Art, Architecture, Design & Travel

Buying Art for Interior Design & Styling

Buying art is  a personal thing; some clients have a clear idea about what they like, whilst others really just want something to brighten up their interiors.  However, the reality is that buying art is much more accessible than we may think.  It’s important that buyers and collectors have a really positive, affirming experience looking for artwork and making a purchase.  After all, owning an original piece of art is a joy to cherish.

Here are 10 tips for making your first purchase on behalf of your client or helping them adding to their collection:

(1) Buy art that you love, that moves you, that stirs some kind of reaction in you or that you connect with aesthetically or emotionally. The art market is volatile and unpredictable and the unfortunate reality is that few artists make it into the big leagues. Those that do, do so for a host of reasons, not all of which have anything to do with their work. As such, the likelihood of seeing a significant financial return on your investment is small. You are going to be looking at the piece for many years so you’d better love it. That said, make sure you get a certificate of authenticity from the gallery and keep it somewhere safe, together with the invoice. You may need it for insurance purposes or if you have discovered the next Damien Hirst.

(2) You don’t need a degree in art history but it is worth you getting a feel for the market and prices, which means doing some research. Visit a range of galleries, search online, stop by art fairs and ask friends. If you are looking at the work of a quality emerging artist in a gallery you can expect to pay in the region of £500 to £5,000 + depending on the piece itself, the size and the medium. You can pick up small pieces on paper for less but larger, more significant pieces will be more. Expect to pay an inflated price if you are buying art in tourist locations or resorts.

(3) As you do your research, you’ll also refine your preferences and start to zone in on certain styles and genres. This may happen without you realizing. Use something like Pinterest to save images of pieces you love or mark them in a book or magazine. Then take a step back and see where your taste has taken you. You can then target galleries that match your style. Anecdotally, I have seen collectors’ tastes shift over the years, moving from figurative and representational to expressionist and abstract.

(4) Once you’ve identified a couple of galleries, build a relationship. Like buying houses, you might land on the first piece you see or you may need to look around and go back for several viewings. If you build a relationship with the gallery, you’ll have someone who can look after you, help you navigate the gallery and find the right piece.

(5) Ask questions. Find out more about the artists, their background, the inspiration behind their work and their point of view. You might also want to know about how long they’ve been producing art, what other galleries represent them, what shows their work has appeared in and any awards or prizes they’ve won.  Also ask whether there are any more works by a particular artist that aren’t on display or whether you can commission the artist through the gallery.

(6) Prints, particularly limited edition prints, are a great and potentially more affordable route into art buying and collecting. However, I’d encourage you to buy original pieces. Knowing the work was created by the artist’s hands and is truly unique is a hugely satisfying part of the process.

(7) While art buying and collecting is largely an emotional, intuitive experience, pragmatism also plays a part. Measure the spaces you have in mind for the piece and check it will fit. Can you carry it home? Will it fit in the car or will it need to be shipped? Factor in the price of shipping and framing, if necessary, into your purchase.

(8) Imagine the piece in your home. Artwork can look spectacular in a white-walled minimalist gallery but how will it look in your space? In the past I have printed an image of the piece I’m considering and taped it to the wall to see how it looks.

(9) Sign up to gallery newsletters and follow art blogs. This way you’ll be able to see new work from your favorite artists and new artists joining the gallery or emerging on the scene.  You will be invited to openings and this way you can see your favourite artists work first hand and maybe even get to chat with the artist themselves.

(10) If your client or you already have a collection, think purposefully about the pieces you want to add. Do you want to diversify your style or keep to a theme? Do you want to collect more pieces from the same artists or do you want to add the work of different artists? There are no right or wrong answers but be intentional in your thinking.

 In the UK at the moment interior designers and art galleries work hand in hand together, and many will work on re-colouring the artwork so that it fits into the client’s colour scheme.

Many people have paintings or prints with which to decorate their walls, yet so often they pay little attention to displaying them really well.  As with collections, the golden rule is to group them wherever possible.  Vertical arrangements can be very effective.  Good lighting is a must; if you want your clients to enjoy a fine painting it makes no sense to hang it in semi-darkness.



From Art for Dummies...

