Living With Art

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I was totally blown away by your responses to my shelter mags post yesterday – you’re quite the informed bunch! The first title I cover is going to be Interior Design - I’m poring over back issues and gathering information – look for my post on this trade-oriented magazine tomorrow.

Today, I’m going to get the other ball rolling and talk about living with art. My decision to open my gallery in 2003 was fueled by three different factors, all of which seemed wrong, wrong, wrong to me:

#1- I had a lot of artist friends and saw how hard it was for them to get their work exhibited in a professional environment, combined with the fact that it was almost impossible for them to market themselves to potential clients directly without seeming totally arrogant and egotistical.

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#2- There had been a time where, while not rolling in money, I definitely had disposable income. In 2003 I did not, and as my “fortunes” dwindled (coinciding with the deflation of the dotcom bubble) I went through the odd process of discovering what things purchased with that disposable income had lasting value. Clothes, shoes and nice meals were lovely, but did not fall into that category. My penchant for mid-century furniture, Heywood Wakefield specifically, led me to make some purchases that were more durable and meaningful. One thing I did not buy, which I really really really wished I had, was art.

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#3- I was paging through a Pottery Barn catalog and it featured several different framed photographs for about $200. PB was taking the lions share of the profit, and what people were purchasing, by virtue of the fact that it was being done through a national chain, was neither original nor of any particular benefit to the artist who made the photo in the first place.

I was convinced there had to be a better way, and so I up and opened the gallery. It was pretty much an impulse decision, but it was one of the best impulses I ever had. The idea behind the gallery from the start was that while it’s not exactly cheap, you don’t have to be a millionaire to buy art, and that buying art is a great way to spend money. You get something of lasting value, you’re supporting the career of an emerging artist AND you get to live with something unique that enriches your life in ways that mass-produced stuff simply cannot.

While I’m here posting on AT, I’ll be talking about how to get started with buying art, how to present it once you’ve bought it (framing, etc), how to hang it in your home and I’ll provide lots of resources for achieving every step of the process.

To kick things off today I’ve included images from the three photographers who participated in the inaugural exhibition at the gallery in March of 2003: Mara Bodis-Wollner, Dana Miller and Tema Stauffer. All of them have work available that’s under $1000 (a lot cheaper than that Marc Jacobs bag you might be jonesing after, and all their pieces are limited editions. This is just a taste, and it’s an easy point of departure for me because it’s MY taste. Obviously, there are many many resources for acquiring work by emerging artists and I’ll mention plenty of them in the weeks to come.

And now, a question for you: Do you live with art? What kind of stuff is it? If you don’t, what are your biggest obstacles to making it happen?

Jen Bekman of Personism

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.