Or, How to Buy Art with Your Spouse (without Ruining Your Marriage) – an important topic for all married art lovers!
It happens a lot: Cute couple comes in to gallery looking for a large painting to go over a prized mantel in their family room. They both love art and seem to love the gallery. However, she wants something abstract and he wants something he can recognize, and so despite all the choices we show them, they can’t agree on the same painting.
We get it! Art is so personal and our reasons for being attracted to it are so varied. And there is no formula for buying art, except to buy what you love. So our role, as mediators, marriage counselors and art translators, is to help couples work through this dilemma by offering a couple of tips for buying art. Here’s what we tell them:
- Start with the easy ones. Too often, the subject of the battle is “The Big” painting over the mantel or in the front hall. So why don’t you hold off on that? There’s probably several smaller pieces that you could agree on that won’t break the bank and that will ease you into starting your collection.
- Try to understand your differences but don’t emphasize them. Often we hear, “He likes this and I like that” as if there were a “his” and “her”way of appreciating art and no way of bridging the two. Let’s find out what the commonalities are and then let’s try to find some paintings that incorporate both. When he picks something out, ask him, “What do you like about it? What speaks to you?” Then see if you can find something that you like that will speak to him in the same way.
- Ask us – or any gallery owners – to help explain things: How often do we hear that one loves the abstract, edgier paintings and the other will say, “I think if you gave her a paintbrush, our four year old Susie could do the same thing!” Please ask us to help explain the abstract painting for you. What is the artist conveying? How did he/she paint it? Why is it compositionally interesting? What does it mean to you? Why is it art?
- Meet the artist: If at all possible, meeting the artist gives the art an added dimension that goes beyond the composition, color, subject or style of the piece. It really brings the art to life and is another common bond for you both. If you can’t meet the artist, ask the Gallery all about them. You are buying an original work of art and it’s good to know all about the hand that created it.
- Buy on trips: It somehow seems much easier to find art in common when you’re buying it away from home, especially if there are wonderful memories involved. Don’t worry if you don’t know where it will go; if you love it, buy it. It will be a great start from which to build a collection. And if you start with something that you both like, it will be easier to build on to.
- Attend openings together and mix a little wine with art. Take the pressure off and make it fun. It's also a great date night activity, because you can peruse first, and then talk about what you saw over dinner. And that'll help explore what each of you likes in a non-pressured environment.
- Pick your battles: Does one of you feel more strongly about this? Then let that person drive the decision. But make sure the other person gets a room, or two as well. Basement doesn’t count.
- Take turns: He picks this time; she picks the next. Or do birthdays: Let her choose for her birthday and tell her that you would like to choose for your birthday. You each have one birthday a year, so what's fair is fair!
- Or divide up your rooms. If he spends most of the time in the family room, and she prefers the living room, it only makes sense to let him or her pick the art for each. Remember, you don’t need to do everything all at once.
- Try them at home. We, and most galleries that we know, are more than happy to have you take the art home and live with it for a day or two. This takes the pressure off making decisions in the gallery and allows you to see it in its environment.
- Don’t go for the 100%. We’re not saying you need to compromise completely. But we do firmly believe that art can grow on you over time, and we’ve seen it happen over and over. If you are intrigued by it, but you don’t love the colors, why don’t you give it a try? Often, as you get to appreciate other aspects of the painting, the one thing you didn’t like will fade away or sometimes even become your favorite thing. Give it the benefit of the doubt. Art is a funny thing. Before long, it just may tug on your heart strings.
We hope these simple rules and guidelines will make your future art shopping experiences more pleasant and enjoyable! If all else fails, we Huffingtons have some referee experience and we’re more than happy to help call the shots fairly.
P.S. For couples who struggle when buying art together (and for all art lovers in general), we have the perfect show starting on January 19th: A Grand Affair, at Huff Harrington Fine Art, starts at 6 p.m. and features all paintings that are a grand ($1,000) or less. It's a great way to start a collection ... or to add several works of original art without breaking the bank.