Buying art: A Guide for First-Timers

Buying Art: A Guide for First Timers


Art is a great way to enrich your life. I’ve learned through personal experience that surrounding myself with art brightens my day, and similar to music, can pick me up when I’m feeling down. It can calm or soothe, inspire or invigorate, and provoke thought and contemplation. Also, there is the feel-good component of having something handmade in my world- reaffirming a need for personal connection that is often forgotten as we mitigate the sea of mass-production. I also love knowing that I’m supporting artists so that they can continue to create and bring more art into the world.

Collecting art can seem daunting for those thinking seriously about purchasing art for the first time. The art world is vast and can overwhelm even the seasoned collector, getting caught up in the indecision of too many options. Narrowing down the choices by creating goals helps simplify the process and can be a useful step to beginning a collection. Are you trying to find something that looks just right for that spot over the sofa to step up your design game? Do you have particular passions (like animals, the beach or automobiles) that make you happy and want to celebrate? Do you want something to energize your office to provide a pick-me-up when you’re dragging through the day?  

While all of these are perfectly good reasons to purchase a piece of art, the best advice I can give is to buy what you love. For me this trumps all other factors; if I love something enough I’ll sort out the functionality later. Even if there may be a piece that matches your space a little better, go with the one that excites you the most (or soothes or stimulates or that draws you in). Trust your gut and follow your heart. Over time the wall color will change, the furniture will change, but a good art purchase will be with you for life.

Buying what you really like or love is a good baseline for any purchase, but where should you hang it? Purchasing and hanging art is not an exact science because it’s so personal (I like to say that the artworld is just a collection of opinions; there are no absolute truths), but here are some guidelines I tend to follow.

The more bold, colorful or edgier pieces are ones I like to place in main living spaces. They keep the area bright and some of those edgier pieces are great conversation starters. Personally, I like to use colors that pop and vitalize the space. I’ve had nights where guests were so intrigued with the art on the walls, we’ve occupied much of the night enjoying drinks while we talked art- played “what do you see” with abstractions (like laying on your back and watching clouds) or pondered what the artist may have been thinking.

For the master bedroom, I tend to lean toward more calming colors, like blues and greens. I choose artwork that is going to soothe and set a sophisticated mood for a space I want to relax in. Alternatively, the master bedroom or bathroom can also be a good place for those pieces that you don’t want everyone to see- maybe you love it but think it may be too edgy for your grandmother or boss. By placing it in the bedroom, you still get to enjoy without having to put it out there for the world to see.

In a foyer or entry to your home I like a statement piece, ideally something larger (or a collection of smaller works grouped together) if you can fit it. It sets the mood the moment a guest enters, gets their attention, and says something about who you are- fun, cultured, intelligent- whatever the case may be. Your art collection can become a part of your identity, and tell a larger story of who you are through what you choose to display.

In guest bedrooms or bathrooms I tend to use the pieces that are pretty, more subdued yet still have the cool factor. I want my guests to enjoy being surrounded by great art, but I’m not trying to scare or shock them. I want them their stay to be memorable yet comfortable. But hey, that’s just me. If you are the shocking type and you love getting a jolt out of people, well, get on with your bad self and have fun with it. Remember buying and placing art is all about you, not what someone else wants. Art advisors, consultants, designers can be a great resource but you are the one that’s going to live with it so if something doesn’t vibe right with you, trust yourself.

Having an objective is a great way to focus your journey into the world of collecting art, and uCurate can help you simplify. You can browse by subject matter, style or media by using the “Browse by…” menu on the top of any page to start with a category that interests you. From here you can refine your search with filters, narrowing your selections down by size, color, and price. (Filters are on the left-hand side of a gallery page if you are on a laptop/desktop and by clicking “Refine By” at the top of any gallery on a phone/tablet.) Or you can use artMatcher - just select your wall or furniture color and artMatcher will find art that coordinates by using the science of color theory. Click on a piece and see it with that color, if it’s not right click back in the gallery and select another to try. Keep playing around until you find something that feels right, then click on the “Purchase | More Details” button for more information. Additionally, if you want to take it a step further when you are in any artwork detail page you may click on the “see it in your space” button below the main image. From here choose the tab at the top that says “see it in your space” and upload a photo of your wall. Use the instructions help get the best photo and the size slider bar to custom scale the art to your space. If you are still feeling a bit lost or have a large project you could use some help with, click on “Custom Services” on the top of any page and tell us a little more about your project. You can choose for us to follow up with an email, phone call, or even a video call- allowing our art experts see your home or office to best help you with the process. We’ll even create digital mockups of our expert’s picks for your space, letting you see it before making a decision to purchase. This is entirely complimentary service, so if you’re stuck, let’s us help.

These tips are meant to give you guidance, but art is so personal the best choice is what pleases you. We each bring our own context, taste, and history to the table, which informs how art affects us. What’s undeniable is that it can alter your life. It’s amazing how great art can change my mood or thoughts, and it’s hard to imagine life without it. Friedrich Nietzsche said “Without music, life would be a mistake”, and I feel the same about visual art: without art, life would be a mistake.

-Jonathan Wood   (Founder | uCurate)

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