A Guide to Collecting Art

Richard Norton Gallery founder Richard Norton and Gallery Director Susan Klein-Bagdade share their collecting tips.

Located at the Country House in Deerfield and on the sixth floor of the Merchandise Mart, Richard Norton Gallery specializes in nineteenth and early twentieth century American and European impressionist and modern paintings, drawings and sculptures with a special focus on Midwest and Chicago artists.

What should people consider when buying art?

Norton: There are those who buy a little Picasso squiggle for tens of thousands of dollars. Others will buy a piece of work for the same amount of money by a secondary painting of that era that’s really a great work. Strive for the best piece of work in your budget.

Klein-Bagdade: Have an idea about what you want to spend and then buy pieces by listed artists that capture the spirit of the age. In other words, don’t buy an impressionist piece that was painted in 1990. You can look at any of the paintings in this room and tell me when they were painted. You just know.

Why should people buy from galleries?

Klein-Bagdade: A good gallery should be able to provide provenance. There’s a story behind every one of these paintings, and you have to know a bit about history to work here in order to connect the dots. There are fakes out there, so you need to know that information.

Should people buy art as an investment?

Norton: An original piece of art is not some mass-market piece. It’s not a poster. It’s something that enhances everyday life. A painting has intrinsic historical value. In cultures that have experienced massive currency declines, art becomes a form of currency, because it holds its value. It’s no longer just decorative. They’re valuable and rightfully so.

You carry a range of styles from impressionist to abstract. Do people tend to gravitate to one style or another?collectingart

Klein-Bagdade: I’ve had people come in and say, I really like impressionist art, and then all of a sudden we’re pulling out modern paintings. Somebody will say, “That’s a Cubist painting? I love that!” It happens all the time. So the best way is to come in and look. Get a feel for what you like. And of course, we’re always happy to bring a piece to your house, so you can live with it.

You seem to have an appreciation for many art styles.

Klein-Bagdade: Of course I have an appreciation for all of them. They all have their unique, special qualities. Art doesn’t have to be expensive. I buy new art, old art. I buy what I like. That’s what everybody should do. It hits you right here in your heart. It’s like falling in love.

Once and for all, does art have to match the furniture?

Klein-Bagdade: No! Salon style is the way to go. If you love it, you just load up your walls. It’s just a fun thing to do. If you find a piece that you can’t live without, find a place for it. The worst thing is when people say they want a red painting of a certain size to match their couch. Go buy a poster. It should be an expression of something you love that will make your home unique.

Any final words?

Norton: Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Thanks Richard and Susan.

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