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Little Yellow Couch

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How (and Why) To Buy Art

This week on the podcast, Style Matters, we interview gallery owner Abigail Ogilvy.  We are huge champions of bringing art into our homes and Abigail gives us some great insight on what it's like to work with a gallerist.  To continue our conversation, we thought a post on why and how to find and collect art would be helpful.  

Why buy art? 

At Little Yellow Couch, we're all about developing and expressing your personal style.  Aesthetic is important to us because it represents who we are at the core: what we're attracted to, what is meaningful, where we've been and what we've seen.  Finding and hanging art is one of the biggest impacts you can have when cultivating your style because it's so personal.  There is no "right" or "wrong" when choosing what you love.  But it's that last word, "love," that's important.  You gotta really love it to hang it.  Otherwise, you're missing the mark and your home still won't quite feel like you.  Here is what I've learned from purposely collecting art over the past 16 years.    

Abigail Ogilvy in her gallery in the SOWA arts district, Boston.

Abigail Ogilvy in her gallery in the SOWA arts district, Boston.

Go look at some art.  In person.  


One of the most pleasurable aspects of starting an art collection is the simple act of looking. Really looking, from close up to far away, in different light and from the sides.  When you enter a gallery, you can start by going straight to whatever immediately catches your eye.  Or you can be methodical and give a quick look to each piece and then go back to your favorites.  Either way, start to take notice of what you're drawn to.  Abstracts?  Still Lifes?  Landscapes? Photographs?  My husband and I love a heavy hand in oils where you can really see a lot of pallet knife or brush work.  We are also drawn to still lifes, trompe l'oeil, abstracts, saturated color and images of single houses.  (The house thing is oddly particular, I know.  What I can I say?  We know what we like). 

Holly Harrison, Starlings In Winter.  Mixed Media.  Via Abigail Ogilvy gallery.  

Holly Harrison, Starlings In Winter.  Mixed Media.  Via Abigail Ogilvy gallery.  

Some say art is everywhere.  We say, sure, except not at Home Goods.
 

No offense to Home Goods.  Really!  I shop there, too.  But not for art.  Home Goods sells stuff for your walls that is meant to match your furniture.  I've never known an artist to create a piece based on what your ottoman looks like.  Buying art to match something in a room is like buying a piece of cheese to match your sandwich.  Buy what you love.  In all things.  Furniture, rugs, lamps, coasters, art.  If you love these things, then by definition, the combination of what you love is your style.  And everything will work together.  I promise. 

Salon show at Abigail Ogilvy gallery.  Photo from artist Holly Harrison.  

Salon show at Abigail Ogilvy gallery.  Photo from artist Holly Harrison.  

You have every right to be in a gallery.


If you're not used to going into galleries, they can feel intimidating.  Trust me, your yearly family income is not tatooted on your forehead.  No one knows whether or not you can afford a piece of art and most owners have learned not to make assumptions.  Or maybe you're worried that you'll be trapped by an overbearing salesperson after you realize every single thing looks hideously ugly to you and you can't imagine why on earth anyone would pay good money for what you're looking at.  My remedy for this is to put on my "gallery face."  I don't make eye contact when I say hello.  As I look around, I don't show emotion.  I give either yes or no answers to the owner, without ever looking up.  They'll get the idea that you want to enjoy browsing and not be bothered.  Of course, all of this goes out the window if I see something I truly love.  Then I turn into a giddy little girl at a candy store and let everyone know it by gushing about the piece and pulling at my husband's sleeve and introducing myself to the owner, the owner's assistant, the other guy looking at the painting and the owner's dog.  But in the beginning, I'm an enigma.

Outside The Lines by Katie Wild.  Shown at Abigail Ogilvy gallery.

Outside The Lines by Katie Wild.  Shown at Abigail Ogilvy gallery.

Talk to the owners.  They're bored.
 

Unless you're at an opening, these people have nothing else to do.  (Ok, I now know that's not true AT ALL.  But if you think it's true, you'll be more likely to ask a question).  Most gallery owners are in it because they love art.  (Abigail has a great story on the podcast about how she got her first taste of contemporary art in the most ironic of places: the birthplace of Renaissance art, also known as Florence, Italy).  Gallery owners like to geek out on composition, materials, style, subtext... They want to talk about this stuff and they are usually quite knowledgable.  If you find someone you click with, you can learn a lot about art, from experts, for free!  Plus, you'll start to feel like a real collector when you're having cocktails with friends and start a sentence with "I was talking with Simon over at White Swan Gallery and..." 

Opposite is Vitality by Caron Tabb.  Shown at Abigail Ogilvy gallery.  

Opposite is Vitality by Caron Tabb.  Shown at Abigail Ogilvy gallery.  

Walk away.


It's perfectly fine to walk out of a gallery without buying anything.  Even if you've just spent a half an hour having an in-depth conversation with the owner.  They're used to that.  It's not like you're at the grocery store where the whole purpose is to walk out with a cart full of purchases.  Unless you're about to be shipped off the island with no chance of returning in the next ten years, let the idea of a piece marinate before you go back and buy it.  Since my husband and I buy art together, we relish the time we take to talk about what we've seen, what we liked and didn't like, what is starting to feel like we couldn't live without...preferably over a delicious meal.  I mean, how much more luxurious could life get?  White tablecloths, succulent food and wine, and a discussion on which (if any) art we should add to our collection???  When did we get so fancy?  

Maze by Sara Galkin.  Shown in Abigail Ogilvy gallery.  

Maze by Sara Galkin.  Shown in Abigail Ogilvy gallery.  

17 Ways to Hang Art 

Now that you're inspired to start collecting, you might want some fresh ideas on how to hang all of your lovely artwork!  Here's our article with examples and explanations.  

You can also get continuous inspiration from our Pinterest board: How To Hang Art

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Little Yellow Couch

We'll send you the kinds of information and inspiration you're craving through relevant and timely newsletters. Don't miss anything new!