Jake Biddington's Investing
Art Evaluation Chart

Evaluating Quality in Contemporary Art

Rules of Thumb--those pithy sound-bites of distilled experience--are useful decision-making tools:

Buy the rumor, sell the fact.
Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.
Can't decide whether to stay with a woman? Look at her mother.

In the complex world of contemporary art, such succinct words of wisdom are scarce. Objectively judging the art of ones own time is difficult, but deciding where hype ends and art begins is key to making a satisfying, intelligent art acquisition.

Happily, the extended Biddington's family includes people who not only make art, but who also think about the role and value of art in culture. An artist whose perspective I especially appreciate once suggested to me three simple rules for discerning whether or not an artwork has what it takes to stand the test of time. When you are considering a work of art and can't quite make a judgment about it, try using this PPP Test as a decision screen.

Contemporary Art Test

A work of art must balance three elements :

PAST--Does it understand the past?
PRESENT--Does it elucidate the present?
PERSONAL--Does it reflect a personal vision?


  • An artwork too involved in the past tends to be derivative and insipidly decorative. Whatever the genre, it is not art but just a pretty picture.
  • An artwork ignorant of visual history tends to be naive in concept and/or realization. Amusing and childlike, this kind of art fails to make use of thousands of years of artistic creation. Idiot savantes are as rare in art as they are elsewhere; not learning from the past is simply stupid.

  • present

  • An artwork too much of its time is immediately attractive but doesn't age well. Lacking a universal aspect that fine art embodies, its destiny is time-capsule nostalgia. Several over-hyped contemporary artists leap to mind for embodying this flaw.
  • An artwork that does not vibrate with its time fails one of the primary missions of art:  to be a predictive and interpretive tool of the culture. From Michelangelo, to Vermeer, to Picasso, to Warhol--all of these great artists resonated like tuning forks with the world around them.

  • past

  • An artwork too autobiographical becomes "dear diary". While paintings by the very self-involved or the insane may be vivid and telling, the chronicle of a personal pathology is not art.
  • An artwork with too little personal imprint lacks originality and vision. This failing deprives the viewer of one of the primary joys of art: to leave personal limitations behind and experience the world through anothers inciteful, imaginative eyes.

  • Next time you walk into a gallery and can't quite connect with the art, try testing for its PAST  PRESENT  PERSONAL balance. Odds are that using these filters, you'll get a feel for the substance, intent and quality of the artwork a lot more quickly than usual.

    Jake Biddington's Collecting Series:
    What's It Worth? Appraisals and Valuations
    Investment Grade Contemporary Art
    MORE Jake on Investing in Tangibles:
    PPP Test: Judging Quality in Contemporary Art
    Art, Time and Technology
    American vs. European Paintings
    Jake Biddington's Art as Entertainment
    Jake Biddington's Vetted Antiques & Art Shows
    Jake Biddington's Patent Numbers as a Dating Tool
    Jake Biddington's Hard Assets as Portfolio Diversification
    Jake Biddington's Buying Fine Jewelry at Auction
    Jake Biddington's Long Term Investing
    Jake Biddington's Short-Term Investing
    Jake Biddington's The Craft of Art

    Jake Biddington's BENTLEY Connoisseurs' Travel Series:
    Restaurant Guide to Buenos Aires--2006
    Tigre, Argentina--Day Trip from Buenos Aires
    San Antonio de Areco, Argentina--Weekend Trip from Buenos Aires
    Touring Santiago & Valparaiso, Chile
    New Haven, Connecticut
    Visiting New York City 2006
    Art Tourism New York City 2005: Christo's Gates
    Art Museums & Neighborhoods in Buenos Aires
    Art and Touring along Italy's Amalfi Coast
    Art Museums & Restaurants in Amsterdam
    Cultural Touring along Spain's Costa del Sol
    Art Touring in Lisbon
    Art Touring in Milan
    Art Touring in Antwerp
    Art Touring in Barcelona
    I-80 Park City to New York City Art & Antiques
    Art Tourism New York City 2003 (Archive)
    Art Tourism New York City 2002 (Archive)
    Art & Wine in the Finger Lakes of New York State
    Art & Antiques in Hudson, New York (Columbia County)
    Art & Restaurants in Rome 2002 Update
    Hartford & Wilton, Connecticut
    San Francisco Jackson Square
    New Hampshire Route 1A
    Morris County, New Jersey

    Contact Jake


    Jake Biddington works on The Street and is responsible for the opinions & information in INVESTING. Young Jake, as he is known within the virtual BIDDINGTON clan, views tangibles such as fine art, antiques and jewelry as stores of value as viable as stocks or foreign currencies. He sees these items as another asset class in which to place one's money. To that end he keeps price histories and charting information on various categories of objects. He views some items as long term investments, others as items for a quick trade--and he even sees some as short sales.

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