Uncertainty about what makes art good, how to find affordable art, and how to display it, may keep people from recognizing the importance of art in creating a sense of home. However, given a few tips to get started, anyone can find and buy great art, and hang it successfully.
Even if you feel that you know nothing about art, you can acquire some basic knowledge by browsing through art books. A place to begin might be with the with the familiar art of the Impressionists and post-Impressionists, or with the work of American painters and photographers - such as Alfred Stieglitz, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Edward Weston, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Charles Burchfield, Alice Neel, Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, Irving Penn, Richard Diebenkorn, and Steven Shore - to name a few celebrated artists whose work is very approachable.
Visit local museums and galleries. Discover your preferences by paying attention to what you don’t like as well as well as what you like, but keep an open mind and eye. With exposure and understanding, the art you don’t like today may become the art you love tomorrow.
BUY ONLY THE ART YOU LOVE
The astonishing sky-high prices of trophy art at Christie’s or Sotheby’s are unreal. Buying art to make money is a bad idea, unless you are a billionaire who can spend millions to acquire world-famous art. If you want to invest in your retirement, a Roth IRA is certain, but art is a gamble. However, buying good art is absolutely a sound investment in your home. Great art is the crown of a home’s interior design.
Great art is not necessarily the art which costs millions, or which has a brand-name style, like a Lichtenstein, or a Warhol. Fame, fashion, and art markets can be blind to great art. In the end, be willing to ignore what others might think or say. You are the one living with the art in your home. Trust your heart and eye as well as your knowledge.
FIND THE ART YOU LOVE
Many unrecognized, living artists are producing good art that sells for affordable prices. To find the art, attend local art exhibits, art openings, and art walks. When you find work you like at art receptions, introduce yourself to the artist. Be brief. Ask for a business card and call later to set up a visit to the artist’s studio. Visiting the artist in the studio is a good way to get to know the artist and the art, but if you love a work of art displayed in a gallery, buy it from the gallery. It’s fair and ethical, and everyone lives easier with themselves.
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to find good art is through the Internet. Big art companies offer thousands of art works for sale. However, so broad is the variety and so uncertain the quality, the search can be overwhelming, and perhaps disappointing. Some big art companies make money by selling inexpensive mats and frames for the reproductions of the art they offer, which may not enhance the art or your home.
Artists’ online websites offer advantages over large scale art businesses because you will be able to develop a personal connection with the artist. Depending on your budget and the what artists offers, you can buy less expensive reproductions of the art you like, or you can purchase original art if available.
PLAN BEFORE YOU BUY
Make a budget and expect hidden expenses. Add a little for taxes and shipping, and add a generous amount for framing. Be willing to spend more than you planned. Many collectors regretfully recall a piece they dearly loved, but since it cost more than their budget, they lost it. Looking back, they say they should have spent the extra money.
Carefully plan where you intend to place the art. When you visit art galleries and museums, study how professional curators hang and group various kinds of art work. Browse through interior decorating magazines and analyze how designers integrate art with furniture. Notice that art looks best when it is in proportion to an interior space, neither too large nor too small for it. However, a word of caution: steer clear of lifeless “wallpaper art”. A work of art lives in your home only if you have a deep emotional response to it. Art chosen to complement rugs or furniture will likely be dead-on-arrival.
Art should be hung about five to six inches above furniture so art and furniture form a visual unit. Avoid placing paintings or photographs too high on a wall. Hang art at the average person’s eye-level, which is about 55 to 60 inches from the floor to the middle of the art.
In a dining room where everyone will be seated, the art can be placed lower. To create an imaginary line that moves the eye from one piece to another around a room, align the bottoms of the paintings or photographs so they make a horizontal line. This is called bottom-justifying the art.
Instead of placing one large painting in a space, some designers group several small paintings or photographs with other objets d’art. One way to unify a group is by theme - for example, paintings, drawings, and photographs of shells, rocks, and beach glass. Grouping by color works well, also. Black and white photographs go well with ink or charcoal drawings. Unify a group of disparate images with mats and frames of the same width and color. Keep in mind that a collection of small works of art on a wall should be placed so people can get up close to see details.
Placement of art should respect visitors. Landscapes, seascapes, flowers and other still life are welcome anywhere in the home, but personal art, such as nude studies, are more appropriately placed in a private space like your bedroom.
In your planning, think in terms of the anticipated framed size. Measure the space available. Cut out a piece of paper (or several papers for groups) and tape it in place with painter’s masking tape. Step back and evaluate how it looks. If possible, take a small photograph of the art work and hold it out at arm’s length and move closer or further away so the photograph fills the scrap of paper on the wall. Ask yourself how it looks with the other furnishings and colors in the room.
FRAME THE ART YOURSELF
The choice of frame depends on the style of art, the other furnishings in a home, and personal taste. For these reasons it might make sense to buy art unframed. Whether you frame it yourself, or have a professional framer do it for you, it's important to know how art work is framed for longevity. Please refer to my article on framing art.
The purpose of this article is to help homemakers become more confident about finding and buying good art. If you found it helpful, please pass on the link to this article.
Copyright by Np