Great Spaces • Art for art’s sake? Hardly

Posted on 14 Apr 2009 at 11:21am
By David Taffet

There has never been a better time to buy fine art for the home — both for its decorative value and as an investment


In less than a decade, Dragon Street has become gallery central in Dallas. Scot Presley with Craighead Green Gallery says this is an ideal time to invest in decorative art, from paintings to sculptures. Photo by ARNOLD WAYNE JONES

If you want to do your part to get the economy rolling again but don’t want to blow your money, there is a practical solution — even though it may not sound too practical.

Now may just be the best time to buy fine art for your home.

"People are home more. They’re nesting more, not spending as much for entertainment," says Scot Presley of gay-owned Craighead Green Gallery along Dragon Street, a bastion of fine art purveyors. "This happened after 9/11, too — the home becomes a more important place to be. [People] want to make their home a happier place with art and design."

Caroline Berlanger of Pan American Art Projects agrees. As evidence, she notes that while many print media are struggling in the economy, "home and garden magazines are doing well."

Buying art for the home begins with finding an artist you particularly like or an art gallery you find particularly appealing. Andrew Sie of Light & Sie Gallery on Leslie Street says he notices a fear factor when people come into a gallery. "People for the most part are intimidated by it," he says. There’s no reason to feel that way, if you do just a little research.

Presley advises new collectors to begin by wandering through the Dallas Museum of Art or spending time at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Raymond Nasher’s collection began in the early 1950s with a few pieces he bought for his home, and most of the items there started as household decor. Explore the three art museums in Fort Worth and make note of works that particularly catch your eye.

Once you arrive upon a style you find appealing, head over to Dallas’ other art districts. Over the last few years, more than 50 galleries have opened or relocated to Dragon Street and along and on the side streets off the Industrial Boulevard corridor. Deep Ellum also boasts a concentration of galleries.

Most galleries specialize. Banks Fine Art features representational art; the Craighead Green, Conduit and Holly Johnson galleries represent contemporary artists; Barry Whistler focuses on Texas artists while Pan American Art Projects targets art of the Americas.

Video art is one of Light & Sie’s specialties. "The collector who buys video is adventurous and sees no boundaries. They don’t have to have a trophy hanging on the wall," says Sie, calling video "the final frontier" in art.

Presley says a gallery gives a collector "a place to learn what they like." He says he often walks through Craighead Green with a first-time art buyer to see what interests them. He asks what their house is like, if they like representational or abstract work, what colors attract them, if they’ve considered wall sculpture. While most new buyers gravitate toward more traditional forms of art such as painting on canvas or framed works on paper, Presley says, "three-dimensional work is a great surprise for people. People begin to think out of the box when they see wall sculpture."

Art is also a great investment and a gallery will help a collector invest wisely. Exhibits at Light & Sie, such as a show in March of "Vanity Fair" photographer Todd Eberle’s large format prints, tend to feature artists with a history of museum exhibitions. Sie also addresses the price intimidation of shopping in a gallery. "Tell me your price range and I’ll show you things in your range," he says.

"Art is not like the stock market," Berlanger says. "It doesn’t go up and down. It might go to auction and not sell, but the art holds its value."

And while art retains value even during financial downturns, cashing in on that investment takes some creativity as well. Auctions, specialists in that artist or art consultants often must be employed to resell a work at its top value. Auction Web sites including eBay as well as sites that specialize in fine art have gained in popularity as ways to sell.

"Now isn’t the best time to sell," Berlanger warns, but soft markets are great times to buy.

For investors, she recommends emerging and mid-career artists whose work will increase in worth as their careers develop as a great value.

Presley describes art for the home as an emotional investment as well — "an extension of your own personality and style. When you’re living with art, you’re living with ideas. It becomes part of the vocabulary of your life."

Whether the artist is represented in corporate or museum collections, buying art for the home is very personal. The right piece properly displayed in a room should always start a conversation among guests. Just seeing the work everyday, should give its owner joy — the best addition to any household, Presley says.

When he’s helping choose a piece of art for himself, for a first-time buyer for a new home or a long-time collector, Presley says, "I want to love it first of all. Do you love it? Can you afford it? Then you should have it."

This article appeared in Dallas Voice’s print edition of Great Spaces magazine April 17, 2009.

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