Monday, May 19, 2014

How to Start an Art Collection

 David and I get asked a lot of questions on collecting and presenting art and I was asked last month to give some tips on building an art collection. The article also gave readers  a view of our own art pieces that we've collected through the years. Each piece has such a great story, and it's been such a joy to have the space to display the artwork that marks different spots on our journey. 
The lovely Stacey Wiedower put together a great article for the CA including these tips!! : 

I'm all about the "anti-bookshelf" and took out extra shelving to make room for bigger art display in our den.

 For those who don't have a CA subscription, here is the transcript of the article with art collecting tips below!!

I’ve always kept a stash of images that speak to me from magazines and blogs. If I see a photo of a room or a vignette I think is awesome, I’ll clip it out or print it and stick it in a folder or pin it to a board (real or virtual), just so I can glance at it from time to time when I need inspiration.
A few years back, I started collecting pictures of gallery walls. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I looked up one day and noticed that the grouping of images on my bulletin board had a defining theme.
It was around that time that I also started collecting random pieces of artwork I found in random places. I’m not talking solely about fine art, though I buy that too, when I find a piece I love that I can afford. I’m talking about truly quirky finds — dusty flea market art, local works from pop-up shops, thrift shop paint-by-numbers and vintage store treasures.
And I came to realize that all of it has meaning, and that building an art collection is more than walking into a gallery and taking home a piece that fits in your space.
Memphis artist Hillary Butler collects art along with creating it, and she treats her prized pieces as she would any other type of collection. That means that along with scattering art throughout her house, she creates groupings of artwork, layering it to develop an interesting tapestry of images, colors and designs.
“I personally like bookshelves,” said Butler, whose bold abstract landscapes are available on her website ( and in gallery shops in Memphis and New York. “I like to take the extra shelves out to create larger bookshelf areas to display art — to create an ‘art scene.’ I use pieces of art as a backdrop and style it with books and accessories.”
To create vignettes like this, or to create a gallery wall like the images I gathered on my own bulletin board, Butler recommends collecting works in varying sizes and styles.
“Mix types of art — a painting with a piece of typography with a black-and-white photograph,” she said. “The more genres you can mix, the more interesting a collection you can have.”
Also, carefully consider framing. Placing differing styles of artwork in the same or similar frames can add cohesion to a collection — but framing pieces differently can add interest. Figure out what works best for the pieces you’ve collected.
To create a gallery wall, first gather the pieces you’d like to display, and arrange them on a flat surface — a large table or the floor. Aim for balance and harmony, though not necessarily symmetry, and play with negative space. Once you’ve arranged the works in your collection to your liking, measure its outer dimensions, and take a photo so you remember the spacing and arrangement as you transfer it to your wall.
Another, simpler way to display a grouping of art is to layer it on a shelf, a mantel or even on the floor — it’s a stylish look that’s less structured, more casual and easier to achieve than a wall collage. Said Butler: “Stack pieces of varying heights, and layer them so they overlap. You can start with a larger poster print; those are chic right now.”
Here are more tips from Butler on starting and displaying your collection:
Buy what you like. I can’t say that enough, because you’ll look at it every day.
Decorate around your art; don’t buy your art around your d├ęcor. You want pieces that are timeless that you’ll always love. Also, don’t necessarily let color drive your art purchases. Find a way to work it into your home because good art stands alone.
If you don’t have a lot of money to start your collection, start with what you can afford, and present it well, and then start building on it. How you frame a piece is very important — you can take a $5 print and turn it into a piece of fine art.
Your home should be a unique collection that you can’t find anywhere else. Art is a wonderful way to tell your life story.
Stacey Wiedower is a Memphis-based freelance interior design writer. Contact her at

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