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Sofas Come and Go... Art Is Forever

12/27/2010 03:06 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

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It's given that the subject of buying and collecting art is endless, but one has to start somewhere. For those smitten with art, the only question more loaded than "to be or not to be?" is probably "to buy or not to buy?" Though I'm not qualified to discuss the former, I do have quite a bit of experience with the latter.

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Dorothy and Herbert Vogel at home with their Art Collection

Buying a work of art should be like falling under the spell of a charismatic new friend with whom you've created a strong connection. If the attraction is real it will fit into your life... and into your living room. When you're intrigued, even smitten with an artwork, but are uncertain whether it will match your furniture - here's my pearl of wisdom: sofas come and go but art is forever. What would you prefer your children say when they grow up? That they inherited a great painting, or a nice sofa?

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The Vogels at an exhibition of their art collection

There can be dozens of reasons behind the decision to buy let's say a painting: a genuine attraction, a desire to impress friends or a classic urge to keep up with the Joneses. But never mind the reasons behind your first purchase. A long journey begins with short, tentative steps that shouldn't be judged too harshly. (Unless your first purchase is a print by Thomas Kinkade, self-proclaimed 'Master of Light', in which case you need more help than I can offer in this talk.)

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Dorothy Vogel with a painting from their collection

If you dream of hitting the jackpot by finding a Van Gogh at the nearest garage sale, please - don't waste your time. But if you're attracted to the work of an artist who lives in your city, go and see him or her in their studio. Artists, especially young ones, love when people express interest in what they do. During your visit there is no need to be shy about asking for prices but, for heaven's sake, don't bargain. At least not on the first encounter.

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The late writer, Michael Crichton with images of work from his art collection

Never buy on impulse or under pressure. Instead, spend some time visualizing the object of your desire displayed in different parts of your home. Try to imagine its impact on the space and see if it adds some good energy to the room. In a few days, go back to the gallery or artists studio to see if you like this work of art as much, or even more than before. When the painting or sculpture is less appealing on the second visit, it's not a good sign.

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Michael Crichton's home with art from his collection

If anyone, especially a dealer, tries to talk you into buying because it's a 'good investment', don't just walk away - run, because, as they say in Hollywood "no one knows nothing." The only consideration should be how much joy and pleasure the artwork brings into your life. Spending money on a painting or photograph you fell in love with is reasonable, but buying an artwork only because someone told you it's a good investment is senseless. If a purchase doesn't live up to your financial expectations, you will end up feeling cheated.

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Another room in Michael Crichton's home with works from his collection

So, ladies and gentlemen, these are the most basic rules for avoiding mistakes when buying your first works of art. But what do you do when an artwork is brought home? Where and how do you hang it? How do you take care of it? What can endanger or even destroy it? Depending on your response to this particular program, I may return to the subject of various aspects of art collecting in future posts.

To learn more about Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, watch the documentary Herb & Dorothy, a film by Megumi Sasaki.

To read about the sale of Michael Crichton's collection at Christie's got to Art Talk at KCRW.