A Beginner's Guide To Buying Art

I'm back from Paris and I cannot even begin to tell you what a magical time it was. The trip exceeded every expectation that I had and next week I will do a proper post on what we did in the city and what worked well (and what didn't!) Having that one on one time with my son was so special and I know we both will remember our time in Paris for the rest of our lives.

But first...art! 

I don't know about you all, but there is nothing that I find more overwhelming than the process of buying "actual" art. You know, art that isn't mass produced, that is generally much more expensive. On a personal level, this hasn't been an issue but when it comes to making recommendations for my clients I honestly haven't had a clue where to start.

This is why I'm so excited that my good friend Sarah agreed to answer some questions about purchasing fine art. Her family owns a gallery in Virginia and luckily for those of us who live in Boston, their gallery will be hosting a pop up on Newbury Street starting next week! I asked Sarah some of the basic questions that I had and if any of you have any other questions, please feel free to post them in the comments and I will make sure to get them answered for you!

Can you tell me a little bit about your background in fine art?

My educational background is in economics and the law, so I’m not exactly a classically trained art expert, however, I have always been extremely interested in design and contemporary art. Art really allows you to personalize the space in which you live or work, and to express something about yourself.  My approach to art is to first consider what is visually interesting to me, and then I think about how the work complements and brings a space together.  

My husband Quentin’s mother, Beverly Reynolds, founded and grew a contemporary art gallery in Virginia for over 40 years and she was obviously a huge influence on our collection. Beverly, had an incredible eye and taste, but she never pushed an artist she loved... it was always about “what do you like?”  Bev unfortunately passed away two years ago, but Alice Reynolds and Julia Monroe have taken up the mantle and continued what was great about the gallery, while also taking it in new and exciting directions- like having pop up shows. This will be the third year that we have hosted the Reynolds Gallery pop up in Boston, and it has been an incredible experience for me to be a part of the growth of the gallery. 

 What advice do you have for someone who is interested in purchasing their first piece of fine art? 

Art is obviously all about personal perspective, style and taste.  It shouldn’t be something that you are intimidated by- trust your instincts about what you like. I think that it is great to go to openings, explore galleries, and join groups like the museum council at the MFA.  Once you begin looking, you begin to notice patterns in what appeals to you and you will get to learn about different artists, their work process and mediums.  

It is certainly helpful to know someone or work with a gallery or consultant that you trust, they can help you identify artists that are creating high quality work that is consistent with your preferences.  I think a central premise of the Reynolds Gallery is that great art does not have to mean the most expensive art, but that every artist they carry is top-caliber, whether she is a world renowned artist like Sally Mann or a young emerging artist.

As someone who knows absolutely nothing about fine art, if I were to want to purchase my first piece of art for my home where would I even begin? 

At Reynolds Gallery, of course!  

In all seriousness, Boston is lucky to have a great local art scene from the MFA to local galleries. I think getting out, looking around, and meeting people are the best ways to develop a confidence and knowledge.  Work with people that you trust and can help you find what you love.

I'm intimidated to even walk into an art gallery, do you have any advice for what to ask the first time you enter a gallery? 

I know, it can be very intimidating and you feel embarrassed about asking any questions.  As I have learned, art is creative, exciting and interesting, not a litmus test of your sophistication. The Reynolds Gallery is always trying to come up with ways to make the gallery experience friendly and fun. Sharing what we know about artists and their process is exciting, and we are always happy to answer questions as are most galleries.  

What are your thoughts of purchasing art as an investment? How do you know if a piece you are interested in would hold its value? 

Art can be a great financial investment and people have made a lot of money investing in art, however, I don’t tend to think about it in terms of a speculative financial investment. To me it is about buying great exciting work by an artist committed to their craft. Quality work that you love will stand the test of time and will give you great pleasure over many, many years.

The first piece of art that my husband and I purchased for our one bedroom apartment in New York is hanging in our living room today.  Not only is the piece the only thing that we still have from that apartment, it looks just as great as the day we purchased and has become that much more valuable to us for all the different memories it carries from different points in our life.  So many things today seem disposable and dated in about 6 months, but great art that changes your room and strikes you every time you walk in will hold its value.  I pretty much guarantee you that your children are much more likely to someday have a piece of art that you purchased hanging on their walls then they ever will a piece of furniture like a sofa. 

Are there any artists you are loving right now? 

Andrea Donnelly is fabulous young textile artist in Richmond.  She has a show opening in November at the Reynolds Gallery and will be traveling for a gallery talk at the pop up with John Ravenal, the Executive Director of the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Garden, on November 7th.  Andrea’s career is gaining great momentum right now – she just opened a solo show at the North Carolina Museum of Art and will have a monumental piece in the opening of the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU.  She creates work that is based on her love of literature and poetry – her pieces are equally beautiful and intelligent.

Tell me more about the Reynolds Gallery Pop-Up.

Whether you are a seasoned collector, a curious beginner, or simply passing through, we hope you will come visit the Reynolds Gallery pop up!  We promise that you’ll enjoy looking around. The gallery will be open November 7 - 19 we are located at located at 220 Newbury St. The gallery is open to the public everyday 11 am - 6 pm. We'll celebrate the pop up space with a reception on Friday, November 10 from 6 - 9 pm. 

Thank you Sarah! I think you've given me the confidence to walk into a gallery! I'm so excited for your opening! Xx