Taking the Fear Out of Buying Original Artwork

By Patty Morrison Schimberg

Patty Morrison SchimbergOne of the most gratifying parts of my job as an interior designer is playing matchmaker between clients and artists. It gives me great pleasure to see clients discover the joy of owning original art.  Finding good homes for talented artists’ works—at sites where the art can be seen and appreciated outside of the artist’s studio—is also incredibly satisfying.

As an art consultant to clients, my intention is not to supersede the role of a gallery. If you want to become a serious collector of art, a reputable gallery may be an invaluable resource.  Galleries offer expertise, bios, and established pricing track records for the artists they represent.  Their presence provides exposure for artists, which can transform an artist’s career.  Their guidance to clientele can captivate the interest of a novice buyer and over time, shape true art collections.

But there are alternatives to galleries in New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles or other urban centers to find talented artists. Every community has an abundance of gifted painters, sculptors and craftsmen who are producing beautiful work.  Many of these artists may never have the opportunity to be represented by a gallery.

So, purchasing artwork that can add something powerfully special to an interior is a win-win-win for the interior designer, client and artist.  Clients are often amazed by the lasting joy they find in the artwork they bring into their homes or business environment.

Where to Look for Original Art

Many interior designers have established working relationships with artists who are open to working with individuals or businesses that have a decorative need for art.  This type of commissioned artwork, when the artist is responsive to a designer’s input regarding dimensions and coloring, is not for all artists.  However, some artists welcome the opportunity.

It is also common for architects to participate in the selection of artwork—particularly large-scale pieces or works for public spaces. Again, many artists enjoy the challenge of creating site-specific work, including interior elements such as an artistic staircase or a custom light fixture that merges form with function.

Other sources to discover extraordinary art include regional art and design schools, community-based exhibit spaces, and independent studios that offer art classes.

Art and design schools provide an extraordinary opportunity to purchase original artwork by budding artistic geniuses.   Exhibits are usually open to the public; and both students and schools are extremely encouraged by the sale of their work.

Studios that offer art classes also love to show off their students’ work. Some of the “students” may be older adults who have retired from a first career to pursue their passion for art full-time.

Community-based exhibit spaces that are affiliated with a university, museum, or fine-arts organizations host ongoing exhibits of local artists.  At these local art shows, the exhibit organizers will gladly share biographical and contact information about the artists.

Tips for Choosing Original Art

Buy original art that you love—and don’t ever “match” the sofa.  Art that you love will bring you peace or make you smile. It’s OK to buy artwork for the sole purpose of decoration, but only if it complements or enhances your surroundings. Nothing detracts more from the beauty of original artwork than an overly coordinated “match” to the adjacent textile or general surroundings. When you choose art solely because it repeats the theme, patterns, or coloring in your interiors, the originality of the art is lost. Then, instead of enhancing your space, the art looks more like something from a furniture store vignette.

Take time to learn about the artist. Ask to visit their studio and understand more about how it was created and the thought process behind it. The more you know about the “story” behind your original art, the happier you will be with your purchase. As a “collector” of that artist’s work, you will become part of that artist’s story. Plus, buying artwork from a local artist is a way of contributing to the cultural strength of your community.

For commercial spaces, think about the type of message you want the art to convey. Integrating the work of a local artist into your décor can be a powerful public-relations tool. For example, the art can express support of the community’s diversity.  Or, the art can imply that “this is a cutting-edge company.” As an interior designer, we help business owners find artwork that fulfills three criteria: (1) the design needs of the space; (2) the company’s overall style; and (3) the underlying business “message” that the business hopes their art work conveys.

So, one shouldn’t be intimidated by the process of buying art. Finding original art that you are proud to own and brings joy or provokes thought, can be an exciting hunt.  This mindset relieves the pressure to purchase art primarily as an investment or works that simply blend in with the rest of the decor.  Let art be it’s own special moment in the interior space.