ads touting starving artists’ sales of "sofa-sized"
paintings notwithstanding, most art dealers don’t suggest purchasing
works of art by the yard. "While some customers may come in
looking for a large painting to go above their sofa, I usually tell
them their first concern should be to buy a piece they love, something
that reflects their personality, style and taste," says Lori
Boldig, manager of The Oconomowoc Gallery. "If you love it, it
will probably fit into your room because people gravitate to what they
like in art as well as furnishings," she says.
A personal connection with a piece of art is vital, according to
Tom Harris, owner of Gallery 505 in Whitefish Bay. "First, you
want to make sure that you like the work. It should spark an emotional
reaction," he says. "Some of my customers will want to bring
in their designer to help them choose something, but it’s your art
and you have to live with it."
Size and Color
Of course, the amount of wall space in your home is a consideration
when you are purchasing art. "Big walls need bigger pieces of
art," Boldig says. However, she points out that you can purchase
smaller pieces and arrange them in groupings.
Keep in mind that it isn’t necessary to cover every square inch
of wall space. "You don’t have to hang paintings spaced evenly
around a room, as if you were in an art gallery," Boldig says.
"I suggest arranging art in what I call ‘vignettes.’ For
example, if you have a reading area in one corner of your room, you
can place a painting in that area. Or, if you have a table against a
wall, you may want a painting hung there," she says. In other
words, place the paintings where they will best be seen and
"Size can be a factor when you choose a piece of art, but
color does not have to be," Harris says. "If you really like
the piece, it will fit into your home." However, if you are
concerned about somehow tying the art back to your furnishings, you
can pick out a color that appears in the painting and use it in your
room as an accent color. "Say there are touches of blue or gold
in the painting; you can select some pillows or pieces of pottery in
those colors," Boldig says. "I have actually had a customer
tell me they wanted a landscape with no green in it."
Originals vs. Prints
If you thought you could not afford to buy original artwork, think
again. It is possible to own original artwork without breaking the
bank. "I sell only original art in my gallery and the prices
range widely from hundreds of dollars to thousands. It doesn’t have
to be prohibitively expensive," Harris says.
One of the best things about original art is that it is unique. You’ll
never see your original painting or photograph staring back at you in
your favorite restaurant or office building lobby. But it pays to get
some advice before you buy.
Unless you are buying the work of an established, well-known
artist, don’t count on your purchase gaining great value.
"Finding an artist and style you like is what is important. There
is never a guarantee that what you’re buying is going to be an
investment piece of artwork," Boldig says.
If your budget will not allow you to buy the original work of an
artist you admire, you may still be able to buy something by that
artist. "You can buy limited edition prints, signed and numbered
by the artist. You can also buy original photographs, etchings or
serigraphs," Boldig says.
Mix It Up
Do you love French provincial furniture, but assume you can never
have a contemporary painting? Not so. The style of your décor does
not dictate the type of art you must purchase. "Every piece of
your furniture probably does not match exactly, so why not mix up the
art? Eclecticism is very popular — and can be very
interesting," Boldig says.
Harris agrees. "In my own house, we have Victorian furniture,
but we also have some very contemporary art," he says. "If
you love a particular painting that is in the modern style, you can
always use a more formal frame on it. You can mix diverse pieces and
styles. Get out of the box and try something different.". M