AT Interview: Caryn Coleman of sixspace

AT Interview: Caryn Coleman of sixspace

Jun 15, 2006

Most believe owning artwork is the domain of folks living the lifestyle of champagne wishes and caviar dreams. But considering I'm living a life of Diet Coke sips and Velveeta dreams, yet surrounded by a small and gratifying collection of artwork, the truth is bringing original art into the home isn't as far fetched as one might believe.

I had the pleasure of interviewing my friend Caryn Coleman, owner of Culver City's sixspace gallery and founder of, about the ins and outs of tapping into your J. Paul Getty on a J.C. Penny bankroll.

Where to start? Literally, where does one start on their journey as an art collector? It seems a daunting jump from appreciating artwork to purchasing.

Gradually then suddenly! Art buying is generally the culmination of months of liking artwork so much that the next natural step is to start having it around you all the time. Some people's art obsessions begin by going to a museum and then they start visiting galleries and then the art bug hits.

Start small - start buying works on paper. They are generally less expensive and will give you the experience and the confidence to buy bigger works.

In terms of research, do you have an recommendations for art collecting newbies?

It's the same recommendation for artists who are looking for galleries to show their work - simply start visiting galleries. Especially in a city like Los Angeles, a budding collector or art enthusiast has a virtual potpourri of art choices to choose from. By simply doing some online research for gallery listings (the LA Weekly is a great resource) and then making efforts to see what the galleries are, a new collector will start to figure out his/her tastes and then start to determine what galleries will best suit their style and budget. One can read about current trends or art reviews but ultimately it's about buying what you like so it's most important to figure out what it is that YOU like.

So now I've got a general idea of what sort of art I fancy, and I want to visit a gallery. But art galleries can be intimidating, and result in what I call G.A.S., or gallery anxiety syndrome. I know the first time I attended a gallery opening, it felt like a first date...all nervous jitters, worrying what to do and what not to do. What's gallery attendee protocol? As a gallery owner, walk me through from "Hey, I like that painting" to taking my first piece of artwork home.

Though we love making sales on opening night, it generally isn't the best time for a beginning art buyer to have an optimum purchasing experience. My recommendation is that if you know an artist you like is having a show, call or email the gallery to make an appointment. That way all attention is on you and the surrounding elements are much more serene. Galleries generally have price lists out for visitors to take with them around the exhibition so you should know what the price is. Red dots on the wall or next to the titles on the price sheet indicate that a piece is sold.

If you want to buy an art piece during a private preview, during an opening, or during regular scheduled hours, all you have to do is walk up to the person standing behind the reception desk and tell them you're interested in a certain piece. The gallerist can easily take you from there telling you more about the piece and answer any questions you may have. Payment in full or a deposit is required to hold a painting for you and payments can be check, cash, and most galleries also accept credit cards. The gallerist will give you an invoice for the sale, tell you when you can pick the piece up (artwork must remain up for the duration of the exhibition), and then arrange to get you artist information for your records.

The most important thing to remember is buying artwork should be an enjoyable experience - if it's not, find another gallery to patronize!

What are the pros and cons of purchasing artwork from galleries, opposed to buying directly from the artists themselves?

I think that it's in everyone's best interest to purchase artwork from the gallery unless, of course, an artist you're interested in does not have a gallery yet! Galleries and artists exist to help each other - one cannot have a successful career without the other. Galleries deal with the business aspect to the art world - sales, discounts, invoices, artist packets, and, most importantly advancing the artist's career and subsequently your investment. The biggest pro is that galleries are client-oriented and can assist you with building your collection in the way that best suits YOUR needs.

What are common mistakes made by first time art buyers?

One of the biggest common mistakes is also the saddest - a lot of times first-time buyers will really love a piece but they don't go with their initial gut feeling and wait on it. If you love it, want to buy art, and can afford it - get it! Because nothing is worse than going back the next day and seeing it belong to someone else!

Is artwork pricing negotiable? Can art be purchased on a payment schedule?

Often times galleries will issue a discount (usually 10%) to those who are regular gallery clients and to someone who is buying more than one piece of artwork at a time. Galleries, especially the young to mid-level ones, are generally happy to set up a payment schedule with a client. You can expect to pay a down payment and then break the remaining balance into 2-3 payments. Tell galleries your budget. Galleries usually have a good range of priced artwork and that information can best help them in selecting work for you to consider.

Lastily, do you have an recommendations of how to properly display/keep artwork in the home?

For safety, don't hang artwork where it will get direct sunlight or placed in an area where it could easily by damaged (like low on a stairwell). If earthquakes are a consideration it's generally best to have additional security for artwork on the wall - cleats to prevent sliding or an extra hanging wire to prevent slips. People like to hang artwork at varying height so trust your instinct, and your height, to find out what works best for you. Generally the middle of an artwork should be at eye-level. Avoid hanging work in the kitchen or the bathroom as food and steam can easily be damaging. Be creative with your hanging and, most importantly, put your artwork in a place where you can enjoy them the most!

You've got me ready to break my piggy bank open!

You don't have to be a Rockefeller or an art historian to buy art. All you need to have is the desire, a little bit of money, and a friendly attitude. With a little effort visiting galleries and seeing art on a regular basis, you'll get the best sense of your own style and figure out what you can get for your money. Also, don't forget that you can buy artwork that is not in an exhibition too - most galleries have extensive back-rooms with available artwork from all the artists they work with on a regular basis.

Biggest bit of advice: only buy what you love. Investment is definitely a consideration (and when investments go up it's a nice validation of your taste) but at the end of the day, your artwork may not increase in financial value and should therefore be something you want to have around you for the long-term.

5803 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA
Tuesday through Saturday from 12-6 pm

-Gregory (The Avant Garde Retard)

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