Home is Where the Art Is

“Should I Stay or Should I Go,” mixed media on canvas, $2,000, available at katykuhn.com

“Should I Stay or Should I Go,” mixed media on canvas, $2,000, available at katykuhn.com

A guide to collecting art.

by Theresa Rolen Long   


I couldn’t stay quiet any longer. “Dude. It’s time to ditch the Van Halen poster.” Our eyes darted to the Whisky A Go Go playbill. Trapped beneath a sheath of hazy acrylic, framed in shiny black plastic. Proudly hanging above the fireplace mantle. A colorful paper token commemorating a night full of magic and hair. My comment was met with the five stages of grief, exemplified in one blank “you stole my kitten” stare. At age 40, he knew I was right. It was time to move into grown-up art world.

Acquiring original artwork can seem daunting. But what better way to express yourself and bring visual joy to your life and home? Whether you’ve amassed a great collection, you’re just starting, or you’re looking for an unexpected Valentine’s gift, there are considerations to be made before making a purchase. When you’re ready to deep-six the velvet Elvis (not a euphemism), here are some strategies.

Assess your needs. Communal areas deserve unique artwork reflecting your personality and style. Measure focal areas in your home and make a prioritized list. Know what you’re looking for before you start looking.

Examine your collection. Do you want cohesion or contrast? Having a work of realism or portrait opposing an abstract painting or contemporary sculpture provides tension that elevates a room’s level of sophistication.

Learn about the art world. Travel and explore the big museums and galleries in NYC and LA. Learn about historic artists and who creates today in the same movements. Examine art and auction house websites. Follow fairs on Instagram, like Art Basel. Look through coffee table books. Hone your taste and discover local and regional galleries that specialize in what interests you.

Set your budget. Do you want a fun piece or an insurance rider? If you want to invest, determine the goal. Will it become a family heirloom, as in a commissioned portrait, or will you sell when the artist peaks? If you want to (possibly) turn a profit, learn the artist’s value. This requires strategy not unlike playing the stock market, but it’s more fun. But remember, art as a commodity is an unregulated market.

If you desire a one-of-a-kind Picasso, go for it. But you can easily buy lithography, screen-prints, and strike-off sketches by famous artists. Locate qualified dealers. The F.B.I. maintains a computer database called the National Stolen Art File. If something seems off, as in fake or stolen, check into it.

Inspiration Board 3 Feb 15When you’re ready to purchase, hit the galleries, fairs, estate sales, and auctions. Investing in local or unknown talent is a great starting point. If a gallerist is amenable, negotiate. If you purchase several pieces from an artist, consider inviting him or her to your home as a party guest of honor. Conversations about inspiration and technique will make for a lively night.

Take a design professional with you to auction and when closing on a transaction. Retain your receipts! Affix information to the back of the painting. This will help with resale, insuring, and of course, regaling your guests with the story of where and when you found it.

Buy what you love, ultimately. And if gazing at Eddie and the boys, Farrah, or that Lamborghini you’ll never own still makes you happy, put a real frame on it and find a spot for it somewhere. After all, it is your home.

One Response to “Home is Where the Art Is”

  1. Karen E. says:

    Great advice, Theresa. Your articles are funny, informative & inspiring!

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