Art can be overwhelming. It can be confounding. The idea of collecting art even more so. But there are so many ways to create a treasure trove for your walls. One of the many beauties of art is that it is whatever it is to you. It can be the little piece that caught your eye in a hole-in-the-wall gallery you happened upon on Melrose. The sculpture from your friend-of-a-friend’s studio. It can be the tourist-trap pencil-sketch you purchased on the streets of Barcelona on vacation that brings back memories of your trip. Or a numbered lithograph of a favorite artist. Or even the old, tattered cover of the book you read too many times to count, or of your favorite record you just had to frame.
There is the art in your history books—Rembrandt, Vermeer. The artists of your dreams—the greats—Picasso, Dali, Matisse. Of course, if you’re fortunate, there’s the artists your art dealer tracked down for you and fought to get their hands on—the Francis Bacons, Schnabels, and Hockneys of the world.
Finally, there’s the cool, young, fine art photographers you may have discovered more recently, and bonus, they’re still alive!—the Alex Pragers and George Byrnes of the world.
We asked George Byrne himself, the artist internationally recognized for his iconic, large-scale photographs that depict urban landscapes and surfaces as painterly abstractions, to guide us through his love of collecting art.
STARTING MY COLLECTION
I bought a WHAM! poster back in ’88 that I considered a piece of art at the time!
When it comes to a painting, photo, or sculpture, I’ve really cheated the system. Since I was 20, starting in college and onwards, I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by other artists, so I’ve slowly acquired art by trading it. This is a common practice amongst artists as we are usually always broke! It’s worked well—I now have a pretty great collection.
MY RECENT TRADES
My most recent trades were with three painters I love that everyone should check out.
FINDING ART FOR YOURSELF
Take a beat and think about what you find yourself drawn to aesthetically. Do you like painting? Or photography? Or, ahem, photography that looks like painting?
There are so many ways to find art these days. One old-fashioned way would be to track down a few local galleries that represent artists you like, and keep an eye on the shows. That way, you will be able to physically see the work and support the local gallery scene and artists.
Art fairs are also a great way to see lots of art in a short amount of time.
A NEW WAY TO DISCOVER ART
Instagram is an excellent way to find artists. There are some great art feeds and blogs that can help you discover new art. These are some of my favorites.
ART COLLECTOR MAGAZINE / @artcollectormagazine
ART FORUM / @artforum
ART DRUNK / @artdrunk
THE CULTIVIST / @thecultivist
SEEN BY JUSTINE / @seenbyjustine
STARTING A COLLECTION
Call me old fashioned, but I just believe in owning art you love. Nothing makes me happier than when a client of mine writes me or sends me a photo of the piece they bought hanging in their homes. It’s only been in the past 5 years or so that I’ve had the wall space to put up a few bigger pieces and really curate our living space.
BUYING ART AS A GIFT
Close your eyes and try and remember what the person has hanging on the walls of their place, try and build a mental picture of the types of things they have around—their aesthetic, their interests. Then I’d filter that data through the prism of your own consciousness and style, and project all that info onto where that person is in their life; where they live and what they may love to “see” every day.
Think of something that might bring them joy every day. That’s always a good place to start.
On a budget, an art book by an artist you love is a great gift.
FINDING ART DURING YOUR TRAVELS
If you had the means and the inclination, traveling would be a great time to buy art. My tip would be to go to some local museums or galleries and speak with the curators. Ask them if there are any art fairs going on in the area, or if they may have some tips about good places to discover local art for purchase.
That plays into my advice for traveling in general: I think you are only scratching the surface of a place until you speak to a local.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
The relationship you can have with the art you own is quite magical and unique. Like all relationships, it evolves. You get to know it over time, and it plays into your life in interesting ways.
Currently on display at domicile(n.) gallery, by appointment only thru Jan 30th 2021, Tuesday-Saturday, 11am – 5pm
4859 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029