Growing up, I accompanied my dad on many art-gallery outings in downtown Washington DC and Vancouver, BC.
I smile when I remember the way he would “save time” so we could go to as many galleries as possible in one day. We’d walk into a gallery, and he would decide – in an instant – whether he wanted to spend any time at all, looking at the exhibit. He would say something like “Hmm, nothing here that sends me” and we’d turn around and walk out. Or, he’d be intrigued by a piece way in the back of the gallery and pull me in, saying, “Let’s go look at that painting.”
Every few months, Dad took me to the National Gallery of Art to explore whatever new exhibits they’d mounted. That’s where he taught me to really look – to sit and quietly look – at one piece of art instead of rushing around trying to see everything in one visit. My favorite memory of that time was viewing the five-foot wide painting, “Dead Toreador” by Edouard Manet. We would sit on a bench in the center of that space, and look — for what seemed to my young self — an hour or so.
I learned confidence in my own taste in art from my dad as well as from my constant urge to learn more about art and look at art anywhere I could. It’s what led me to open an art gallery. To have my own studio practice – and teach art to children and adults. I’d like to share that confidence with you – and hope that you also, will invite more art into your life, however you want to make that happen.
So, how does one start or add to an art collection? Find art that feels unique and resonates with you.
This applies to whether you are just starting out as an art buyer or you want to add to your collection. If you’re starting a new collection, you may be wondering how to choose the “right” art. First of all, forget about the right art. There are as many unique preferences, personalities and passions as there are unique human beings living on Earth today. And millions of artists – emerging to experienced – who would be happy to have your support.
How will you know what is good art? Best way is to buy what you love and can afford.
The kind of art you want to hang on your wall (or display on a table) is the kind of art that represents your personal tastes: art that speaks to you personally. You’ll be proud to show it to your friends and family. It makes your home more interesting, vivid, harmonious or calm. It’s art you want to see every day and grow fond of. It’s also art that helps you see the world from a new perspective, that will keep your interest over the years. Start by buying affordable unique art (please, no posters made in China) and add to your collection as your budget grows.
Spend a little time figuring out what kind of art you like. Get familiar with what’s available and decide what art styles and mediums you like.
- Check out art books at the library.
- Explore online galleries and artists’ exhibit spaces like Artwork Archive Discovery, Saatchi Art, Artsy or 20×200.com (although my recommendation is to support local galleries and see the artwork in person when you’re ready to buy …)
- Look at artists’ websites
- Find artists on Instagram working in mediums you are curious about (search by tag such as #encaustic painting #printmaking #ceramic sculpture)
- Attend openings at art museums and every gallery in your town. In Helena, we have 1+1=1 Gallery, Mountain Sage, Jailhouse Gallery, Omerta Arts, the Holter, JMac’s Pottery, Ghost Art, Archie Bray Gallery, and numerous coffee shops and other venues that display local artist’s work
- Don’t forget about Art Walks, First Fridays and other arts events in your city
Look for art that represents one of your personal passions.
Buy art that’ll make your life a little brighter. In other words, buy artworks that resonate with you or speak to you on a personal level.
Create a Diverse Collection: Live with Some Art that Challenges You
Art that makes you see the world in an entirely different way will help you grow as a person. Everything doesn’t have to be easy, comfortable and “pretty.” Don’t worry about what other people might think when they see challenging artworks in your home!
Trust your heart and be confident.
Buy what you love. Don’t let anyone talk you into something you don’t really love — you will be living with your purchase for a long time, I hope.
Is art a good investment?
Be prepared to spend a little more than you have budgeted for to get a piece of art that will increase in value rather than just be pretty decoration on your walls. If you’re considering buying something at a higher value, don’t be afraid to ask if the gallery allows flexible payments. Most do!
Good luck and happy art-hunting!