starting with art

Room with a view: Local art authorities offer tips on buying that first piece

Room with a view: Local art authorities offer tips on buying that first piece

Austin Photo Set: News_Patricia_arthouse_jan 2013_erin cunningham
Erin Cunningham, " Love Handles", 2005, Caste bronze and steel cables, variable dimensions.
Austin Photo Set: News_Patricia_arthouse_jan 2013_jonathan allen
Jonathan Allen, "Dense Violet Night" 2010, Paint, pencil, pen, pastel and paper on canvas, 60" x 72"
Austin Photo Set: News_Patricia_arthouse_jan 2013_karen hawkins
Karen Hawkins, "Totem Postscript", 2012, Found books, steel with bronze finish, 108" x 12"x 12"
Austin Photo Set: News_Patricia_arthouse_jan 2013_erin cunningham
Austin Photo Set: News_Patricia_arthouse_jan 2013_jonathan allen
Austin Photo Set: News_Patricia_arthouse_jan 2013_karen hawkins

Art can be beautiful, evocative. It can make you smile, cry or stare in awe. It can make a room — or wreak havoc. 

Art is personal. The genres and artists you gravitate toward say something about you and who you are, which is why the hunt for your first piece can be intimidating.

Where to start? How much to pay? Where to put it? These are all questions that may creep inside your mind as you begin your quest. But there’s no need to be afraid. We asked a few experts around town to share their thoughts on what you must know before you make your first purchase.

Deborah Page, Deborah Page Projects, Art Consultant

Deborah Page has recently been working on the public spaces at an upscale Dallas condo development. For the project, she and her director, Nikki Escobar, have incorporated mostly emerging Austin artists, including Karen Hawkins, Nathan Green and McKay Otto.

Go with your gut

You need to have an emotional reaction to the piece. It is just like anything — a dress or a sofa.

Buy for interest and investment

Seeing somebody go from $1,000 to $250,000 at the Whitney is pretty cool. What I would recommend is to go to AMOA-Arthouse and the Blanton and look at the permanent collections. Talk to directors, curators, docents and get that knowledge. The East Austin Studio Tour is a great way for first time buyers to see a lot of work and see what they respond to.

Purchase what you like

My suggestion is to buy what you love, just like furniture. You’ll always have a place for it.

Bill Davis, Davis Gallery & Framing, Gallery Owner

Bill Davis has always been committed to local artists. After working at the UT Huntington Gallery/HRC Michener Collection, now known as the Blanton, he opened his own gallery, featuring emerging and mid-career artists.

Get a clue

This may sound stupid, but they have to know what they like. Sometimes that is easier than it sounds.

Hit a few galleries

Some people are afraid. They are afraid to go into a gallery because they think they may be charged money. Austin galleries are a lot like other places of business around here. Nobody is going to make you feel like an idiot.

Start with prints

I like to encourage people if they are not able or willing to spend a bunch of money to start with prints because they are still considered originals even if an artist produces a run of 20 or 25 limited edition pieces.

Rachel H. Stephens, Wally Workman Gallery, Assistant Gallery Director

The Wally Workman Gallery represents more than 50 artists and specializes in emerging and collected talent. A few pieces by each artist hang on the walls of the two stories of exhibit space at all times. Malcolm Bucknall: Through the Looking Glass is on view February 3 - 23.

Know the medium

Educating yourself on the difference between oil, acrylic, pastel and watercolor as well as printmaking methods will inform you on why you might like one medium over another.

Make a deal

If you are on a tight budget, don’t be afraid to ask galleries about a payment plan. It is much more common than you think. Also, if you have the time and energy, visit studios. Many artists who are just starting out will not have a gallery reputation yet and you can get in on the low end.

Take it home

A quality piece of art will look good in any home. However, for many clients, taking work out on approval and seeing it in the home gives them the confidence to make a purchase.