Buying art can be an intimidating process. What should you collect? Should you focus on investment? Where do you find pieces you’ll enjoy? With dozens of galleries, group art shows and arts organizations spread throughout the Valley—and even more private studios tucked in just about every neighborhood—the greater Phoenix region offers artwork for every budget and taste. The key to curating a collection you’ll love for years to come begins with educating yourself and developing relationships along the way.
Artist and gallery owners alike agree that the No. 1 reason to buy a piece of art is because it moves you. “Art is not an objective science,” says Holly Bergman, owner of Wild Holly Gallery in Carefree. “It is very subjective. You really need to love the piece.” Bergman’s 5,000-square-foot gallery represents more than 90 artists from across the country. Large galleries that offer a diverse selection are ideal for novice collectors who wish to explore a variety of artists, mediums and subject matter.
Another option is to check out open house-style events, such as Scottsdale’s Thursday night ArtWalks or Phoenix’s First Fridays—or even self-guided studio tours. “You’ll have a chance to see multiple galleries and determine if one particular art style or painting catches your eye,” notes Cyndy Carstens, artist and owner of Scottsdale’s Carstens Fine Art Studio & Gallery, which represents her own skyscapes and landscapes. “Visiting multiple galleries will also help you determine the price ranges of artworks that different galleries have and how that fits within your budget,” she adds.
No matter where you look for art, it’s important to have a connection with any pieces you intend to purchase. “My advice for collecting is inspired by an Andy Warhol quote: ‘People should fall in love with their eyes closed.’ It may seem odd, but it simply means to pay attention to how a piece makes you feel,” says Audrey Reames, director of Scottsdale’s contemporary gallery Altamira Fine Art.
“Ask yourself, ‘What inspires you and compels you?’” adds Carefree-based painter Lucy Dickens, who specializes in landscapes of the Sonoran Desert as well as Mediterranean regions. “Collect what moves you, what makes your heart skip a beat. Surround yourself with what you love.”
Christi Bonner Manuelito, co-founder of Scottsdale’s Bonner David Galleries, agrees that any art purchased should elicit an emotional response. “It has to be personal,” she says. She cautions against buying art based on it matching your home’s decor. “That’s not how you look for art, because then you’re going to end up with something that that doesn’t feed you emotionally or give you
Amery Bohling, landscape artist and owner of Amery Bohling Fine Art in Scottsdale, which represents both the artist’s work as well as a curated selection of others, agrees. “Don’t worry too much about matching the decor of your home. If you stay true to what inspires you and makes you happy, you will have a treasure to last a lifetime. Of course, you can do wonders with framing to make almost any piece work in a room.”
Working with Galleries
Many beginning—and even a few experienced—art collectors find themselves intimidated by galleries. Don’t be, says Manuelito, who has been helping the public choose both traditional and contemporary works for 17 years. “You should feel open to asking questions,” she explains. “We want everyone to feel welcome.”
Reames notes that galleries provide education, access and guidance. “They have deep knowledge on the artist and their body of work, so they can help advise and inform,” she explains. “They can often connect the client with the artist to create a personal connection, as well, which can add a richness to collecting contemporary artists’ work.”
If a customer takes an interest in a particular piece, Bergman prefers to share with them information about the artist. “We talk about their career, their resume, their involvement in the art world, as well as the medium, so that the buyer becomes thoroughly engrossed in the item,” she says.
Robert Bisetti, owner of Think Art Gallery in North Scottsdale, adds that most customers who come into his high-end decorative art gallery, which offers original works, are wanting to fill a particular wall or space in their home. “With the design team we have, we’re able to quickly ascertain what someone’s style is as well as what genre, color scheme, size and scale will work for them. All of those things come into play when working with clients.”
Exploring Art Shows
There are a variety of art shows, from one-day festivals that attract local artists to months-long events that bring in artists from around the country. These shows allow you to meet the artist and see a diverse selection of works, from traditional arts, such as oil paintings and bronzes, to contemporary forms, including handmade furniture.
“Large shows allow art lovers to see a wide variety of mediums and styles so they can hone in on what they are truly drawn to, what really speaks to them,” says Dickens.
“It’s even better when the artist is present because then both the artist and the collector have an opportunity to interact with, and to learn from each other.
Imagine collecting a piece you love and having a story to tell about it, as well.”
Rick Griggs of Natural Edge Wood Creations does a few shows every year. The Carefree-based artist crafts wood furnishings, frequently embedded with natural stones, that are functional yet stand out and become conversation pieces, much like paintings often do. “Shows gives people a chance to see your work up close,” he says. “The majority of people don’t necessarily buy something on the spot that day, but they will remember you and what you make.”
Knowing the Artist
Like Dickens and Griggs, Chris Turri has a studio at his home in Corrales, New Mexico, in which he works, and he meets customers there on a regular basis. Such one-on-one opportunities give collectors a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the metalsmith/mixed-media artist makes his creations. “People have a pretty good idea of how bronzes and oil paintings are created,” says his wife, Jan. “When you talk about what Chris or other mixed-media artists do, people typically have no idea of the level of layering and steps involved or about how these artists work with different mediums and tools.”
Scottsdale artist Fiona Purdy has been painting fine art portraits of pet for 25 years. “I consider my paintings to be fine works of art that will stand equally beside an oil landscape or bronze sculpture in someone’s collection,” she notes. Because her work is individualized to each client, having one-on-one time with her customers is extremely important. “I don’t paint just a ‘golden retriever,’ but instead I paint your golden retriever. It’s a very collaborative endeavor” that results in “the most personal and beloved piece of artwork that someone could ever add to their collection.”
So whatever medium you decide to collect, “your art should be a direct reflection of you and who you are,” says Manuelito. “That’s what makes for the most unique collection.”
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