13 Essential Rules Of Collecting Original Art

In a quarter century of writing about wildlife and sporting art, I’ve visited many of the greatest art galleries in the world. And I’ve written stories about hundreds of artists.

I know few gallery owners who are as hard working and devoted to serving collectors and artists as Ross Parker, founder of Call of Africa’s Native Visions Galleries in Fort Lauderdale and Naples, Florida.

In the early 1990s, I met Parker during a safari to Zimbabwe when we accompanied painter Craig Bone to the banks of the Zambezi River around Mana Pools National Park. It was a harrowing adventure during which we walked on foot among wild lions, leopards, elephants, Cape buffaloes and wildebeests.

Bone, like Parker a native of the former Rhodesia, then was on his ascendency as an artist on the verge of capturing attention in North America. Soon he would make a name for himself. Ross Parker was the gallery representative who provided a crucial introduction to the Safari Club International members.

“Lord of the Savannah” by Jaco Van Schalkwk

Although I make a special effort to visit Parker’s galleries in Florida whenever possible, a real treat is stopping by his booth at SCI because each year it’s like walking through a museum show focused on the finest quality African art of the 21st Century. From elephants and Cape buffaloes to cheetahs, leopards, lions and rhinos, you see the spirit of those animals glowing in works by David Langmead, Jaco Van Schalkwyk, Kim Donaldson, John Seerey-Lester, Peter Gray, Margaret Gradwell, James Stroud, Loet Vanderveen, Mopho Gonde and James Tandi. These artists have looked into the eyes of the beast.

Parker’s keenest talent is his ability to recognize raw creative potential early in an artist’s career and then to nurture it. The advantage for the artist is that one gets a marketing tour de force working on his/her behalf, but it also plays favorably for collectors, especially those who are given a buying opportunity before fame results in rising prices.

“Elephant Scar on the Baobab” by John Banovich

Parker has a list of things he tells all collectors.

Rule Number One: Buy what you can afford, especially when you are a young or inexperienced collector looking to acquire your first piece. “I am constantly on a quest to find outstanding up and coming artists who are at the start of their careers and who don’t yet command larger prices warranted by established masters who produce only a few works per year,” Parker said. “We try to offer a variety of works and a price point for every kind of collector.”

Rule Number Two: Foremost, buy what you love. Buy art that you want to live with, and only break Rule Number One – buy what you can – if an opportunity to acquire a special piece presents itself and may never happen again. “Collecting art is a bit like falling in love,” Parker said. “You know it when you feel it and never know when you’re going to experience the sensation of love at first sight.”

Rule Number Three: When you can – buy an original. “Over the years we’ve offered high-quality, limited edition prints for collectors who can’t afford major works,” Parker said. But if given the choice between a print and an original work, I always recommend the latter. It’s profoundly satisfying knowing you own something that is one of a kind.”

“Seat of Power” by David Langmead

Rule Number Four: Do research – ask questions. Find out more about the artist. “Buying a piece of art should be approached no differently than searching for a fine rifle or shotgun or finding the perfect outfitter who will deliver the hunt of a lifetime,” Parker said. “The only difference is that art has added emotional value and is often a conversation piece in your home.” He encourages collectors to delve into the backgrounds and training of artists, get auction or sales records and discover whether they have won awards and accolades from peers and art critics. “Buying art isn’t like purchasing a used car,” he said. “The more informed a collector is, the better.”

Rule Number Five: Educate yourself on the gallery. Ask how long it has been in business and get references from other collectors. “Like it or not, longevity in the art world is worth something. These are tough times for galleries. You want your relationship with the gallery to last and you want to deal with a proprietor who has a proven track record,” Parker said. “Since 1986, when I founded our galleries, we’ve served a few generations of clients, and we’re proud to say that we’ve been associated with SCI from the first day we opened.”

Rule Number Six: If you can, visit the gallery. “In this day and age, many galleries have gone virtual,” Parker said. “I’m not ashamed to say that I’m old fashioned. I believe in offering a physical space where collectors can see art with their own eyes and not only over the Internet.” Call of Africa’s Native Visions Galleries, besides the portable exhibition that it brings to SCI, has two physical spaces along the trendiest streets in Fort Lauderdale and Naples, Florida. “Whenever I can, I like to meet our customers and get to know them on a first name basis,” Parker said. “We regularly have shows in which we bring our artists over from Africa and invite collectors to hear them talk about their work.”

