3 Tips for Buying Art

(from a 30-Something)

by Tess Vella-Collette, DVAC Cultural Critic-in-Residence

If you had asked me five years ago what an “art collector” looked like, I probably would have described an old dude in his study with a monocle and a pipe.  Surely an art collector wouldn’t look anything like me, but here we are, and in those 5 years my wall decor has transitioned from posters and “decorative” pieces from Target, to original paintings and photographs from Dayton area artists.   Nearly all of the pieces I own have been purchased through the Dayton Visual Arts Center.  DVAC makes buying art easy and so much fun.  Their annual Art Auction is quickly approaching, and I look forward to attending every year knowing that I’ll be leaving with a new piece to hang on my wall.

With the DVAC Art Auction just around the corner, I’ve put together a few of my tips for buying art and cultivating one’s own collection…no monocle required!

If It Speaks To You, Let It

One of the first pieces I ever bought from DVAC was a tiny watercolor, the scene was a beautiful stream in the middle of lush forest.  Considering I’m not exactly an “outdoorsy” person, this wasn’t a painting that necessarily spoke to my interests or passions, however the painting called out to me.  The colors were vibrant, the scene was beautiful, and I could almost hear it saying “take me home, take me home.”  

The point here is, the art you buy doesn’t have to be “so you.”  But if it’s speaking to you, let it.  You don’t have to justify your purchase to anyone, you don’t have to explain why it has a space in your home.  It can just be something that you wanted, no stress, no explanation.

Know Your Price

This is a good rule in life no matter what you’re purchasing.  Have a budget in mind before buying.  However, keep in mind that with art, there should also be a frame.  Once I purchased a $40 print, and ended up spending close to $200 on the frame.  That one hurt, plus it took a month to be framed.  (I need instant gratification, people!!!) One of the most amazing things about the DVAC Art Auction is that 100% of the works come framed and ready to hang.  This is incredibly convenient and an awesome value.  If a tag says $225, then you know that’s all you’ll be spending.  If hundreds of dollars isn’t in your budget, the Auction has great pieces in the lower price range too.  One of my favorite auction pieces was $75!

Don’t Try to Fill a Space, But Fulfill a Need

As my friends are buying their first houses and decorating their new spaces I often hear them say “I really want something big to go here.”  In my opinion, this is the wrong approach.  I don’t believe in buying art to fill a particular wall or to bring a room together.  I think art can compliment the home and its decor and still speak for itself.  If you select a piece of art because it’s the right size, it may not be the right piece for you in the long term.  Artwork is an investment, and something that will stick with you from home to home, and hopefully form one decorative style to the next.  Buying a big piece now may not work in the next home you live in.  Focus instead on finding a mix of photography, paintings, pottery and other mediums.  You may find that a room comes together on it’s own just by filling it with authentic pieces that reflect you, and not the square footage.  
Art becomes a fixture in the home you are creating, and what you choose to hang or display can be a stressful decision, but it doesn’t have to be.  Keep these simple tips in mind, grab a ticket to the Annual DVAC Art Auction, sip on some wine, and let yourself have fun with the process!

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