Principal & Co-Founder Curate Art Group
What is art to you? Each person has a radically different definition. Art sculpts an umbrella over a number of activities, including musical, physical, lyrical and visual to name a few.
The visual arts alone have many subcategories, such as original painting, sculpture, fiber, etc.; these subcategories then each host endless genres, for example, literal, classical, minimal, modern and abstract, among others. On top of that, people have art they like and art they don’t like, and there’s the endless number of pieces to consider. What colors are best, and once you have the art, how should you frame it? Where should you put it? With never-ending decor options, how does one pick the best art for a space?
The point I’m hoping to conjure is that to many, art curation is a foreign topic, and the newness can make them uneasy. Luckily, there are some key strategies that help the task feel more clear and also fun! Like most things in the creative world, many approaches exist. These are my tips to begin the art curation journey.
Build your confidence.
Hospitality consultants trust their gut when they like or dislike something. You may ask, “How do you learn to trust your gut?” Well, how do you learn taste in anything? Through experience. The meals you eat form your culinary taste. Similarly, the artworks you experience will shape your art confidence.
For beginner art enthusiasts, visit as many museums as possible. Research admission-free days, and search for guided tours; the stories of the art will help seal the information in your memory. Galleries don’t charge entrance fees; stroll the space, and if you like something, ask the gallerist if they have time to tell you more about it. Sign up for gallery newsletters in major cities, and read about the artists you like. Go to a library or bookstore, and flip through the pages of interior design magazines and artist picture books. Review domestic and foreign publications. Notice the art during your weekly life at restaurants and commercial spaces. When something draws you in, take pictures and notes.
After a couple of months, you’ll start to expand your vocabulary and background on art, and eventually you’ll notice themes in your preferences. Is everything you like ultra-modern and blue? Are most pieces sculptural? You’ll also become more naturally prepared to evaluate new pieces for a space.
Here are some considerations when it comes to evaluating art.
Intention And Emotion
The desired emotion and intention for the space usually set the tone. Art that is fitting for a moody, hip restaurant is likely different from the art in a hospital waiting room or a tropical-island guest room. What is the desired effect of the space? Is it to feel energized and creative? Bold colors and shapes are great; maybe even consider graphic or surreal pieces. Is the space intended to feel more calm? Consider tones that are relaxing on the eyes and blend into the environment with a focus on perceived texture, such as a carved-line pattern out of tan wood.
Art evokes emotions and tells a story. By showcasing baskets by local weavers, you benefit the community and better integrate into the very space you’re in. In some cases, the sweeping views are the main attraction, and the art doesn’t need to tell its own tale but can complement and direct toward the natural beauty.
There are many ways to approach color. One is starting with the space for the art: Are there major color themes already? Are there many primary colors, or are there more pastels or neutrals? You can stay in the same tones or showcase a pop of color. You can also draw inspiration from a favorite shirt, rug or pillow. Most importantly, what colors do you like? Is green your favorite color? Start there.
Dimensions And Location
Scale is important, and design rules are made to be broken. Do large walls need large art? Yes, they do. A big piece on a big wall is a great opportunity to make a big impact. Can you also make an impact with a small piece or a different size? Absolutely!
A large area of wall around a piece creates “breathing room” and emphasizes the importance of the art itself, even if it’s small. Mix it up; include art of many sizes. To place art, start with the key areas, such as a main wall in the entrance, lobby and conference room. Remember that not every wall needs artwork.
Variety creates richness. Build on mixed mediums, framing methods and artist backgrounds. It’s great to showcase a piece on canvas and also on paper. Painterly, digital and photographic are three categories to add interest. Consider sculpture, such as wood wall decor, or a tapestry or piece made of fiber. You can also consider ceramic planters and hangings.
For framing, consider float frames for canvas and regular frames for paper. For photography, try framing without matting; for other prints, add a mat. For frame colors, look to the space. Black, white and light oak are classic for frames, but you can also mix in some golds or silvers. The color of the frame should not compete with the art itself (unless that’s the intention). Mix an ornate classic frame with something modern, or keep it minimal with clean lines.
Is there a window across from the art location, or is it dark? An area with high glare might do better with a stretched canvas, which typically doesn’t require glass. Museum non-glare glass is also a great option but more of an investment. Is the area darker? Glass can work great. A decorative sconce or a fun chandelier are also art.
Each creative has their own taste: For a single project, 100 individual curators would select 100 different art pieces. There are many methods, and these are just a few to begin. Decide how you want to feel, go with your gut, and consider the space. And of course, enjoy!