at Night” by Dan Muller of Oconomowoc.
Courtesy of David
Surely you decorate your home with personal photos
and mementos. But have you chosen artwork for its walls, shelves and
end tables with the same care and emotional connection?
“People should feel the living essence of the person who created the
art,” says mary rose, owner of willows gallery in Oconomowoc. “Original
art has the energy where you can feel the artist and you can explore it
yourself in the piece.”
If you’d like to change the look and vibe of your surroundings this
spring but aren’t sure how to start — or you could use a refresher —
help is here. We’ve gathered tips from experts at galleries around town,
where your journey begins.
Lily Pad Gallery West.
Photo by David Szymanski
by Robert Richter /
Courtesy of David Barnett Gallery
“Milwaukee has a vibrant arts scene, but artists need
people to buy their work if we truly value what they do,” says Jane
Suddendorf, director of Gallery 224 in Port Washington.
Supporting artists in our community (and sometimes meeting them at
gallery events) is just one way to connect with the art you welcome into
your home. Read on for more tips for buying art locally for your home.
as much as possible, and go everywhere with an open mind.
So advises David Barnett, owner of David Barnett
Gallery on the East Side. Simply seeing what’s available in a variety of
locations will give you a better idea of what you’re really looking for
— as well as what you don’t want.
Plus, in visiting multiple galleries in the area, you may find one or
two that you particularly like and feel comfortable in, whether it’s
because of the atmosphere, the staff, the art on display or the way the
art is displayed. Galleries have personalities that reflect their
“There are all kinds of galleries and dealers,” Barnett says. “Half of
the fun is in the discovery and the looking.”
You can do this solo or make it a group experience. Head to several
galleries during the quarterly Gallery Night and Day, a low-key way to
peruse art, or learn about individual artists and their work through
other gallery events like artist talks or receptions.
Browse at an
art fair. “You can see a tremendous amount of work in
a small area in a matter of a few days,” Barnett says. Perfect for the
research stage of your search, art fairs and festivals expose you to a
number of local and traveling artists working in different media all in
one stop. At larger venues, booths can be expensive and that can be
reflected in artwork prices, Barnett notes.
If you want to attend one this month, you’ll need to get on a plane.
Many local art fairs occur later in summer and into the fall, but Bay
View Art in the Park begins in May, the Lakefront Festival of Art
returns in June, and the Lake Country Art Festival is back in early
budget upfront. “You can buy terrific art in every
price range,” Barnett says. “(I) don’t want to be steering people toward
things that are unattainable. That just adds frustration to the
Knowing what you want to spend is also helpful when buying multiple
pieces for a room. Gallery staff can keep prices in mind so that you can
concentrate on finding art that resonates with you.
dismiss large pieces even in a smaller space. “People
tend to have the preconceived idea that large isn’t going to work,”
Barnett says. He notes that you have to consider what else is going on
in the room and what works hinges on several factors.
One factor: “It depends on what style the artwork is,” he says. “Some
things are better viewed up close than from a distance.”
Furniture matters too. “If you’ve got a small couch, you don’t want to
put a piece of art that goes from the back of the couch up to your
ceiling,” mary rose says. “You don’t want the artwork to overpower the
room you’re putting it in.”
Buy what you
like, not what matches the furniture. This comes from
Suddendorf. “The piece will look better (in your room) and be more
interesting to you as well as the people visiting your home,” she says.
“Choose art that connects you to the space around you,” mary rose says.
“Rather than choosing a color to be matchy-matchy, choose something that
makes you feel good and incorporate it into your space.”
tells a story of a couple who came into willows gallery wanting art of a
certain color in their dining room but fell in love with a piece that
didn’t fit what they thought they were looking for. “After they made the
purchase, they came back in and said, ‘We absolutely love it. We rarely
used our dining room. Now we eat in there, and we spend time with
friends in there. We’re in that room all the time, because that piece of
art made the space,’” she says.
pictures of your room, or see how a work fits in your home by taking it
out on approval. At willows gallery, mary rose
encourages people to bring in photos of their space so that she can
“re-create” it using color swatches and fabrics. Placing artwork within
this simulated environment can help envision how the piece will look at
David Barnett Gallery lets you take the artwork into your home on
approval for 24 to 72 hours. Either you can leave a credit card number
and bring the piece home yourself, or you can set up an appointment with
its mobile art service, which will bring the art to you. “People feel
more comfortable in their own space, and it’s ultimately easier to
visualize something when you have it at home or in your office,” Barnett
how you arrange art on your wall. “Some people think
that you have to put it smack in the middle of a wall,” Barnett says.
“Sometimes you can have a large wall and put something offset, more to
the side, for a more dramatic approach.”
Ask to see
more, or commission a work. If you hit upon a
sculpture or painting you like but doesn’t quite work for you, ask if
the gallery has more work by that artist or similar works by others.
“About 5 percent of what we have is on exhibit, and the rest is in
storage,” Barnett says, adding that he and his staff are happy to bring
items out for viewing.
At willows, mary rose acts as a go-between for clients who prefer to
commission a work of art from a favorite artist to fit their specific
needs. “We don’t require the customer to make the purchase if ultimately
they end up not liking it,” she says. Just don’t request any names or
dates in the work, she adds, or she can’t sell the piece to someone
appraiser if you’re concerned about the price. “What
is a fair price? You really need an expert to figure that out, because
there are so many factors that go into coming up with a fair value,”
says Barnett, a member of the Appraisers Association of America. “At the
same time, in secondary markets there is no such thing as a perfect
market. Depending on who has it and what the condition is, there could
be a huge variance on what the price is.”
your gut. “Trust your reaction and intuition. If you
like something, you like it,” says Jennifer Wagner, office manager at
David Barnett Gallery. “Trust in yourself in investing in the piece, and
don’t be swayed by trends or what other people are drawn to, because
ultimately you’re the one who’s going to be living with the piece.”
“If you can’t stop
thinking about a piece you saw, then you should probably buy it,”
In Mint Condition
-To keep your artwork in top shape and take care of your investment,
David Barnett of David Barnett Gallery offers this advice:
-Since sunlight can damage artwork, consider putting solar film on your
windows. That’s the most cost-effective thing to do, he says.
-Check to make sure your lighting does not have ultraviolet output. You
can buy fixtures whose glass is coated for 99 percent UV protection.
Frame individual works with Museum Glass, UV-inhibiting Plexiglas or
Conservation Clear to protect them from 99 percent of ultraviolet light.
Museum Glass removes about 90 percent of the glare and reflection, he
-Use a stone s sealer on stone sculptures decorating your yard to
minimize the effects of expansion and contraction when snow or rain
accumulates and freezes.
-Be aware that outdoor sculptures require constant maintenance. You’ll
have to repaint a steel sculpture after so many years, for example. You
can hire a restoration service to help.