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A New Kid in Town

Swann Galleries joins the contemporary art frenzy
Judd Tully
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Spacey, Jan/Feb 02

(continued from page 2)

Seemingly unsatisfied with her initial response, Kaplan grapples with the question again. "The first order is to look at the art and see if you like it. If it turns out to be an artist you're unfamiliar with or dying to learn more about, we can help you with that. It's a multipronged experience, but in the end, what will determine a buyer's interest in an item is whether or not it appeals to them on a visual and aesthetic level."

For those interested in delving into the contemporary art field, a wealth of sources are available. Magazines such as Art & Auction, Artnews, Art in America, Artforum and Flash Art serve up gallery and museum artist reviews, features and trend pieces on current contemporary artists as well as historical figures. Artnet ( is a comprehensive Web site that not only provides a digital magazine but an exhaustive database of auction prices (by subscription) on artists from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Andy Warhol.

Contemporary art galleries are another source of information for collectors, and developing a relationship with an experienced dealer can prove invaluable. New York is still considered the international art world capital and there are virtually hundreds of contemporary art galleries from which to choose. The monthly Art Now Gallery Guide ( offers succinct listings, as do general interest magazines such as The New Yorker. For those searching for blue-chip galleries, the Art Dealers Association of America ( lists more than 100 members in New York and other prime member galleries throughout the United States. To be considered for membership, galleries must be in business for five years and "have a reputation for honesty and integrity in relations with the public, museums, artists and other dealers."

Art fairs are also excellent venues for viewing a stunning variety of art and price ranges, such as The Armory Show 2002, which will feature some 150 international contemporary art galleries at Piers 88 and 90 in New York City from Feburary 21 to 25.

Collectors planning to acquire contemporary art via the auction route can also peruse auction catalogues, which provide abundant background information about the artists along with color reproductions of works being offered for sale. The major contemporary and Post-War sales take place at Christie's; Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg; and Sotheby's twice a year in New York, in May and November, while Christie's and Sotheby's stage such major sales in London, in February and June.

Swann's initial sale wasn't as glitzy as its better known rivals', but it managed to inject a bit of flair nonetheless. A walk-through collecting seminar several days before the auction gave interested collectors "a kind of access to the material which they might not have [had] if just walking in blindly," says Kaplan.

Taking an unsolicited swipe at her stuffier uptown competitors, the specialist notes, "We're perceived as an accessible, friendly and informal house where the experts are available for questions, and we'll continue with that policy because it works well with us."


Judd Tully is the editor-at-large of Art & Auction Magazine and a frequent contributor to the London-based Antiques Trade Gazette and Masterpiece magazine.

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