There have been many gifted and sharp-eyed curators (keepers and protectors) in the 129-year history of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art — hundreds of them, expert in fields as diverse as ancient Egypt, Arms and Armor, and Prints, Drawing, and Photographs. Line up the letters designating the advanced degrees held by the curators who worked at the Metropolitan over the years — those M.A.s, M.F.A.s, and Ph.D.s — and they’d stretch from Maine to Oregon. Yet, the single most accomplished curator in the history of the grand institution had no advanced degree and was self-taught in art history. He was, for most of his life, a stockbroker. His name was William Ivins, and he was responsible for establishing the all-encompassing Prints collection. He was perhaps the most legendary “eye” or connoisseur in the history of the Metropolitan.
What is an “eye”? Simply, someone who can instantly spot quality in art in all its subtle gradations. How did Bill Ivins become such a special “eye”? First, he had the urge to know about art, and second, he possessed an inborn talent for appreciating art, which he may not have recognized for some years. But he needed more than that. He recognized he’d never be able to appreciate art in the right way if he didn’t get saturated.

The bottom line of connoisseurship and art appreciation is saturation — seeing it all. Ivins immersed himself in prints, tens of thousands of them of all kinds and levels of quality. Soon he was cataloging in his keen mind every unique quality — the strokes of genius and the glitches, too. If you examine every one of thousands of existing prints of Rembrandt van Rijn, those in great condition, the messed up ones, the genuine articles, the copies and fakes, in a shorter time than you think, you’ll be able to recognize quality. Ivins did. Just by opening his eyes and looking.

If you keenly examine every painting, sketch, or drawing by that grand Flemish master of the 17th century, Peter Paul Rubens — there are hundreds — you’ll be able to distinguish yards away which one is real and which questionable. If you saturate yourself in absolutely everything Claude Monet ever painted, no matter if that painting is hanging in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, in the Getty in Los Angeles, or in the bedroom of some wealthy private collector on Park Avenue, you’ll become an expert in Monet. After a total immersion, you’ll be able to spot a top piece — or a phony — a hundred feet away.

You don’t have to start at such heights. If you saturate yourself starting with those ceramic green frogs or clowns on black velvet, you’ll soon gravitate to something better and better, and before you know it, you’ll be blissfully soaking up Rembrandt prints, or Monet paintings, or drawings by Peter Paul Rubens. Gravitating upward is the normal process — it’s all but automatic with the passage of time.

Book learning and attending countless lectures by the best art professors and scholars may help sharpen your eye. But they won’t equal a gradual and complete saturation. When you look at works of art, grill them as though they were living human beings. Ask questions! Why is something this way, and something else that way? Peel the work of art like an onion with your eyes! Interrogate it.
For example, a certain piece had been given to the Metropolitan in the early 1930s by a wealthy industrialist who’d specialized in collecting medieval reliquaries. Finger reliquaries are the rarest of the rare — and ones embellished with emeralds were unique. This object was stunning and very costly, but it was not 13th century. It was a fraud. To find out something like this, you might ask questions like the following:
Why can’t the emerald ring be removed? That was a bad sign, for no genuine finger reliquary would ever be adorned, when it was made, with such a secular ornament. Rings were always added later in homage to the saint whose finger bone was preserved in the finger.

Why were there three small silver hallmarks on one of the feet? The problem was that they were typical export marks only applied to gold, not silver, and during the 18th, not the 13th, century, in France, not Germany.

Why was the black material making up the inscription (which happened to be unreadable, by the way) actually made of common tar? The material should be a hard jet-black enamel (called niello).

The problematical answers to the questions all summed up to the reliquary being a fake, made, no doubt, to trap the rich collector who had to pay dearly because, naturally, the emerald was real. In time, through saturation, art connoisseurs can conduct their own interrogations and find whatever inconsistencies existed. You can’t learn how to do this by reading books or attending seminars.


It doesn’t matter how you go about gorging yourself. To see originals is vital, but photographs can keep your eye constantly trained. One of the keenest great, late art dealers never went to sleep without poring through dozens of photographs of a wide variety of works. Keeping his eye in tune.
Saturation means not only examining all the originals of the artist or period. It also means a judicial reading of the scholarly literature and picking through specialist magazines. But the bottom line is looking, looking, and more looking. Looking will transform a totally untrained person with a keen mind and good vision (for it helps a lot to have great eyesight or polished glasses) into a superior art expert. And the beauty is that anyone can do it with a little obsession and a little time.

