For those of you who are thinking of beginning an art collection, but not sure how to proceed, an interesting option is to “rent” art. Many museums offer this valuable service to their members. In Canada, some of these museums include the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Windsor.
It works like this: While anyone can buy the art at the Art Sales and Rental Gallery, the rental service is offered to members only. Memberships to museums usually range in price from $60.00 a year for an individual to $150.00 a year for a family. Corporate memberships are also available. Once you become a member, you can then proceed to the art sales and rental gallery. It is as simple and as relatively inexpensive (think of what going to movies costs these days) as that. Equally reasonable in price is the monthly rental fee for an art piece. The monthly fee is based on a percentage of the asking price of the work (anywhere from 3% to 10%). For example, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, a work valued at $1,600.00 can be rented for $60.00 a month. How long you can rent an art work for varies from museum to museum. At the Art Gallery of Vancouver, the minimum rental period is one month and can exceed no more than twelve months. At the Art Gallery of Ontario, the minimum rental period is three months and can exceed no more than six months. In both cases, the first three months of rental will be deducted from the sale price should you decide to purchase the work.
The selection includes prints, photography, sculpture, and painting produced by emerging and established Canadian artists. There is a wide variety of artists to choose from – the Art Gallery of Vancouver has over one thousand four hundred works available for rent while the Art Gallery of Ontario has about five hundred. Add to this a well-informed staff that is more than happy to help and answer questions. Certainly that was the case when I walked into the Art Gallery of Ontario. I was lucky enough to meet with Jennifer Bhogal, the coordinator for the Art Sales and Rental. She took the time to discuss the various artists represented. Moreover, she was able to discuss their various works with a clear and concise understanding of where they were and where they were heading.
Of particular interest to me was the photography of Toronto based photographer, Sean Galbraith. Jennifer Bhogal described him as a “fence jumper”, meaning someone who jumps over those wire fences that usually have signs reading “Keep out” and/or “Condemned Building”. Trained as an urban planner, Sean Galbraith is a self-taught photographer who shoots pictures of buildings that have outlived their use. Look at his photographs and you immediately see a commentary on the changing industrial (post-industrial?) landscape, especially in the current economic context. Another wonderful work is Denyse Thomasos’ vibrant explosive canvas entitled, Yangshuo Green.
It is quite amazing to think that one can “rent” a work of art from a thought provoking photographer like Sean Galbraith and an accomplished artist such as Denyse Thomasos. But perhaps the greatest service an art rental gallery offers to a potential buyer is the opportunity to live with a work of art. It is only by living with a work of art that you can truly understand whether or not it “speaks” to you, and while I don’t think anyone could ever tire of a Galbraith photograph or a Thomasos painting, living with art is like living with a person. Yes it may excite you upon first seeing it, and yes it may “speak” to you, but what it continues to say depends on whether or not you continue to be receptive towards it. For the beginner collector, time spent with the work is probably the best judge of whether or not the dialogue between the work and you continues or dies.