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Developing an Artful Collection

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

(Originally published in the Napa Valley Register)

You spot the piece … it’s caught your attention … it’s calling your name, making you sigh, laugh  or cry. You love the colors, the drama, or maybe it’s a subtlety that you recognize. Whether a painting, a sculpture, or mixed media, you connect with its message or it triggers a memory. Maybe it reminds you of who you are, where you’ve been, or it inspires you to become who you want to be. Perhaps you can’t pinpoint its affect on you other than you can’t get it out of your mind.

Choosing a piece of art is not always driven by pulled heartstrings. But if it's a matter of “just liking it”, knowing why you like it adds more meaning and purpose to your collection. Your collection may be driven by a genre, a technique, an era, a particular artist or a combination of interests and intentions. 

Don’t let the image portrayed in television movies of humorless gallery owners or temperamental artists proclaiming a certain knowing invisible to the rest of us scare you from visiting real galleries and meeting real artists. If you have an interest in a piece of work, ask about it. Artists put their hearts on display, often with vulnerability, so they are thrilled when someone notices.

How do you develop your personal art collection? Its essence really comes from your own history. Over the years, with each life experience, with each trip you’ve traveled, and with ever-developing viewpoints, your art collection evolves into your story, your autobiography. With this understanding, you’ll see how individual pieces and collections within your collection represent the many chapters of your life.

Adding art to your home is like adding a pet to your family. Sometimes you pursue it and sometimes, when you least expect it, it pursues you. As an interior designer, some of my favorite moments with a client are those spent looking for art. This is when I take a back seat and enjoy watching what catches my client’s eye. This is when I become a sounding board to ensure there is an emotional and purposeful connection to a piece and visualize how it fits into the entire collection and their space.

Whether starting, adding, or assessing your personal art collection, here are suggestions:   

1) Attend Open Studio events. Hearing an artist’s explanation of how and why they create brings more meaning to it and allows you to resonate with it in your own way.

2) Meet artists in their studios to get a peek behind the scenes —  initial conceptions to works in progress to completed pieces. If you cannot afford a piece, you may be able to purchase an initial sketch. In the future, when you purchase a completed piece, you will see where your collection started and how it progressed.

3) Buy at least one piece that makes you feel nostalgic.

4) Buy something slightly outside your comfort zone; something that makes you feel a little giddy.

5) Buy a piece from an artist about your age. It will be interesting to see how his or her art changes as you both go through world events and stages of life at the same time.

6) Make the pieces of a collection speak to each other and relate in some way —  through the artist, genre, medium, color, image, country or century.

Do not choose art merely to fill an empty space and do not reject a piece simply because it doesn’t match your color scheme  — it doesn’t have to. Art stands on its own merit. Whether you find a piece by design or by accident, if it speaks to you, listen to what it says and notice how it makes you feel. These senses will tell you if it should become a part of your personal art collection and  your personal story.   

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