Rule Number Seven: Inquire about what services a gallery offers. “At Call of Africa’s Native Visions, we offer a range of options for people at all stages of collecting. We ship anywhere in the world. We can help our clients hang pieces in their homes and identify proper lighting techniques to showcase the work. We can help them get the work properly insured through Lloyds of London, and if they’re building a new home or office, we can store the work in a temperature-controlled environment until the building is completed. We also offer custom framing and, of course, if a collector becomes a devotee of a certain artist, we alert them whenever new works are available fresh out of their studio.”

Rule Number Eight: Be a patron to galleries that treat you with respect. “I don’t know how many times I’ve walked into other galleries and encountered rudeness from employees. All they wanted to do was make a sale,” Parker said. “Buying art is an important decision whether you’re doing it for the first time or adding to your collection. Clients deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, not like buffoons who feel like they’re being condescended to. No question is too stupid to ask. All questions are smart questions.”

“Agriculture Land” by Margaret Gradwell

Rule Number Nine: Buy art for the people you love in your life. “I have several clients who go on safari to Africa every year. Their wives aren’t interested in hunting nor do they want a huge animal head on the wall. But they do love art,” Parker said. “Wildlife art, for them, becomes a focal point where the husband gets a visual reminder of the animals he pursues and the wife has a piece of fine art to help decorate the home. Collecting is a passion they share. Sometimes, it’s the wife who is the hunter and the husband who wants the art!”

Rule Number Ten: Use art to pay forward your values. “It matters to me knowing that the establishments with whom I do business give back to their communities or to causes that I believe in,” Parker said. “As a lifelong hunter and fisherman, I like to support groups that conserve wildlife habitat and are committed to our Second Amendment right to bear arms. That’s why I like sharing a percentage of sales with SCI and support projects like Campfire in Zimbabwe and wildlife rehabilitation centers for animals injured in war-torn countries,” Parker said. “Being a military veteran, I also support the Wounded Warrior program that helps United States soldiers get the medical attention they need when they come home and tries to get them outdoors where they can enjoy the peace of nature after going through unspeakable trauma on the battlefield.”

Rule Number Eleven: You can’t take it with you but you can leave something meaningful and personal behind. “Art reminds us of the people who matter in our lives. You’d be surprised how attached families get to art on the walls. It evokes profound feelings of nostalgia,” Parker said. “Art becomes part of the backdrop for living. Kids and grandkids consider it an honor to inherit a painting or sculpture that gave their elders great joy. It is part of family heritage.”

Rule Number Twelve: Revisit Rules Number One and Two. Then remember that great art speaks to the heart. “I still get spellbound by art. It stops me dead in my tracks,” Parker said. “The art in my own home is there when I get up in the morning, when I come home, and I pass by it when I head to bed at night. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Rule Number Thirteen: From adversity comes opportunity: “Every successful businessperson I know recognizes that some of the most meaningful opportunities emerge from challenging times,” Parker said. “Art isn’t an extravagance. It’s an investment that feeds the soul.” Collectors today are benefitting from a buyers’ market in fine art, he said. “There are some incredible opportunities to own art that did not exist a few years ago,” he explained. “Fortunately, for the artists we represent, all of them are producing the best works of their lives.”–Todd Wilkinson



SCI Meets With Namibia Minister Of Environment & Tourism

The SCI 2012 International Legislator of the Year Award recipient, Honourable Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Minister of Environment and Tourism of the Republic of Namibia, met with representatives of SCI in her Ministry’s new building complex in Windhoek. Most important topics were the joint efforts in preparation of the CITES-CoP in Bangkok in March of 2013, of all pro-wise-use-partners in conservation.

Shown from left to right are: Almut Kronsbein, CEO NAPHA; George Pangeti, SCI Counsel; Honourable Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Norbert Ullmann, SCI IADC Chair; Louisa Mpetami, Director Scientific Services NAM MET.


