BUYING ART. A SIMPLE GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED
November 06, 2017
Cross posted from my blog at smallequal.com
I love when people say “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” That’s all you need to know. Sure, the more you know about art history, art theory etc. the deeper your appreciation will be, but when you are buying art for your own home, your number one priority is to buy something that you like, something that makes you happy, something that pleases you.
I ran an art gallery for five years, and the worst customer was the art snob. The best customer was the one who stopped in front of a piece of art, caught their breath, and said, “I love this!” If your heart leaps when you see something, that’s your cue.
Other than that…here are some things to consider.
You can approach this as finding a piece of work to fit into a particular space. Empty wall above the couch? You can fill it with one large statement piece, or lots of smaller pieces grouped together. Your choice. It’s usually not a good idea to have just one or two small pieces randomly placed in a large space. Each piece should be placed with purpose. This is true of everything you put into your house.
Don’t know where to start? You can buy art to match your curtains or fabric on your chair, as long as you love those colors. I think this is a great idea, but don’t tell art snobs you did this unless you are prepared for a look of condescension. If you don’t love the colors, don’t buy anything else that uses them. Please.
I remember decades ago I had a bedspread that I adored. It made me so happy to look at it. When i decided to paint the walls of my bedroom, I matched the predominant color in the spread. It was a deep, deep blue. I never would have thought to color my walls such a deep color but I was ready to experiment and it was wonderful. The people who make fabrics are generally very knowledgeable, and it’s fine to follow their lead.
You probably know which colors resonate for you. If not, spend some time looking a the colors in nature, in photos, on fabric, on pinterest, on your clothing, in magazines, and take note of how you are responding. If you feel happy when you look at those colors, those are the ones to go for. If you want to go the extra mile, make a color board. I like to use pinterest, but you could tear out photos in magazines and keep them in a file. See if you keep liking them.
Some people love horses. Others love rusty old boats. Some people love to look at pictures of children, or of grandpas. You might love seascapes, or you might love old portraits. Maybe you love old woodcuts, or brand new shiny abstracts. When you are starting an art collection, you might think about collecting based on themes. You probably won’t stick to one theme, but it’s a place to start. You could have several vintage nursery rhyme prints all framed the same and hung in a group for a wonderful and inspiring wall.
Think of collecting art as a treasure hunt, and always be on the lookout for images of poodles, or boats, or rocket ships. You’ll have fun, and probably end up with a fantastic collection that not only resonates for you, but is also engaging for others to look at.
There may be one or two artists whose work you love. Even very famous and pricey artists usually are reproduced on posters, or open edition prints. Newer artists work is often affordable. If you love an artist, think about collecting their work. Go to local art fairs and craft shows. Go to open studios and art walks. Talk to the artists. You could think about buying one piece a year, for instance. There was one local artist whose work I liked a lot. She made very small paintings of chickens. I thought they were charming. I visited her studio every year during a regional art tour and bought one or two paintings per year. They were only about $25 apiece, but after four years, I had a nice little collection.
I had an obsession for paint-by-number paintings for a while. Yes, it was for an exhibition at my gallery, and I bought about 75 paintings over a five month period on ebay. That was so much fun. And it was the most popular show I ever ran. It practically sold out. But if you love a particular type of work, go for it with gusto. You don’t have to by 75 paintings. You probably shouldn’t unless you plan to sell them. But if you love black and white photos from the 1940’s, go for it. Or you love engravings of flowers. Or children’s book illustrations. Or you love collage, or manhole cover rubbings. Maybe you think kids art is amazing - I know I do! Or paintings on velvet, if that’s your thing. You like pencil drawings, or, well, you get the picture. Think genre.
You know your own price range. Generally art is not cheap, but it doesn’t have to be super expensive to be good. Original, unique pieces will probably be more expensive. Hand made prints, like silkscreens, lithographs, woodcut prints, monoprints, etc can be more expensive, but not necessarily. Some artists like making their work very accessible, which often means affordable. Others do not. It takes a lot of time, practice, and labor to make art. Artists often spend decades learning their craft, and should be paid well, but it’s up to you, the buyer, to be mindful of your own budget.
LOVE. Buy what you love! If your heart leaps, that’s the cue.
And keep these things in mind:
Let me know what you think.
PS: Be sure to check out all the art I have for sale at smallequls.com my shop.
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