Washington Color Gallery was founded in 2017 by Micah Salb. Micah is an attorney whose practice includes the representation of artists, galleries, and collectors.
Micah is joined by Douglas Lachance. Doug works in the field of painting conservation for a major DC museum.
Washington Color Gallery was first created to highlight the work of some of Micah’s clients and has since grown to present the work of DC-area artists and great print-makers world-wide.
Art is found everywhere.
Good art is harder to find.
What makes art “good”?
We do not have the answer, but we can share some ideas about it.
First and foremost, we believe that art can be truly great and at the same time completely undesirable, ugly, offensive, unwanted. We reject the notion that art is “good” if the viewer likes it and “not good” if the viewer doesn’t like it. Consider Michael Biddle’s Victims portfolio; those images are definitely not for everyone but they are great art. Thus, it is important to distinguish between “well, it doesn’t ring my bell” and “it is not good”—they are not the same. Art can be great even if you don’t want it to hang on your wall.
Fortunately, there is lots of art in the world and you should be able to find art that both rings your bell and is truly good.
In our view, to be good, art must meet three fundamental requirements. First, it must be technically good. Artists who do not have mastery of their artform are unable to create good art. Might they be able to create a work that is compelling, interesting, or attractive? Of course. But lucking into good is not the same as creating good.
Second, for art to be good it must reflect originality. The artist must be creating—an idea, a feeling, a new way of looking. The painter who replicates work by others might be a craftsman but he is not an artist. The printmaker who creates a variation on another printmaker’s work is not creating good art, though she may be an exceptionally talented printmaker. Originality can be exceptionally difficult to discern, and it is sometimes hard to distinguish between echoing work by another and using work by another as a jumping-off point.
Third, truly good art has context. What makes Stella an extraordinary artist? Is it his technical prowess, his facility with color, his pretty pictures? Perhaps all of those, yes, but perhaps more importantly it is his voice, his opinion that it is enough for an image to be interesting or attractive for it to be “art”. Stella’s place as a major figure in the journey from figurative to abstraction—indeed, his place in the invention of pure abstraction as opposed to the abstracting of a thing or an idea—is what made him a great artist.
What do you think makes good art?
And does it matter? If you like it, hang it!
The Role of Value in Shopping for Art
Finally, consider value. Many decorators, shoppers, and collectors buy without regard to value. Whether that is right or wrong is not for us to say. But our viewpoint is that there is enough extraordinary art in the world that there is little reason to disregard value.
“Value” in the context of art is a difficult thing—as are most aspects of figuring out art. Art sold on the primary market (that is, the first time the work is sold, whether direct from the artist or through a gallery) must be priced high enough to provide a fair return to the artist. Art sold on the secondary market must be priced high enough to sustain the marketplace. Art sellers in the secondary market have very substantial expenses, most notably acquisition, storage, and caring for the inventory. Thus, art in the secondary marketplace is rarely “cheap”.
But cheap and value are not the same thing. Value means that the economic worth of the work is likely to persist. Bear in mind that art values are rarely stable. Something that is fabulously expensive today may have little economic value in ten years. Something that is inexpensive today might be astonishingly expensive in ten years. But within this wild arena are areas of relative calm. Whether the work is be acknowledged masters or has a strong sales history, there are numerous indicators of value. Ask us; we will be happy to help.