The bottom line is never pass up the opportunity to look hard at any work of art (even those frogs), and pass your fingers over its surface (if you’re allowed), and ask a bunch of sharp questions. You will invariably discover something revealing and profound.


Art is for enjoyment, fun, lifting your spirits. Looking at art should be a pleasurable, immediate experience. You can read about art, but looking at it is the only way to appreciate it. To enlarge your appreciation, follow these tips:
Look at ten works of art each day and your life will change for the better.
       Art and politics never mix.
       Art is not utilitarian.
       Forget about art as an investment. Maybe in 50 years the prices of your works will be higher than when you bought them, but probably not.
       Collect living artists. That way you’ll never buy a fake. You’ll also gain great satisfaction in knowing you’re supporting a cause not usually known for its economic well-being.
       Every work of art, except for those finished yesterday, has changed from its original appearance.
       A reproduction is always a pale reflection of the original.
       Be sure to watch what kind of art your children are creating. One — or more — could have that super touch.

       To judge whether a work of art is any good, ask the following questions about it to see how many can be answered yes:
    Does it express successfully what it’s intending to express?
    Does it amaze you in a different way each time you look at it?
    Does it grow in stature?
    Does it continually mature?
    Does its visual impact of mysterious, pure power increase every day?
    Is it unforgettable?


Any compilation of the greatest art is sure to be subjective. But the works in the following list are the ones that made the cut for Thomas Hoving, former director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and author of Art For Dummies. He looked upon these works as friends and found something new and inspirational in each every time he looked at them.

King Tut’s Golden Mask
The Isenheim Altarpiece by Grünewald
The Sculptures of the Parthenon
El Greco’s Burial of Count Orgaz
The Scythian Gold Pectoral
Velázquez’s Las Meninas
Nicholas of Verdun’s Enameled Altar
Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son
Giotto’s Arena Chapel
Goya’s The Third of May, 1808
The Ghent Altarpiece by van Eyck
Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party
Leonardo’s Mona Lisa
Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
Michelangelo’s David


By Jesse Bryant Wilder

The history of art is immense, the earliest cave paintings pre-date writing by almost 27,000 years! If you’re interested in art history, the first thing you should do is take a look at this table which briefly outlines the artists, traits, works, and events that make up major art periods and how art evolved to present day:

