• The Art of Collecting Artwork

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    Julia Bangert
    Julie Bangert, an art consultant and freelance writer, is a Cape Cod native. She studied art history and architecture in Florence, Italy, before graduating with a B.A. in Fine Arts from Davidson College, North Carolina.
    Julia Bangert

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    By Julia Bangert

    It’s probably unnecessary to proffer that the contents of one’s home are a reflection of its inhabitants. Bookcases lined with biographies of Lincoln and Lee reflect a lifetime interest in Civil War history, while tomes on Cousteau, an antique Crittendon fog horn, or a rare map denote a family’s love of the ocean.

    Artifacts like these bring nuance and soul to our interiors, serving as tangible reminders of trips, studies, jobs, and friendships that comprise the DNA of our unique life story. Most of us start out as accidental collectors, acquiring objects as gifts, souvenirs, or necessities, until they begin to weave their own sort of organic biography in our mountain of personal possessions.

    However, as we begin to think about collecting and decorating with real “art”, several practical issues come into play. Two important considerations are size (both physical scale and price) and timing.  Most of us don’t start out with the economic means or space to buy numerous important paintings early in life. We also don’t tend to fall in love with every painting we see, right as we are moving into and decorating our dream home. More often, the passion develops gradually, discovering a new painter here, encountering a rare sculpture there, which means that your art collection should grow as organically as the other objects in your home.

    The trouble is that every home has a certain amount of wall space, and most of us feel the need to fill it as soon as we move in. And, exceedingly often, we fill that space with sterile, unimaginative prints. One of my pet peeves is walking into a truly beautiful home and seeing that the walls are filled with reproductions that fit so flawlessly into the color scheme that they seem to have been ordered with the drapery. Bleh.

    So how do you bridge the wall gap? If you’re reading this blog, you probably have an interest in building an art collection. But please don’t rush the process. In addition to pieces of fine art, there are hundreds of ways to appoint your walls with meaningful and unique objects. My advice is to get creative and, whenever possible, get something real and/or made by hand.

    Going to estate sales, antique shops and consignment stores is a great way to spend an afternoon, and an opportunity to discover unique artwork. Nine times out of ten you’ll need to look past a bad frame. One of my favorite pieces in my own collection started as a small unframed canvas I picked out of a bin of paintings at an antique store in Eastham about a decade ago. It was an abstract, frowning face in bold colors and it just spoke to me. I think I paid $30. But I splurged and had it professionally framed with a larger than usual linen mat, and Voila! For around $350, I had a piece of art that I loved and could afford, and that was completely one of a kind.

    Children’s artwork, removed from its usual refrigerator assignation, is a beautiful way to decorate your walls while paying homage to budding talent. Framing family letters is another great way of bringing personal artifacts into the context of your home interior. My cousin Robin recently shared a beautiful example of re-purposing. After her grandmother died, she had one of her Pucci scarves professionally mounted and framed. At almost 4’ square, it is the centerpiece of her living room. The brilliant colors make a splash on her wall, while reminding her of Granny’s vibrant personality.

    Sometimes, you can even turn a household tragedy into artwork. Truro artist Donna Mahan makes beautiful sculptural wall hangings out of shards of pottery and metal. You can commission a piece based on your own materials, so there’s hope after all for that piece of Aunt Kate’s china that broke after one too many glasses of eggnog last Christmas.

    In short, there are lots of ways to escape the print trap without spending a fortune, and you may find yourself creating a real heirloom in the process!!


    May 09, 2014