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The Menu: Reserved Collection

ht1396[2]Though we firmly feel that each and every piece of Haitian metal sculpture we carry at Beyond Borders is a wonderful piece of folk art, we have to admit a solid truth:  Some pieces are wonderful, and some are remarkable. Those listed in our “Reserved Collection” section are those we consider to be the latter.  Many of our sculptures are purchased as decorative pieces; that is they are works of handmade folk art that are destined to be used to embellish a space. They are fun, attractive, and have popular appeal – all well and good.  Those sculptures in our “Reserved Collection” are works of higher ambition.  They represent what we believe to be the finest of the art form.  These are the pieces that serious collectors seek.

So what makes them special?  True folk art, according to the venerable Art Institute of Chicago, “is that which represents a unique mixture of vernacular aesthetics, personal expression, popular demand, historical fascination, memory, sentiment and patriotism.” The pieces in the “Reserved Collection” meet those criteria quite succinctly.  They capture in metal sculpture the spirit of Haiti; its voodoo, its slave heritage, its island geography, its freedom, raw edges, weirdness, elegance and pride. The conveyance of these characteristics is what anchors Haitian metal folk art to value and staying power, long after the currents of decorative fashion have shifted their course.

Take for example this sculpture by Michee Ramil Remy.  (HT1396) Its rough-cut execution mirrors the farmer and his rough-cut life.  Scratching a living out of the soil, wresting his subsistence from the land as do nearly half of his countrymen today. The scene also harkens back to the history of Haiti as French colony, the sugar plantations being hewn under the tropical sun by the backbreaking labors of its slave population. The faces of the farmer and his daughter are enigmatic.  Perhaps in them is the reflected the values of a working family and the satisfaction of a verdant, bountiful harvest, along with the sad acknowledgement that life is still very physical, and very hard. In his distinctive primitive style, Michee hammers out the essence of that existence.

You will very quickly notice, when viewing the Reserved Collection, that none of the pieces are priced.   In fact, items within that category are not currently available for sale.  Of course, you can always inquire as to whether the status of a particular piece could change, and perhaps you should, if you really, REALLY love it and want to know.  If nobody asks the question, there isn’t anybody to say yes to….

A Hedonist’s Guide to Art Acquisition

This is just my opinion, mind you, and maybe it’s really just me.  But I think art acquisition ranks right up there with food and sex in terms of hedonistic drives. Anybody else?  So why is that?  What triggers that first impulse to buy art?  And then what makes us feel compelled to buy more?  When does the act of purchasing a single piece of art become a full-on libertine pursuit? And if we are so driven, how do we pursue it as gourmands, and not gluttons?

Perhaps the first and most important consideration regarding the purchase of any artwork for collection is its overall aesthetic appeal. The “experts” say that, “A piece of high-caliber art will harmoniously orchestrate the aesthetic qualities of line, tone, color, shape, space, texture, etc. These elements will work in synchrony to maximize the descriptive, emotive, and spiritual effect upon the viewer. Hence, the piece becomes a visual symphony that informs, challenges, and engages the viewer long after the initial response.” And what, in blue blazes does that mean?  Taken down to their most basic form, these criteria are the heart of any decision for purchase.  Simply put: “Do I like it?  Is it pleasing to me?” If the answer is yes, the piece has potential.

One of a kind piece by Michee Ramil Remy. Over his lifetime, Michee produced a large body of work, receiving numerous awards and international accolades. His style is instantly recognizeable, uniquely primative and somewhat edgy.

Evaluating the technical aspects: i.e. the “line and tone” and “harmonious orchestration” of the piece takes a little homework, though you’ll get better as you go along. Talk to people who know the art.  Let them help you develop your eye for “line and tone” and so on.  Casey Riddell comes to mind for Haitian metal sculpture.  This is her business website, to be sure, but take advantage of her wealth of knowledge, if Haitian art is what you’re into. Good, reputable art dealers – and Casey is one of them – is happy to inform and instruct prospective collectors in evaluating the merits of a particular piece.  They can help you “see what you’re looking at,” so to speak.

By all means, visit art galleries and museums, too. Join art societies and mingle with other collectors and experts in your area of interest. (The Haitian Art Society might be one for you.  www.haitianartsociety.com) Check out books and other references, explore every avenue open to you. The more you learn and develop your eye, the better you will become in assessing aesthetic components and their relation to the whole.  When you become familiar with the best examples of a particular type of art, you’ll know how your potential acquisition stacks up.

The corollary to this is: Buy the finest artwork that you can afford.  Let’s break that down.  “Buy the finest…” Certainly! Buying something that is “pretty good” that you “kind of like” won’t give you pleasure in the long run.  You’ll end up wishing you hadn’t settled and the piece will not take its place amongst your treasured collection, it will end up in a garage sale. The second part, “…that you can afford,” is good common sense.  Don’t break the bank.   Not even if you are tempted.   That won’t give you pleasure in the long run either.

And we are back to the original idea.  Do you like it?  Does it give you pleasure? For that is the joy of collecting; to look at your pieces, remembering the where and the when, the knowledge gained, deal struck, and the thrill of the hunt.  Oh yes, there can be more to it than pleasure.  Much more.  But that is where it starts.

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