Learning to Collect: The Attributes of Art and an Inefficient Market

Denari David Dike Texas Art Auction Dallas

It wasn’t Texas art that brought Edward Denari to begin a collection. That credit goes to a work by John Singer Sargent and a docent at the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington D.C. It wasn’t early Texas art that he bought when he began that collection, but a work by tonalist master Birge Harrison.

But Texas art is where it lead.

Denari, at 91 years of age, was a guest speaker at the recent Texas Art Auction by David Dike fine art in Dallas. The one-time gallery-owner in Fort Worth spoke of his lifelong passion for collecting.

When he returned home from Washington and the insightful tour, Denari told his wife he wanted a collection. The collecting began with some guidance from dealer Joseph Sartor. According to Denari, Sartor started by explaining the need to learn to distinguish good art from bad art. Those attributes are comprised of quality, beauty and strength. The value of good art is determined by assessing three dimensions, aesthetic value, historical value and market value.

With that in mind, and a seascape by Birge Harrison in hand, he became convinced. There was one problem, he didn’t have the $800 needed for purchase. Sartor however let Denari take it home for just $35. When he asked why, Sartor told him because of the giant itch it would create.

The desire for more was created, and he went on to buy works by Robert Wood, architect Harwood K. Smith, Frank Reaugh, Blanch McVeigh and even James McNeill Whistler.

The halls were full at David Dike's Texas Art Auction

Much of it was bought below market value, and most of it has likely appreciated. It wouldn’t be the last time experts and collectors have passed over something later prized. A bit of knowledge and a quick informed assessment has often been used to compete with deep pockets. Value can go unrecognized.

“The art market can be inefficient,” Denari said comparing it to stocks. “I’ve never found a share of Wal-Mart in an antique shop.”

Despite some works surpassing high estimates in the auction, undoubtedly a few bargain purchases were also made. Denari’s words are certainly encouraging to both beginning and established collectors of Texas art and beyond.

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