In my work as an interior decorator I have come to recognize that art means different things to different people. For some it is the sentimental collection that has been passed down through their families for generations. There is a group that sees it is a necessary afterthought to fill the empty spaces on their walls and what's most important is that the colors are harmonious with their environment. And there are others still that delight in the thrill of the hunt and enjoy the process of collecting pieces that they will themselves pass down through their own families.
As the daughter of an artist I grew up going to museums and galleries all the time. For me they were a source of great anticipation...what materials would be used? Would the work be representational or abstract? Might I meet the artist and if so would he or she still have paint on their hands? So it wasn't until I became an adult that I learned that the experience of going to look at, and perhaps purchase, art can for some people be a source of uncertainty.
With so many of us travelling during the summer months there is a tremendous opportunity to purchase art from other places near and far. What could be a more meaningful memento than an art object that will forever remind us of a lovely holiday, adventure or tour? Adding to (or even beginning) an art collection in this manner is a brilliant way to acquire pieces that will indeed become part of the history of a family. In order to do this well, there are certain guidelines to keep in mind so you can select with confidence and feel good about your decision.
Art comes in all shapes and sizes; it's not just framed, two-dimensional paintings. Ceramics and hand-blown glass are art. Photography is art. Textiles and handmade furniture are art. The list is endless. You don't need to walk into a traditional gallery to find wonderful choices. Consider an open-air market for example. Many charming independent retailers also include unique art pieces in their repertoire. Even some restaurants and cafes display artwork that is actually for sale.
When counseling clients on making art purchases, the first thing I advise is that they never buy a piece as an investment. Short of going to an auction or gallery of Sotheby’s quality work it is not a prudent move. Buy pieces because you love them, not because you think they will appreciate in value over time. Remember that art does not need to be precious or serious. It can be whimsical or thought provoking. Do not get hung up on whether the colors in a piece you love "match" your decor. Remember that a contrast of color will actually allow the piece to stand apart from its environment in a way that creates a meaningful focal point in a room. Trust your instincts. If you like the piece it is likely to work well in your home as part of the overall expression of your style.
It should of course go without saying that before you make an art purchase you have a place in mind where it might live in your home. In fact, it makes sense to have a general idea of dimensions for places that would benefit from the addition of a great piece of art. Remember that many galleries and shops can accommodate shipping a purchase for you. And ask if they have any information about the artist. Knowing the origin of a piece can make it even more meaningful and inspire wonderful conversation once you bring it home and share it with others.