Deck the Walls
The paint-by-numbers guide to starting your own collection—without going broke.
Before You Buy: The Rules
We have a friend who once tried to throw away a picasso. Of course, she didn’t know it was a Picasso. To her, it was just a sketch she didn’t like that had been collecting dust on her boyfriend’s bookshelf for too long. Funny, yes, but the tale also underscores the first rule of art collecting: Know your taste. Don’t decide you want a Picasso just because it’s what other people like (but don’t throw one away, either). The second rule: Choose work that grows on you. “The longer you look at a painting,” says Tadashi Hayakawa, an artist represented by local gallery and art consultancy firm Artwork Network, “you should start seeing more than you did at first sight.”
Sound ambiguous? That’s OK. Spend time understanding what you’re drawn to before you buy, recommends Martha Weidmann, co-founder of Denver art consultants Nine Dot Arts. Rip out magazine pictures, hold on to gallery flyers, create a visual Rolodex of things that inspire you. But don’t put too many parameters on what you’re looking for in terms of color, size, and shape, or you’ll be less likely to find it. And the final rule? Don’t worry about matching your painting to your couch. “It’s a piece of art,” says Katherine Lees, a consultant at Nine Dot Arts. “It should stand out.”
Big Wall, Small Wallet
Finding affordable originals.
Shopping for art isn’t like shopping for shoes: You’re purchasing an original, one-of-a-kind item, not the 1,000,000th (think Nike’s LeBron James collection) or even the 100th ($775 Christian Louboutins, anyone?) copy of something. So, expect to spend some money. That said, there are ways to reduce the price:
1 Expand your vocab. “Emerging artist” is code for less expensive.
2 Shop the student shows. Metro State, University of Colorado (Boulder and Denver), Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design, Colorado State University, and the University of Denver offer BFAs (and some give MFAs). Students exhibit their works in fall and spring shows (visit 5280.com/studentart for dates), where you can score great deals and help “discover” Denver’s next star(ving) artist.
3 Go bin-diving. The Art Students League of Denver’s Summer Market sale, typically in early June, has provided many Denver homes with original works—many for less than $100. Other budget-minded options: RedLine’s One Square Foot (November 2), where 12-inch-by-12-inch works are just $100, and the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities’ Holiday Art Market (December 12 to 22).
4 Become a paper-phile. Most galleries have unframed paper works—sketches, watercolors, pastels, or charcoal drawings—that are more affordable than oil on canvas. The William Havu Gallery, for example, has a huge collection of works on paper. Just ask to see them.
5 Shop in unexpected places. See something you like on the walls of your favorite restaurant or coffeeshop? Ask if it’s for sale. Crema, Common Grounds, MegaFauna, Fancy Tiger, the Shoppe, the Boulder Library, and even the Buffalo Exchange on 13th Street display rotating for-sale works, often created by local artists.
6 Split the cost. Early this year, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art launched a CSA (that’s community supported art) program of sorts: Each year, BMoCA gives 100 people the opportunity to buy an art “share” for $400. Your share means you get (to keep) nine pieces created by local contemporary artists like printmaker Viviane Le Courtois (but you don’t get to choose what the art looks like). You also will meet the makers at the distribution party.