Tips for Building & Displaying an Art Collection You Love

published Mar 9, 2016
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(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

I loved a lot about Alex’s Uptown New Orleans apartment. The natural light, the layers of textures and colors, the amazing shoulder-balancing cat. But the thing I loved most of all was his art collection. Deeply personal, each with its own story, there was a smart mix of investment pieces and (literally) trash finds. I asked him to share some of his art collecting advice.

Words to design by: “I love each piece of art in my home. I don’t buy or hang anything I don’t absolutely love. They’re like my children.”


That’s how Alex first answered a question that inquired about his favorite pieces in his New Orleans rental. But when pressed, he shared that he really loves the Running Man Lithograph (bought at an estate sale in Pennsylvania), the bamboo fan in his dining room (found at a Vietnam market while traveling), the “Edgar” black and white photo of a smiling kid (he rescued from a trashcan) and the bold iron sculptural piece in his living room. Of the sculptural men, he had this to say: “They remind me to keep looking outward and forward. It’s a motto I try to live by in life.”

(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

I love the idea of choosing art that speaks to you on an aesthetic scale and that reminds you of your adventures and travels, but also art that reminds you of the things you believe in. I got Alex to share some of his best art collection building and displaying tips below:

(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

The secret to finding art you’ll love forever:

I look for pieces that directly tap in to basic human feelings like laughter, death, energy and a sense of home. If you can pick art that taps into your core personality, then I think you’ll love it forever. It’s key to have pieces that draw me closer and demand to be touched or studied up close.

(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

How to afford art even when you think you can’t

Buying smaller art is much easier all around. It’s often more affordable, easier to hang, and can be grouped with other smaller pieces to make a big statement. I try to pick out vintage/antique art because often times it’s already framed. Nice frames can be art in and of themselves and already framed pieces saves a lot of money.

(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

Buying already framed art is often easiest and cheaper in the long run. Plus it’s ready to hang as soon as you get home! However, think outside the box when it comes to art selecting. It doesn’t have to be a picture with four sides. It can be a found object, a piece of fabric or sculpture. This tactic takes away the framing dilemma and adds a layered and traveled look to any space.

(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

To mix or not mix different types, styles and aesthetics:

I only pick pieces that are directly tied to my personality, so yes there’s a common thread amongst them if you look closely. Community and a sense of rootedness is a huge part of my personality. The painting above my fireplace is called the “The Thread that Holds”. It’s a series of small homes bundled together that creates warmth and safety. I love nature, plants, animals and anything that brings the outside in. So naturally I have art that displays birds, insects, and displays the patina of wood. It’s all about taking your personality traits and displaying them throughout your home.

(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

How to know where to hang and display your art:

I always acquire [art] without knowing where it will go. I don’t like living my life where everything is so calculated. Buy spontaneously! It makes the actual experience of the art more memorable. Once I get it home, I let it tell me where it wants to go. Art talks no matter where it lives. Find a space where it speaks boldly and comfortably. For me it’s always an “ah ha” lightbulb kind of moment.