Becoming an adult is fraught with unforeseen perils and expenses beyond the obvious: car insurance, furniture that doesn't fall apart, a smart phone and a plan for it, insurance, a half-decent kitchen knife, taxes (it's not all sunshine and checks from the government—who knew?), etc.
And no matter how you prioritize your spendings, even the most interior design-inclined young adult might feel intimidated by the idea of starting an art collection on top of all these. Where do I begin? Where do I look? Can I afford art at all? Yes, there are flea market paintings and thrift store prints to pick over—but if you're excited about the idea of finding new artists and sourcing original works of art, there is hope yet.
At a panel on the topic of sourcing artwork yesterday at the BKLYN DESIGNS expo in Greenpoint, I heard from the interior designers at AphroChic, Jenn Singer from her eponymous N.Y.C. gallery, and a curator from Uprise Art, an online gallery aimed at young collectors.
Here are their best tips for starting an art collection, no matter what you know, don't know, or what your budget might be.
You're not going to find artists you like, or art you can afford, without seeking it out—and doing so in person is the best way to see what's out there.
When a new show goes up in a gallery, the curator will usually host an evening show—the perfect thing to stop in and peruse since there's often free food or drinks, too. Here are some sources the panelists mentioned for finding gallery openings on the fly ("even if you only have an hour to kill walking around town," as one panelist put it).
On the flip side, the good thing about not going on opening night is you might get the whole gallery space to yourself. Find the art galleries in your neighborhood, and pop into them on your way home after work.
Not every art fair is as fancy and sceney as Art Basel—though if you're looking to rub shoulders with the art world elite in Miami Beach, that's one to attend (amongst many). They pop up in major cities all over the world but aren't limited to big urban spaces, so ask your local gallery if there are any coming through town!
Art fairs are a great place to see lots of different galleries and artists in one market-style place. (Also a good reason to book a vacation.) Here are a few to look up:
Every spring, graduating seniors at most art schools will put on a big show of all their work. Not only are they usually open to the public, but most of the art is going to be for sale. As Jenn Singer said with a laugh, "It's the best place to get their art for less, before they make it big!"
Maybe you aren't planning to buy a piece of art from a museum, but attending their free days (which often happen once a month) is another affordable way to get comfortable with past, contemporary, and emerging artists.
It's no secret that galleries and their curators can be intimidating, but if you don't ask questions you (probably) won't ever get answers. Here's what the panelists advised piping up about, specifically.
If you're in love with a piece of art but wish you had a better understanding of where it came from, ask the gallery owner about arranging a studio visit. "Gallery owners want to create a collector base—they want relationships," Jenn explained.
If the prices aren't posted beside each artwork, ask for them! And if the answer is more than you can spend all at once—but you're absolutely sure this is a piece of art you want in your life—ask about payment plans, too. Jenn says that most galleries will actually consider it, though they don't advertise as much.
Similarly, many galleries will consider letting a potential buyer take a piece of art home with them on loan. At the online art source Uprise Art, they offer the same service. In many cases, you'll pay a monthly fee that either goes towards the later purchase, or acts as a rental fee.
When you encounter a gallery or an artist whose work you like, find them on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter. There's a good chance they'll be posting about upcoming shows and events, new exhibitions, or brand new pieces before you read about them in the New Yorker.
If you're going to go to the trouble of learning about and buying original art, you might as well find a place to display it in your home—no excuses! No hidden art! No promises that you'll do it in your next apartment. Here are some tips for getting it up:
Forget what you've been told: There are other places to hang art besides in a giant gallery-style cluster on your biggest open wall. The kitchen, for example, is a great place to hang art (so long as they're out of the way of any excessive heat or splattering), as are small walls, or next to another piece of art you have up in a duo or trio.
If committing to a hole in the wall is too much for you to handle, lean your art up: on shallow shelves, or on a bookshelf, or on the mantle (though not the latter if your fireplace gets super hot).
By cutting out pieces of newspaper the same size as your art and then taping those to the wall with painter's tape, you'll be able to find the perfect spot for your new piece without needing five hands and a measuring tape. Consider how it will relate to art nearby, in both scale and texture and color, find a stud using a studfinder, and don't stress too much before going for it (there's always spackle).
How do you find new artists and original artworks? Share your tips in the comments!