Unless you’re an art curator, gallery owner, or artist, chances are buying art does not come very naturally. Galleries can seem intimidating at first. You may be worried about choosing the right size or the right colors to fit your space. As it turns out, choosing art for the home is much more intuitive than one might think if you follow a few simple rules.
During a visit to artist Zoë Pawlak’s studio in Montréal, Pawlak offered her tips for choosing art for your home. We touched on questions like, How do I choose? When do I invest? How do I educate myself? Should I go for black-and-white abstract art or colorful photography? Suddenly, the prospect of choosing artwork seemed less daunting. She had such in-depth knowledge and insightful tips on choosing art for the home, and we are passing along her wisdom.
Meet the Expert
Zoë Pawlak is a modern artist and a designer of rugs, furniture, and interiors.
Like What You Like
Though your home décor can obey certain rules, such as investing in neutral couches or flooring, Pawlak urges people to use their walls for more irrational or eclectic choices. “Art is a place for expression through color, content, and texture,” says Pawlak. “Choose art at a heart level, and don’t forget about sculptures and rugs!” They can make artistic statements, too.
Get to Know the Artist
“Getting to know the artist that made your art helps you to understand the content of the work and the context around the piece itself," Pawlak says. If you don’t get the chance to meet the artist in person, read up. Many contemporary galleries, such as Uprise, now offer artist profiles online. And of course, most anyone is a mere Google search away. Read up on the people who produced your art, or follow them on Instagram to get a glimpse into their lives!
Payment Plans or Trades Are Often Totally Legit
“You can always suggest a payment plan or a trade. It never hurts to ask," Pawlak suggests. Did you fall in love with a piece that’s slightly above your budget? Try negotiating. “Maybe that artist wouldn’t mind receiving a few hundred dollars a month, or maybe they need your mad Photoshop or portrait-taking skills as much as you need their art in your life!” Harness your own talents, and see if you can be useful to the artist in a mutually beneficial way.
Be Ready to Act Fast or Miss Out
“There are exactly three pieces I regret not investing in at the time. How do I know that? I still think about them," Pawlak says. Art is often unique and one-of-a-kind. If your heart leaps at the sight of a piece, don’t hesitate too long or you could miss out. “The film Herb & Dorothy is a great example of how you can buy what you love and still live on a budget." (We’re adding this one to our list of films to watch.)
Attend Art Events Featuring Emerging Artists
“Find out what’s happening in your city in the arts, and then show up!” Pawlawk advises. This is a great way to expose yourself to emerging artists. Buying from young or up-and-coming artists who are only starting to make a name for themselves is like stumbling upon a great real estate deal. Decades ago, this MyDomaine writer's step-dad spent $500 on a print from a young unknown artist named Andy Warhol—true story.
Buy on the Secondary Market
“This is a whole other game. I highly recommend getting advice from savvy friends and attending auctions," Pawlak says. Books such as Seven Days in the Art World (wherein the author peels back the layers of the contemporary art world) and The 12 Million Dollar Stuffed Shark (a look at contemporary art through the economics lens) offer insightful ways to immerse yourself in the historic and ever-adapting gallery and auction systems.
Learn About Paper Works and Framing
Paperworks are often much less expensive than, say, oil on canvas, but keep in mind that many paper works are not sold in frames. If you want to save money on framing, Pawlak suggests checking the acidity in the mats first and foremost. “You can buy inexpensive frames, but make sure that the mats touching the actual artwork are acid-free," Pawlak suggests. “Acidic mats found in budget ready-made frames can quickly deteriorate or discolor artwork."
Commission a Piece
Getting a commissioned piece of art is a great way to get exactly the right size for your space while collecting the work of an artist you love. When choosing an artist, make sure they have experience in making commissions, or ask a client who’s worked with the artist in the past to share their experience. “Having done over 300 commissioned artworks myself, I am extremely familiar with what I can and cannot offer,” says Pawlak. “Don’t ask the artist to stray too far from their style or try to control them too much. This is a recipe for disaster.” Make sure you clearly state your expectations before the work begins so that you are not disappointed.