The objects of everyday life, folk art, are the carved and decorated objects (weathervanes, whirligigs, and paintings) often made outside of urban areas by itinerant or self-taught artists and craftspeople. These naive and sometimes primitive objects are often colorful, highly individual and whimsical interpretations of utilitarian or decorative forms. A simple box can be transformed by colorful paint or wind-driven whirligigs can be fashioned in endless variation. Examples of 19th century folk art can command stellar prices; if you love the form but prices are beyond your budget, look to collecting late-20th-century American folk art by sculptors and artisans working in the Americana tradition.
Following these steps can be help guide in growing or starting your collection:
1. Contemporary vs. Reproduction. Look for artists working from the late 20th century to today that are inspired by antique folk art carvings of the 19th century, not copies of earlier works. Get familiar with antique examples and try and avoid pieces made to appear older than they are.
2. Learn about the artists. Many works are signed. Do your research online and ask questions of the auction specialists. Works ascribed to an artisan or craftsperson may increase in value over time based on the career success of the maker, or at the very least be included in online databases.
3. Buy the best you can afford. Late 20th century works should be in great condition without restoration, losses or wear. Forming a collection isn’t a race. Focus and take your time to find gems. Trust your instincts and the knowledge you’ve gained about the artists and current market.
4. Buy what you love. Pick items that speak to you and that you will enjoy living with. While the value of collections can go up over time, you will be surrounded by your collection.
Our November 17 Country Americana auction offers several lots of contemporary folk art, highlights include Lots 4, 39 and 407.