale and surface, that you are left swimming as if drawn into a black hole.  I couldn’t stop looking at this painting and loving it, so I bought it.  This is buying art, I’ve learned.

More about the artist can be found here.  One of my favorite pieces of his can be found on Saatchi Art here, including one of my favorite works of his, Red Iron Oxide Dawn:

Red iron oxide dawn


*All images are copyright Douglas Yee 2014.

Writer, architect, father, husband.

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