A few years back, a woman approached me at my stand at an antiques fair and presented a woodblock print for my consideration. I was dealing predominantly in Japanese ceramics by that time, but she'd been redirected to me by a dealer who remembered I'd once sold Japanese prints. The print, a Meiji restrike of an Utamaro design, was charming, with colouring mellowed by the passage of time and a background of softly shimmering mica. The valuation of tens of thousands of pounds which had been expected was not forthcoming, and the resulting disappointment was entirely evident. The wonderful design lost all of its appeal for its owner. It saddened me.
I'm a realist. I know that prints have to be valued for insurance purposes, etc. But what grieves me is the apparent lack of interest in artistic value amongst so many who collect works of art. A thing of beauty is reduced to a figure in pounds and pence, and the work which went into creating it is overlooked; it's beauty remarked upon but of only secondary importance. I can value Japanese woodblock prints, but I choose not to. Their unique beauty, the subjects depicted, and the era within which they were created is of the utmost interest to me... their monetary value is not.
I am often asked to suggest particular artists or designs which will prove to be a sound financial investment for the future, and I try to explain that I am neither capable of presenting a magic formula that will guarantee a good return nor interested in doing so. The only way to avoid disappointment is to buy what brings you pleasure. If a design inspires you then buy it, if you are captivated by its beauty then buy it... if a purchase hangs on an assessment of the price tag and the likelihood that the figure recorded on it will double in twelve months time, then don't buy it.
The woman with the Meiji Utamaro came back to my stand at the closing of that fair. She didn't want to take the print home and offered it for sale. I bought it, and I still have it now. She visited me again when I returned to that venue, reminiscing about the days before our first meeting, when she had been the proud owner of a valuable Utamaro... which turned out not to be. She missed those days. She didn't miss the print.
Buy what you love. Buy what you would miss if it were gone.
Causes Gina Collia-Suzuki Supports
The World Wildlife Fund
Cancer Research UK