Buy and hang art like a pro


You fall in love with a work of art hanging in a gallery. You decide to take the plunge and invest in this beautiful thing. But does it match your lifestyle, your wall color and your couch?

Buying and hanging art can be a challenge at times. We spoke to experienced gallery owner Lori Austin from Lori Austin Gallery in Healdsburg, Sebastopol and Santa Rosa. Here are their tips.

Buy with your budget in mind

When visiting a gallery, knowing what you can afford in advance helps in the search. But “if you fall in love with a work of art above your price range, don’t be discouraged,” advises Austin. “Collaborate with the gallery and ask about options, including layaway and funding.”

Another option is to target your search for local, emerging artists. Works by emerging artists tend to be cheaper than those by more established artists. You can find work by emerging artists in some galleries, at art festivals, and even in restaurants and cafes, Austin says. (The Spinster Sisters and Brew Santa Rosa restaurants, for example, feature works by local artists).

The Museum of Sonoma County in Santa Rosa organizes an annual “Discovered: Emerging Artists of Sonoma County” competition and exhibition. These and other art exhibitions that highlight emerging and local artists can be a good place to spot new artists. The Arts Guild of Sonoma is organizing the “Celebrating New Artists” exhibition in July, which opens with a reception on Saturday, July 10th, 5pm – 7pm. Sonoma County Art Trails, an annual open studio event, is another place to meet local artists.

Try it before you buy it

Some galleries allow you to take a piece of art home with you “upon approval,” while others Photoshop the piece of art in your space or offer on-site consultations to find just the right piece of art and space for that piece of art in your home Find. “I went through an entire house with a client and helped with the mediation and ideas,” says Austin. “Galleries are more service-oriented today.”

Trust your taste

It is important to carefully weigh and select works of art for your home, but it is also good to be able to tune in to your gut instinct: if a work of art reaches you on a deeper level, it is probably the right piece for you. Austin encourages people to trust their tastes.

You don’t need an art education to choose art for your home. However, if you want to narrow your search, Austin recommends researching different art styles – abstract, modern, contemporary, representational landscape art, etc. – to see which styles you prefer. But “stay open,” recommends Austin, “you will discover a lot of incredible artists and works of art if you stay open to suggestions.”

Consider the implications

“People are looking for a place to retreat to, especially after a year in our homes,” says Austin. While some people prefer bold art that makes a statement, others may want a piece that blends in with the setting. Lately Austin has observed that a lot of people want pieces that they enjoy, and many choose works of art with lots of color. “You definitely want that element of lightness,” she adds.

Grouping art is an art

Grouping art takes a trained eye and some trial and error, says Austin. Some people prefer grouped art with a common theme or color palette, while others prefer an eclectic look. To create a gallery wall (also known as a “parlor wall”) from multiple works of art, Austin recommends using blue painter’s tape to map the layout. She also recommends placing larger parts high so that they are more visible from a distance. Smaller pictures with details should be closer to the lookout point. Galleries usually hang art with the center of each piece 57 inches off the floor, but this can be customized at home. Sometimes “the room dictates what is possible,” says Austin.

Look at overlooked areas

You can hang art anywhere in your home, including the kitchen, Austin says. (And we’d like to add that it doesn’t have to be a food still life – as much as we love this one). Austin once hung a painting in a hallway where the collector wanted to hide a control panel.


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