Art Collector

The Russian girl of St. Petersburg came with impeccable credentials, brought up in the art world. Her father an art history professor and she worked in a gallery after school. It perked her interest and knowledge of art.  She collected, or to be exact, scrounged up paintings by masters as a teenager.

Saturday, her day to make the rounds of shops in the Gostiniy Dvor area, she entered a gallery offering original oils. Owner busy, not much attention paid to a girl in her teens who made her way to shelves in the rear. Smaller paintings stacked in a row on the bottom shelf, an effort to stoop down and search. Not this collector, she dropped to her knees and examined each one. Her criteria, ‘love at first sight’. If so, held it up to the light, looked for a signature, she recognized most, if not, had a list of Russian artists.

An hour of retrieving and replacing, she found a striking oil. Sun streaking through a birch grove, loved it. Signature, Arkhip Kuindzhi,  a St. Petersburg artist, who won the bronze in London in 1874. A small sable brush in her coat pocket revealed a date, 1879, knew he died in the early 1900’s. All his paintings thereafter have been in demand. Years to come his work was sure to launch lucrative bidding wars. Until then she would hang the gold framed oil in her room, enjoy the scene, delighted to know it once hung in a palace.

Now the challenge, purchase the vintage landscape for an affordable price without alienating the proprietor. She may need to deal with him in the future. Ears alert where she worked, heard many art sales negotiated, developed her own approach. “Sir, may I ask if you would sell the frame only on this painting?” She knew from experience galleries never did.

“I would prefer not to young lady.”

“I’m unable to afford the entire painting at the list price. Could you sell it to me for less?” She hoped he didn’t ask, “Make me an offer.” Insulting, the price she hoped to buy it for, next to nothing. Better to have a long back and forth downward price battle.

He said, “I’ll cut it in half.”

She looked elated, “That is so nice of you, but sadly it’s still too much.

“I’ll cut another half off.” She fumbled in her purse.

“How much can you pay” She gave him a figure, another half off, stole the painting.

On the way out she said, “You are so kind. I look forward to buying more of your paintings in the future.”

He said, “I hope not too many.”