Choosing Art for the Home

3 experts take the guesswork out of buying art

Author: Robert Lachman
Posted: Thursday, December 23, 2010

Your home is a reflection of your personality and the art you surround yourself with should enhance who you are, but picking the right pieces can be a challenge. Where do you start? What should you buy? What should you avoid? Hudson Valley Life spoke with artists, gallery owners and interior decorators to get their professional opinions about how to choose art for your home.

The Hudson Valley is home to painters, sculptors, photographers and interior designers, so there’s lots of original art out there. With patience, a sense of style and very little knowledge, you can find original works at reasonable prices that may even increase in value. Even on a small budget and with some research you will be surprised what you can find.

According to Ann Suprenant, artist and curator of the Suprenant Gallery in Kingston, art can be found throughout the valley, in antique stores and restaurants as well as galleries. “If you choose one week a month to go to galleries, you’ll find art on the way,” she says. “Art finds itself in clusters. In each town, there will be one or two blocks where there’ll be art.”

Mark Gruber, who owns The Mark Gruber Gallery of New Paltz, points out that galleries are there to help customers with their choices. “We always advise people to buy what they like,” he says. “Your home is your taste.” Mark feels that part of a gallery’s job is to educate people on framing. “Presentation is really important for showing art,” he explains. “Bad framing can kill a good painting, while good framing enhances it.” He also says bringing in fabric swatches hoping to match the tones of the painting with the color scheme of a room is unnecessary.

Linda Gayton of Linda Gayton Interior Design in Highland Mills uses local artists whenever possible in her design work. “Obviously art is very subjective and everything doesn’t have to match or coordinate,” she says. “That it fits the space and the client enjoys the subject matter is the most important thing.” Linda says there are many ways of designing a space, but if a client has a piece of art they like, designing a room around the art and allowing the clients to take the lead is a terrific way to do it. “When you do an interior, it’s collaboration between the designer and the client.”

“The first thing I ask my clients is, ‘What do you love?” says Mari Kirwood of Mari Kirwood Associates in Rhinebeck. “Art is not like matching pillowcases. Often I’ve had a room full of color and I hang a black and white charcoal.” According to Mari, the wall size should enhance the painting and not overwhelm it. “In choosing artwork you choose the piece that is to be highlighted or a series, like three prints together or three botanicals; something that adds interest and dimension to the room.” Getting to know artists personally is also very important. “I always buy art from a person I meet,” Mari explains.

Interior Designer Barbara De Stefano of De Stefano Associates in Kingston asks her clients about their taste in art. Do they like modern or Impressionists, landscapes or abstract? She looks in local galleries for local artists, checks out design magazines and goes to art shows. For sculpture, antique carvings, blown glass or Oriental pieces she searches antique stores. Each year, she attends the International Art Show in New York City and takes her clients along. She says she tries to get the most for the money. “I find great pieces at Home Goods, if I have a client who is starting out in their first space.”

Buying ready-made frames at Michael’s is also an option when the budget is low. “If you’re looking around your house, take everything off the walls and think about what you want there,” suggests Suprenant. “And when you go to a gallery, talk to the curator about price.” She explains that the gallery gets 50 percent of the artist’s sale and the artist gets the same. “Sometimes if someone really likes something we can take 10 percent off each end.” Ann also made it clear that you don’t need art education to buy art. Get what you like and set a tone from room to room. It’s all ebb and flow, if you love something that doesn’t fit try another room.

Here are some tips from the experts on what to avoid when looking for art. Mark Gruber: “Avoid signed prints, they never increase in value.” Mari Kirwood: “Don’t buy something you don’t like even if it will increase in value. Buy what you love.” Ann Suprenant: “Don’t buy something that looks like someone else’s work, because imitation is deadly.”

Robert Lachman is an award-winning journalist who lives in Red Hook. He has worked for many local newspapers and is also a singer-songwriter, who performs in the area.

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