Art Periods/
Chief Artists and Major Works
Historical Events
Stone Age (30,000 b.c.–2500 b.c.)
Cave painting, fertility goddesses, megalithic structures
Lascaux Cave Painting, Woman of Willendorf, Stonehenge
Ice Age ends (10,000 b.c.–8,000 b.c.); New Stone Age and
first permanent settlements (8000 b.c.–2500 b.c.)
Mesopotamian (3500 b.c.–539 b.c.)
Warrior art and narration in stone relief
Standard of Ur, Gate of Ishtar, Stele of Hammurabi’s Code
Sumerians invent writing (3400 b.c.); Hammurabi writes his law
code (1780 b.c.); Abraham founds monotheism
Egyptian (3100 b.c.–30 b.c.)
Art with an afterlife focus: pyramids and tomb painting
Imhotep, Step Pyramid, Great Pyramids, Bust of Nefertiti
Narmer unites Upper/Lower Egypt (3100 b.c.); Rameses II battles
the Hittites (1274 b.c.); Cleopatra dies (30 b.c.)
Greek and Hellenistic (850 b.c.–31 b.c.)
Greek idealism: balance, perfect proportions; architectural
orders(Doric, Ionic, Corinthian)
Parthenon, Myron, Phidias, Polykleitos, Praxiteles
Athens defeats Persia at Marathon (490 b.c.); Peloponnesian
Wars (431 b.c.–404 b.c.); Alexander the Great’s conquests
(336 b.c.–323 b.c.)
Roman (500 b.c.– a.d. 476)
Roman realism: practical and down to earth; the arch
Augustus of Primaporta, Colosseum, Trajan’s Column,
Julius Caesar assassinated (44 b.c.); Augustus proclaimed
Emperor (27 b.c.); Diocletian splits Empire (a.d. 292); Rome falls
(a.d. 476)
Indian, Chinese, and Japanese(653 b.c.–a.d. 1900)
Serene, meditative art, and Arts of the Floating World
Gu Kaizhi, Li Cheng, Guo Xi, Hokusai, Hiroshige
Birth of Buddha (563 b.c.); Silk Road opens (1st century b.c.);
Buddhism spreads to China (1st–2nd centuries a.d.) and Japan
(5th century a.d.)
Byzantine and Islamic (a.d. 476–a.d.1453)
Heavenly Byzantine mosaics; Islamic architecture and amazing
maze-like design
Hagia Sophia, Andrei Rublev, Mosque of Córdoba, the
Justinian partly restores Western Roman Empire (a.d.
533–a.d. 562); Iconoclasm Controversy (a.d. 726–a.d.
843); Birth of Islam (a.d. 610) and Muslim Conquests (a.d.
632–a.d. 732)
Middle Ages (500–1400)
Celtic art, Carolingian Renaissance, Romanesque, Gothic
St. Sernin, Durham Cathedral, Notre Dame, Chartres, Cimabue,
Duccio, Giotto
Viking Raids (793–1066); Battle of Hastings (1066);
Crusades I–IV (1095–1204); Black Death
(1347–1351); Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453)
Early and High Renaissance (1400–1550)
Rebirth of classical culture
Ghiberti’s Doors, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Botticelli,
Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael
Gutenberg invents movable type (1447); Turks conquer
Constantinople (1453); Columbus lands in New World (1492); Martin
Luther starts Reformation (1517)
Venetian and Northern Renaissance (1430–1550)
The Renaissance spreads north- ward to France, the Low
Countries, Poland, Germany, and England
Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Dürer, Bruegel, Bosch, Jan van
Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden
Council of Trent and Counter-Reformation (1545–1563);
Copernicus proves the Earth revolves around the Sun (1543
Mannerism (1527–1580)
Art that breaks the rules; artifice over nature
Tintoretto, El Greco, Pontormo, Bronzino, Cellini
Magellan circumnavigates the globe (1520–1522)
Baroque (1600–1750)
Splendor and flourish for God; art as a weapon in the religious
Reubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Palace of Versailles
Thirty Years’ War between Catholics and Protestants
Neoclassical (1750–1850)
Art that recaptures Greco-Roman grace and grandeur
David, Ingres, Greuze, Canova
Enlightenment (18th century); Industrial Revolution
Romanticism (1780–1850)
The triumph of imagination and individuality
Caspar Friedrich, Gericault, Delacroix, Turner, Benjamin
American Revolution (1775–1783); French Revolution
(1789–1799); Napoleon crowned emperor of France (1803)
Realism (1848–1900)
Celebrating working class and peasants; en plein air
rustic painting
Corot, Courbet, Daumier, Millet
European democratic revolutions of 1848
Impressionism (1865–1885)
Capturing fleeting effects of natural light
Monet, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cassatt, Morisot, Degas
Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871); Unification of Germany
Post-Impressionism (1885–1910)
A soft revolt against Impressionism
Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, Seurat
Belle Époque (late-19th-century Golden Age); Japan
defeats Russia (1905)
Fauvism and Expressionism (1900–1935)
Harsh colors and flat surfaces (Fauvism); emotion distorting
Matisse, Kirchner, Kandinsky, Marc
Boxer Rebellion in China (1900); World War
Cubism, Futurism, Supremativism, Constructivism, De Stijl
Pre– and Post–World War 1 art experiments: new
forms to express modern life
Picasso, Braque, Leger, Boccioni, Severini, Malevich
Russian Revolution (1917); American women franchised
Dada and Surrealism(1917–1950)
Ridiculous art; painting dreams and exploring the
Duchamp, Dalí, Ernst, Magritte, de Chirico, Kahlo

Disillusionment after World War I; The Great Depression
(1929–1938); World War II (1939–1945) and Nazi horrors;
atomic bombs dropped on Japan (1945)
Abstract Expressionism (1940s–1950s) and Pop Art
Post–World War II: pure abstraction and expression
without form; popular art absorbs consumerism
Gorky, Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko, Warhol, Lichtenstein
Cold War and Vietnam War (U.S. enters 1965); U.S.S.R.
suppresses Hungarian revolt (1956) Czechoslovakian revolt
Postmodernism and Deconstructivism (1970– )
Art without a center and reworking and mixing past styles
Gerhard Richter, Cindy Sherman, Anselm Kiefer, Frank Gehry,
Zaha Hadid
Nuclear freeze movement; Cold War fizzles; Communism collapses
in Eastern Europe and U.S.S.R. (1989–1991)


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