Driven Game In Poland

Don Heath of Norma Ammo shows a wild boar he took on the hunt in Poland, using a Dumoulin Mauser rifle in 9.3x62mm with lighted reticle Leupold scope.

Safari Club International is all about hunting internationally. One truly powerful aspect of hunting internationally is that members get to meet fellow hunters from around the world and celebrate the activities and ethics that have made our fraternity so incredibly durable over time – literally since the beginning of human time.

The SCI Convention has become The Ultimate Hunters’ Market each year because it is THE quintessential rendezvous of hunters from around the world – a one-stop shop for anything related to hunting on earth. But beyond the commercial element is the social setting that provides an ability for friends, old and new, to get together and talk about past and future hunts, both local and in far-off lands.

In a rather circuitous manner, it was the SCI Convention that triggered events leading to the author going to Poland for what was a supremely enjoyable experience that proved to be far, far beyond just another hunt. But back to the beginning.

I was minding my own business at SCI HQ a little more than a year ago when I received a call from Ron Petty, who spent decades in the shooting sports industry before going into semi-retirement some time ago. I had only known him for 30 years or so personally.

Ron is anything but bashful, so quickly he explained that he was working with Norma Ammunition, and that the company was interested in increasing its presence, both in the United States in general, as well as at the SCI Convention and among SCI members specifically. The thought was that the SCI Convention is a significant place for them to be for many reasons, not the least of which is that SCI members hunt a lot, all over the place. Although he didn’t say it in so many words, SCI members also serve as thought leaders among the greater hunting community in that others mimic their choices in their respective spheres of activity.

Transportation from one hunting drive to another was provided by robust 4×4 vehicle.

During discussions about marketing strategies, Ron mentioned that it would be nice if one of the writers for SAFARI Magazine could join Norma on a hunt in Poland for wild boar and other species. Details could be discussed at the then-upcoming National Rifle Association annual meetings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

At an impromptu meeting there, I first met Jorgen Sandstrom, Norma’s marketing manager. When the dust settled, it was decided, among other things, that we’d see if one of the frequent contributing writers for this magazine could attend the hunt that was scheduled for the following October.

hunting-in-Poland-2-102512One thing led to another, and it came to be that I found myself on a jet plane en route from Tucson, Arizona, to Berlin, Germany, and then in a minivan from Berlin to a hunting lodge near Drawno, Poland. I had not been in Berlin since 1967 or ‘68 when I was in the Army, and wow, what a change!

With what is effectively an open border, we blew from Germany into Poland at highway speed and were in the 19th Century lodge in rural Poland shortly after dark.

It was to be a driven game hunt, with target species being wild boar and females of various species, including red deer and roe deer. Small game animals like fox also were open if spotted.

Lunch breaks each day of the hunt meant pigging out on great chow while discussing matters of the day around a warm fire.

The drives were typical for that form of hunt: Hunters were positioned a hundred yards or so apart around a rather square “drive” area, looking into the drive. Once all were in position, the hunting horn of the gamekeeper signaled a dozen or so “drivers” to begin sweeping through the area of the drive, making a lot of noise in the process.

hunting-in-Poland-4-102512The concept is to flush the animals from the forest and to, or past, the hunters. Definitely these kinds of hunts are extremely well organized and operated under strict rules as safety measures. Typically, there were 10 to 12 separate drives per day.

On many drives, the forest was so thick, looking into the drive, that there would be no shots that direction under any circumstances – too thick to see anything. So, this meant that when an animal or animals came busting out of the bush, the hunter had to identify the animal and, if it was open for shooting, get onto it, swing the rifle and then make the shot – often within a distance of but a few yards until the animal again disappeared into the thickness of the forest beyond the hunt.

Hunting horns blare taps for each species, honoring both the animals and the hunt.

I never had hunted this way often (one of the more enjoyable such hunts years ago was in Finland for moose), but I must admit that it is really fun. In fact, it can be addicting. From a game management perspective, this form of hunting also serves an important purpose in that it enables effective herd balance.

Shooting animals that have their afterburners at full blast and are only exposed for a brief moment calls for specific rifle rigs and shooting tactics.

