Personal Finance

The Art of Acquiring Affordable Art

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L_Imperial_Extracts_4 With two swift searches, you can set yourself on the path to affordable art acquisitions. None of this multimillion dollar, Sotheby’s auction stuff. We’re talking $25, $75, $100. Of course, if tens of thousands of dollars constitutes “affordable” in your world, you’ll have ample opportunities to make artists happy, as well.

This information comes to me from Denver artist Brenda Stumpf, a hellaciously talented artist who distills immense mythical themes onto canvas or into an assemblage, imbuing her work with the ancient like nobody’s business.

Anyway, Brenda advises typing in the following searches: “[your city] art walks,” and “[your city] open studios.” The first will lead you to days when the art district(s) in your town holds a coordinated event during which all of the galleries and sometimes artist studios are open.

The second will lead to similar, though probably less frequent events during which artists open their studios to the public. The advantages are numerous, Brenda informs, starting with familiarizing yourself with the “artocracy” of your city. In addition to the fun of chatting up artists and meeting a lot of interesting fellow patrons, you can also peruse a diverse array of objets d’art in all sizes, shapes and price ranges.

Additionally, while strolling on an open studio walk, you can purchase art that is unframed and thus priced lower. If you want framing, artists will often pass along the discounts they receive from their framers.

Brenda names another perk of these walks: “There are usually all kinds of people, so you’re not going to be stuck in a big, white box all by yourself with some stoic-looking person behind the desk glaring at you.”

You don’t have to buy big, either. Say you have a large, open wall that you want to enliven with art. No problem. Instead of one or two huge canvases, go with several smaller, less expensive pieces. Brenda has appointed one of her walls, she tells me, with a collection of 4” treasures she’s discovered on her own art-walk expeditions.

“The smaller the piece, the more intimate that little space becomes,” she says.

Looking for a “green” component? Many artists today specialize in recycling found objects, attic accumulations or thrift store and flea sale items into artwork. Attending these walks also helps sustain your community, since you’re highly likely to patronize a restaurant, bar or coffee shop. Thus, sustaining your local artists represents an artful and affordable way to expand your private collection.

Image: Imperial Extracts 4, Brenda Stumpf


Christopher Johnston has written for American Theatre, Cleveland, Continental, Crain’s Cleveland Business, Editor & Publisher, The Plain Dealer, Progressive Architecture and Urban Design, and Scientific American, among other publications. He is currently writing a biography of Frederick C. Crawford, founding chairman of TRW Inc. As an avocation, he is a playwright and director, and this December, his play APORKALYPSE! will premier at convergence-continuum theatre in Cleveland.

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