Sunday, January 18, 2009

Art Space Talk: Alan Bamberger

Alan Bamberger is an art consultant, advisor, author, and independent appraiser specializing in research, appraisal, and all business and market aspects of original works of art, artist manuscript materials, art-related documents, and art reference books. He has been selling art since 1979 and rare and scholarly art reference books since 1982, and has been consulting and appraising for artists, galleries, businesses, organizations and collectors since 1985.

Bamberger has appeared live on CNN's Daywatch, KTLA's Making It (Los Angeles), and KRON-TV in San Francisco, and answered art business questions on New York City Cable TV's Project Art Show. He's been quoted in numerous media including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Great Britain's Guardian Unlimited, Marketplace (National Public Radio), the Los Angeles Times, New York Newsday, the San Francisco Chronicle, Esquire, ESPN Magazine, Real Simple, ARTnews, The Arizona Republic and Wired and has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Examiner, Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Your Money, and other publications.

Bamberger is the founder of a website that provides complete art services, art appraisals, art price data, news, articles, and market information to art collectors, artists, and fine arts professionals

Brian Sherwin: Alan, you are an art consultant, author, advisor, and independent appraiser. You specialize in appraisal, research, and the business and marketing aspects of original works of art. You also have extensive knowledge of artist manuscript materials, art-related documents, and art reference books. Can you give us a brief history of your background in this field?

Alan Bamberger: I began in the art business around 1980 selling old paintings and other original works of art. During that time, I would purchase reference books for my library. That gradually evolved into purchasing duplicate reference books and selling them to other dealers and collectors. After a while, I moved almost entirely into selling rare and hard-to-find reference books on the fine and decorative arts.

My education around art comes not only from books and catalogues, but also from artists, art gallery owners, and other fine arts professionals. During this time, I also became a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

BS: You maintain Can you give us a brief history of the site? Why did you decide to create it?

AB: My original idea for back in the late 1990s was to use it as an online portfolio of sorts-- to show samples of my writing-- in hopes of getting more writing jobs. Putting the writing samples online was easier than sending them in the mail (how writers used to query publications back in the good old days). Anyway, I realized when viewing my website statistics that quite a few people were finding the site and reading my writings, so I started putting more and more of my articles online. That's pretty much how things started.

BS: You have written about the art business since 1983. How has the art market changed in your opinion since that time? Would you say that it is easier to be successful as an artist today due to the advent of the Internet?

AB: I think the main ways the art business has changed are that knowledge is easier to come by and, more significantly, that artists can expose their work internationally with little or no effort. This is particularly advantageous for artists who do not live in major national or international art centers, but have talent. And some artists manage to get known simply by establishing online presences. This was not possible just a few short years ago.

BS: What advice do you have for artists who strive to gain exposure online? Do you have any marketing tips for artists who are focused on selling art online?

AB: A few quick tips-- price your art, have plenty of contact information, make your art easy to buy (accept credit cards, Paypal, etc), don't show a lot of sold work, show your most recent work, don't show a lot of old work (particularly if your current art is very different). I have several articles for artists online about how to approach internet selling like this one for example--

BS: What about art collectors? Do you have any general advice for art collectors concerning buying art online?

AB: Know what you're buying, know who you're buying from, don't buy big name art at online auctions like eBay unless you are an expert in whatever artists you're shopping for, make sure you can return whatever you buy if it turns out to look different than it looked online, read and get informed about what you're buying before you buy-- not after.

BS: Can you point our readers to any specific online articles that they may find of interest concerning these topics?

AB: I have plenty of articles for collectors online here-- And my book, The Art of Buying Art, covers everything collectors need to know about how to buy art. It's easy to understand and anyone who buys art can benefit from it.

BS: Giving the state of the economy… do you have any general advice for artists, gallerists, and others who are focused on the business of art?

AB: Selling art is more challenging now than it's been in quite some time. It's important for anyone selling art to demonstrate the value of that art-- not necessarily in terms of dollars, but also in terms of meaning, significance, and similar intangibles. People buy art because it enriches, beautifies, and enhances their lives. Be able to show how your art (or art that you're selling) does that. Here's an article that kind of sums it all up--

BS: Speaking of the economy, there has been some debate online concerning the potential for brick & mortar galleries embracing the internet for an alternative way of selling art. Many traditional art sellers scoffed at the idea of selling art online during the 1990s. Have you observed a change in opinion concerning this as far as gallerists are concered?

AB: Yes. The large majority of galleries have online presences. In fact, some galleries and dealers sell almost as much and sometimes even more art online than they do out of their physical galleries. An online presence is particularly beneficial to galleries that sell art by artists with national or international followings-- avid collectors scour the market for the art they collect, and the internet is one of the best ways to get a quick overview of who's selling what.

BS: Speaking of the art world in general, do you have any concerns about the art world at this time? For example, there has been a lot of debate concerning the potential of orphan works legislation being passed. What are your thoughts on that issue?

AB: I can understand both sides on this one, but I am for the legislation because of the incredible difficulties entailed in figuring who, if anybody, holds the rights to reproduce so many works of art from all nationalities and all time periods. Of course, the person reproducing these works must do due diligence in this regard before reproducing them. That must be made very clear in any such legislation-- and the penalties should be significant for those who don't.

BS: I understand that you are a member of the Association of Online Appraisers. Can you give our readers some insight into the goal of that organization?

AB: The goal of this or any appraiser organization is to educate, promote uniform standards of appraisal, and to give everyone access to professional appraisers, not only for art, but for all forms of personal property, and not only for purposes of insurance, inheritance, donation, and the like, but also for buying and selling. For example, a gallery might represent a work of art as being a bargain when in fact it is overpriced.

When you don't know that much about what you're buying, it's always a good idea to consult an appraiser first-- for a no-conflict-of-interest second opinion. Likewise, private parties who are considering selling art need professional opinions as to how much it's worth before offering it for sale.

BS: What about other organizations and projects that you are involved with. Would you like mention anything about them?

AB: My main project these days is comprehensively documenting the San Francisco art scene with exhaustive coverage of gallery shows. It not only helps artists and collectors now, but I also intend it to be an archive for the future. This May will mark the sixth anniversary of this project which I began in 2003. Over the years, I have also volunteered my time and knowledge to help several local non-profit organizations.

BS: Where can our readers purchase your books online?

AB: You can read brief chapter summaries of The Art of Buying Art here--
You can order a signed copy of the book here--

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your profession? Any closing advice for buying or selling art online?

AB: As someone who knows a lot about art and how the art business operates, I can't stress enough that when you're just starting out as a buyer (or seller), talk to professionals, educate yourself, and get second opinions as required before going ahead with purchases or putting art up for sale in the marketplace. It is simply too easy to make very expensive mistakes when you don't have that much experience.

In closing, I'd like to say that it is my great privilege and pleasure to work with as well as serve artists, dealers, collectors, and creative people everywhere. My main goals in life are to make art more accessible to everyone, and to help everyone-- buyers, sellers, and artists alike-- to do whatever it is that they want to do.... better.

You can learn more about Alan Bamberger by visiting the website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange

1 comment:

Matthew Bamberg said...

The art business is lucrative. I went to a show in Rancho Mirage over the weekend and I think the Museum of Latin American Art is going to take a piece from that exhibit to its museum.

Check out my book: