How to Buy Art as Gifts
Growing up, I always viewed original artwork as something other people had. Rich people.
I’ve never been an art geek, but I’m starting to hit that point in my life where I’d like some nice things to hang on my walls. I’m in what I think will be a long-term home, and I’m aging out of the grad student chic look that kept me happy through my 20s.
So I’ve begun paying more attention to art. I’ve found myself visiting a lot of art studios and gallery shows over the past year. In doing so, I learned that beautiful original art doesn’t have to be expensive. Often, it costs no more than you’d spend on a sweater at the mall or a gift certificate for a nice restaurant. In other words, entirely within many holiday gift budgets. (See also: How to Cheaply Display Your Art)
I’ve replaced my garage sale prints from college with original pieces by Molly Tomlinson, Nica Davidov and Rachel Silber. Never heard of them? They’re not famous, just local artists who are good at what they do. There are literally thousands of good artists making interesting work out there.
How do you shop for fine art at an affordable price? I turned to Boston-based artist and teacher Rachel Mello for advice. Here are her tips for a successful gift.
Giving someone art as a gift can be tricky, but it’s tricky for the same reason it’s so special: it shows you’ve been paying attention to the person and (hopefully) know what they like.
Go with your gut.
You don’t have to overthink an art purchase. Rachel says the two most important questions to ask when you see a piece of artwork are, “Do I like it?” and “Does it remind me of the person I’m shopping for?” It’s really that simple.
Don’t be afraid of abstract art.
If the colors draw you in, and you think they’d look great on your loved one’s wall, go for it!
Open studios, like Somerville’s Open Studios, are common places for artists to show off their stuff. You can also buy from artists directly at craft shows and holiday fairs. Art schools often hold holiday shows where you can buy work directly from art students.
Buy directly from the artists.
Every time art is collected and resold, the price goes up a notch.
"If you give somebody art that is not ready to hang, that can be a big burden,” Rachel said. “Work that's not ready to hang or put out often ends up in a drawer.” She warns against falling for the custom framing racket, though. A ready-made frame from Target will serve nicely for most pieces.
Rachel points out that for someone who loves art, the gift of an original piece is two-fold. "Not only are you giving them a thing that they like, you're supporting a practice they like: you're supporting art and keeping art-making happening,” she said.
So go ahead and turn your home, or your mom’s home, into a mini-museum this holiday season. You’ll be bringing more beauty into your home, and your local arts community will thank you for it.
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