Yann Richard, with Le Chasseur Francais magazine of France, used a Blaser R93 rifle in .270 WSM expertly, and explained the trick – use a quick sight and as soon as the rifle is on-target, loose the shot.

It is kind of like using a shotgunning technique on larger game with a rifle. For this, low-powered scopes or simple red dot sights work best. Yann had both a red dot sight and a telescopic sight for his Blaser, and used the red dot for most drives, but opted for the scope on the few occasions when longer shots were possible.

This particular hunt primarily involved hunters from France, who represented various elements of the shooting sports industry in that country. Of the nine on the hunt, five were from France. Others were the author and Josh Dahlke, with North American Hunter magazine, and hosts Jorgen Sandstrom and Don Heath from Norma Ammo.

Norma’s Jorgen Sandstrom was dubbed King of the Hunt following the first day.

Dahlke and Heath variously used a Krieghoff double rifle in .375 H&H Flanged and a Dumoulin Mauser in 9.3x62mm, while Sandstrom used a Tikka rifle in 9.3×62. The author used a Tikka rifle in .308 Winchester.

Thierry Daguenet of RUAG Ammotec France and son, Simon, used an RWS rifle in .270 WSM. Daguenet had made arrangements for the hunt via Chassorbis, a hunting agency that has been organizing hunts in Poland for more than 30 years, and which has access to more than 750,000 acres and permits for 5,000 animals per year.

Francois-Xavier Allonneau, editor-in-chief of Connaissance de la Chasse magazine, used a Mauser 66 in 7x64mm; Jean-Paul Houtmann, president of UNIFRANCE Armuriers, used a Beretta over/under rifle in 9.3x74R; and Philippe Viboud, with La Revue Nationale de la Chasse magazine, used a Blaser R93 in 9.3×62.

By the time that the dust settled on the three-day hunt, the tally was 43 animals for the nine-member hunt party. As one would expect, the Norma ammo used by all worked superbly.

Yann Richard, not only King of the Hunt on the second day, but most successful hunter of the bunch, is shown during one of the honors ceremonies.

Each evening following the hunt, there were the formal ceremonies honoring the animals taken during the hunt. This involves careful placement in rows by species of the animals on a bed of pine boughs, with a small fire on each corner of the layout square.

Hunting horns then blare taps for each species, honoring both the animals and the hunt. Part of the ceremony each evening was designation of the King of the Hunt for that day.

Following the first day, Sandstrom was dubbed King, and the second day it was Richard. The author received the honors following the third and final day of the hunt.

But the expedition was so very much more than simply shooting and ceremony. It was a gathering of hunters who also enjoy the attendant activities to the hunt itself – camaraderie being paramount.

What a great group of guys! The French contingent really knew how to hunt hard and effectively, and then revel in the post-hunt feasting and socializing back at the lodge in the evening. As international hunters have known all along, the common elements of our passions and commitments as hunters quickly overpower any impediments that language or other differences might otherwise create.

This phenomenon is most noticeable among hunters from Europe, and is a trait that should be embraced by all hunters around the world. What we do has been done since

Author Steve Comus, right, is administered a hunting oath by head gamekeeper Benedykt Bilski as part of ceremonies that honored Comus as King of the Hunt following the third and final day.

the beginning of humanity, and celebrating the ethic of the hunt with congenial gatherings is as much a part of the larger picture as is the actual act of hunting itself.

And it all happened in a clean, comfortable hunting lodge in northwestern Poland – a basically pastoral area with vast spans of forest comprised predominantly of pine, poplar and birch. It is remindful of parts of Michigan and Minnesota in the United States, or Ontario and Quebec in Canada.--Steve Comus

Lusitania On TV

The activities of the SCI Lusitania Chapter were brought to the attention of a lager audience recently as the Spanish TV channel “Caza y Pesca” made a special program on the chapter’s activities under their “Veda Abierta” program schedule.


Shown from right to left: Helder Mèndes, Portuguese journalist and dean of the outdoor writers and in his native country; Juan Delibes, Managing Editor of “Caza y Pesca TV” receving an Honourary Pin of the SCI Lusitania Chapter from Chapter President Fernando Jordao.


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