In the movie Indiscreet, Cary Grant gives Ingrid Bergman a painting that the couple spotted through a gallery window. The gesture feels more personal and romantic than a gift of jewelry, especially since Bergman's character has a large art collection hung salon-style in her London apartment.
For many of us, it's the small painting or drawing we saved for -- or received as a gift -- that we enjoy the most. It outlasts the pricey handbags and moves with us from apartment to house, room to room.
Some people fall in love with art at the drop of a hat. Deciding isn't hard for them, and their only hesitations involve budget and space (or a spouse with different taste). But for others purchasing art is very intimidating. So I asked gallery owner Emily Amy to give us a little guidance.
Emily has a Master’s degree in 20th century American Art and during the past few years she gained prominence in Atlanta as one of the city's youngest gallery directors. Recently she opened her own gallery where twenty emerging, mid-career, and established artists are represented.
Emily says works on paper have always been a great option when a little money needs to go a long way. Right now they are particularly appealing.
"For years works on paper were not popular with collectors, but in recent months, times have changed. Works on paper are smaller, less expensive, and equally as archival as canvas in this day and age. Also, frames are works of art in themselves. If you need to add a frame to a painting, you can really add a touch of your own personality and taste to the piece. Additionally, works on paper make wonderful series, which are great for decorating," she explains.
Emily adds, "If you always decorate with traditional furnishings, try something contemporary on the wall, you will be pleasantly surprised with the results."
What's the best way to conquer "art fear?"
"Whether you are a browser or a buyer, art galleries can often be intimidating places to visit. In my years of experience, I have found that the only way to get over my fear of visiting galleries is to begin to make a habit of it. Once you have been to five or so galleries, or have visited your favorite gallery a few times, you will start to feel much more comfortable. At Emily Amy Gallery, I really encourage my younger collectors to attend shows, open studios and auctions when they can, to familiarize themselves with the business of art buying in general. Pretty soon, the gallery owners will know your name and be thrilled that you returned to see the subsequent show!"
What if you aren't sure what your taste is?
In addition to visiting local galleries and attending shows, Emily suggests going to the bookstore on a Saturday and picking up copies of ARTnews, Art in America, ARTFORUM, Art &Antiques, or whichever publication interests you the most.
"I can spend hours in the bookstore searching for new artists to recruit in the advertisements of the magazines alone. Often, when you find an artist that you like, you can search for them online and their galleries' websites will appear. Likely, you will see other things that you appreciate at those galleries as well. Art is incredibly personal and my general advice is to go with your gut when choosing a painting -- you will know when you find the perfect piece."
What about couples who don't like each other's taste in art?
"One of the most common problems I encounter is two people who have completely different taste in art trying to decide on one piece! My advice is to take turns. Often, when both parties have to compromise, couples end up with a painting neither of them love. If you have three or four spots that are in need of art, assign each person their own spot -- maybe in their favorite room. Then, if one of the parties spends most of their time in the kitchen they get to stare at their beloved painting all day and the other party gets to spend time with "their painting" in the library."
What are the benefits of small works?
"The small works in my collection are some of the pieces that I cherish the most. There is always a spot in my home for another small work, although I certainly do not have space for any more large pieces. Usually, it does not take the artist any less time to create a small work and it often produces the same effect as a larger piece, especially if the color is bold and the composition is intriguing."
What about sculpture?
"Many people think that sculpture can be difficult to place, but it adds so much drama to an interior. You don't have to think of sculpture as large scale bronze statues though...there are many great smaller sculptures that could fit on bookshelves or a console table to add great interest to a room."
What's the best way to avoid buyer's remorse?
Emily says, "Take your time when shopping for a painting to add to your collection. Most of my clients take weeks or months to make a final decision. Take the painting (or paintings) you are interested in home 'on approval' and hang them in your space. Live with them for three days or so and see if you really love them as much as you thought you did. The 'on approval' policy is standard at most all galleries, so don't be afraid to ask to 'try before you buy.' Also, do not be afraid to tell a gallery owner exactly what you are willing to spend. It makes it much simpler for the gallery to narrow down your choices and then you will not be pushed to purchase something out of your budget."
And here are a few more tips:
Buy what you love, because you will have it forever.
Your art doesn’t have to match your sofa.
Frame your art to best present the painting, photograph or print -- not to match your décor.
Emerging artists are not necessarily less talented than established artists, and they usually cost less too.
Go with your gut when you are choosing art. Let it elicit an emotional response in you, and when it does, you will know it is right.
Don’t listen to the “rules”, if you want to collect several pieces by the same artist, go ahead -– it’s your collection.
Buy local -– whether it’s a local artist or a local gallery – you will likely feel more of a connection with the piece and you will be supporting your local talent!
Credits: Images one through three are from YouTube. Image four is Margie Stewart's Harbor. Image five is from Accents on Accessories. Image six is the KWID Bungalow as seen in HB June 2001. Images eight, nine and eighteen are from Paris Rooms by Stephen Mudge, Rockport 1999. Image ten is Dorothy Goode's Homage 41. The design in image eleven is by Candler Lloyd. Image twelve shows the work of Steven Gambrel. Image thirteen is Peter Dunham's work, via domino. Image fifteen is Muffie Faith's house seen in the July 2008 issue of Charleston Home. The kitchen in the next image is Thomas Jayne's via New York Social Diary. Image seventeen is gallery owner Timothy Tew's as seen in Atlanta at Home, Wyrick & Company, 1994. Image nineteen is Kathy Bennett's library, Southern Accents, October 2008, followed by a detail view from a house designed by Amelia Handegan, also from the same issue of SA. Kathy Bennett gravitates to works that capture the human form, last image, again SA.
And one more Gambrel, Elle Decor, January 2008.
Well, just one more Gambrel, from his city portfolio.