Elizabeth Lavin

Interior Design

A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Art

Never walked into an art gallery? No problem.

Read on for expert advice on where to begin—from buying your first piece to installing it.

How to Start a Collection

Local art advisor Robyn Siegel of Cynthia C. Schwartz Fine Art shares five tips for buying and collecting.

Start hitting the galleries (no appointment required). Siegel advises looking as long as you want and as much as you can. There’s no rush to purchase. “You may not realize it, but you’re doing the work by doing that,” she says.

Art advisors aren’t just for the serious collectors. Put them to work for you—most of the time they’re free. If you’re looking to start a collection or want to make a smart purchase, enlist the help of an art advisor. They are already doing the research, and they can point you in the right direction, take you to galleries that specialize in the styles you like, and guide you through art fairs and special events.

Take advantage of local art events. If you decide to start the journey on your own, take advantage of local art fairs and events, such as Two x Two for AIDS and Art in October and the Dallas Art Fair, which takes place in April.

Know your budget, style, and installation location. Setting a budget within a $5,000 window is best. Not only does it narrow down the field, but it also allows some flexibility if you find something you love. It’s a good idea to have a general concept of where the piece will hang so you can be mindful of scale and measurements, but this isn’t necessary for every purchase.

There’s no need to feel intimidated—art is about having fun and exploring. Siegel urges her clients to enter the process with an open mind. Sure, art can be a bit intimidating when starting out. “You just have to listen to how you instinctively feel. Where you end up is not where you are going to start. You have to listen to that voice and have that dialogue,” she explains.

Engage art professionals and find a network. Some first-time art buyers are nervous about walking into a gallery. Don’t be. Siegel assures that galleries are happy to have you come take a look. Strike up a conversation and get to know them.

The Art of Framing

We talked to custom framer Debra Stevens about how to make your newly acquired—or vintage—piece shine.

Tell your framer the style of your home. Stevens likes to get a feel for the client’s taste before making a major decision on a frame. “The first thing I like to know is if their home is contemporary or more traditional,” she explains. “It helps me understand what their goals for framing will be. I prefer simpler designs, which could also be golds or silvers in a more traditional setting. I always frame for the art, but I do consider the home’s design.”

Protect the art. For Stevens, the art comes first. “I would want to know how the framer plans on making sure your art is protected in areas that are not visible after the art is framed. For example, ask if they are using acid-free products,” Stevens explains. “They may cost a little bit more but are well worth it. The damage we have seen from poor framing material is amazing and can happen in a short period of time.”

Keep it simple. “I believe in framing as simply as possible,” she says. “The days of double and triple mats are over. Framing should give your art a finished look but not overwhelm your art. Always think that you want to see the art, not the frame.”

Update a piece with a white frame. Stevens loves a good, white frame. “Ten years ago, everyone would have thought we were crazy,” she says. “I went to New York and saw it everywhere and knew it was just a matter of time before it’d come here.”

Crop it. If you’re framing a vintage portrait or flea market find, don’t be afraid to crop. One of her recent projects had noticeable water damage, but it wasn’t beyond saving. “That piece is completely stained, but it’s not on the person’s face,” she says. “So we’re able to crop in and cover up.”

Let a pro do it!

photo by Stephen Karlisch

Siegel suggests hiring a professional to frame, install, and light your piece. Art consultants can coordinate these details, but we’ve also produced a handy reference guide here.

Unified Fine Arts
Dozens of local galleries and private collectors—including The Rachofsky House—call on this local team to transport, install, and store their coveted works. The 17,000-square-foot warehouse includes the latest in security and fire control.

Displays Fine Art Services
Didn’t purchase locally? No problem. The Arlington-based company runs weekly scheduled shuttles throughout the U.S. and can deliver and install in one fell swoop. They can also store in their 55,000-square-foot secured space.

Artemis Fine Art Services
For more than 15 years, the full-service art company’s list of options includes packing, crating, installation, and storage. They also offer up a national shuttle schedule that can transport your works in their fleet of trucks.

Debra Stevens Custom Framing
Time and time again we’ve named Stevens the “Best Framer in Dallas” for her attention to detail, thoughtful design, and passion for art. She’s not afraid to give a recommendation, and she’s great with a deadline.

24 FPS
Since 1990, owner Leigh Ann Williams has been the trusted source for prominent local collectors. Visit her Deep Ellum shop for a custom frame that will complete your vision. 214-824-2400.

Douglas Architectural Lighting
Lighting art is an important final step in art installation that some first-time collectors may overlook. Shane Douglas specializes in lighting that best complements the artwork.

Lum Architectural Lighting Design
The local firm’s credo: “Lighting is integrated rather than applied, subtle rather than obvious.” With a background in architecture, the team is able to help the client every step of the way.

Main Frame Art Service
Randy Murphy has more than 30 years of experience in the local art industry, framing for the likes of Kenny Goss. He makes his own frames and specializes in contemporary designs. His services also include transporting and installing.

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