Purchasing contemporary fine art is a daunting task for novices and even well-versed connoisseurs. But starting a small collection is a worthy investment, not merely financially, but also personally. When chosen instinctively, art has the ability to transform a space, to inspire reflection and to evoke conversation. If you’ve longed to start collecting art but have hesitated to take the leap, now is the time to get busy. Whether you want to find a few pieces to decorate your walls or are looking to embark of a life-long pursuit of great works, we hit up some local art experts for insight on how to start an art collection. We talked to members of 5th Avenue of the Arts, a group of modern art galleries in downtown Nashville, as well as David Lusk Gallery, and here’s what they had to say.
LISTEN TO YOUR (HE)ART
The biggest mistake when purchasing art is choosing a work that you think will be the “next big thing.” The art market is fickle, with trends changing faster than you can blink. What’s hot one year could fall flat the next, so don’t rely too much on what publications are calling the next Picasso. Instead, listen to your gut and focus on art that speaks to you immediately. “We encourage our buyers to buy work that speaks to them and that they will love, as opposed to buying work purely for investment purposes.” says Sarah Wilson of Tinney Contemporary. “Most of the work we carry does happen to be investment grade but usually that is an added bonus!”
So if a kinetic sculpture with spinning appendages catches your eye, then by all means take it home. But if a subtle watercolor landscape makes you look twice, then that may be the right piece for you. “What I have learned time and again in connecting people to art who have never purchased any before, is that people buy art because they are drawn to it, often not knowing why,” says Anne Brown of The Arts Company. “Being sure in your own taste and judgment and being a person always wanting to see and know more gets your confidence in gear.” There is no shame in buying the understated or overlooked work. What’s important is that you choose art that reflects your personal taste.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
If you are unfamiliar with contemporary art, do some research before you make a purchase. This could simply mean flipping through the pages of an art magazine or visiting local galleries to see what concepts and mediums speak to you. This allows you to speak with gallery owners, directors and assistants, who can be valuable resources for finding art that fits your style and budget. It’s also an easy way to get acquainted with the work of regional artists and to determine what is a reasonable price point for the types of art you like. “A good gallery should be able to help educate a collector on particular artists, why they should be buying that artist, speaking to the trajectory of the artist’s career, current and future value, etc.,” says Sarah. “They should also be able to help make recommendations for things like framing, lighting and installation, which is something to consider when investing in artwork.”
MIX & MATCH
People new to art buying often think that the art they purchase should be of a similar style or subject matter. However, this can leave you with a potentially lackluster series of works. Don’t be afraid to mix and match art from different movement or eras. Though it can take a smart eye to pull it off, juxtaposing a large colorful painting with small black and white drawings can be a really exciting way to layer different styles. “How art fits into your home is up to you. If you are eclectic like I am, you discover that art can speak to other art if the buyer can instinctively and boldly put it together,” says Anne. The key is to strike some form of balance between decorated wall space and the furniture in the room.
FACTOR IN THE FRAMING
Installation and framing is another key component in making your collection look complete, not to mention protecting the works from wear and tear. Most galleries will make recommendations about lighting, framing and placement. You can also get ideas from framers who deal with contemporary art. Bennett Galleries is especially deft at conservation framing and has everything you need to achieve the right look while maintaining the integrity of the piece. Experts like these will know what kind of glass and materials to use and may also have innovative ways to mount contemporary works so that the frame is disguised for a minimalist affect. The framing styles you choose should gel with your decor as much as the art itself.
Fortunately for those on the hunt, Nashville’s ever-growing art scene has a greater diversity of works from which to choose than it did even 10 years ago. Local galleries are continually showcasing new and emerging artists alongside well-established names. So for those looking to buy art, you can now experience a wide range of concepts, mediums and prices — all in a concentrated area. “Nashville now is continually attracting quality artists, quality work and quality galleries, so it makes sense to start shopping where you are,” adds Anne. “Really good art can happen anywhere, and it’s happening here now all over town.”
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