I was recently asked if I would write a post for beginners on how to go about collecting fine art, from an artist's point of view. Two of the best ways to view art are in person and online.
Let me first explore viewing art in person. Seeing art in person involves more than just looking at a painting on a wall. You can see it in all its detail, the texture, the brush strokes, the subtle change of color that computer monitors or phone screens don't do justice. Three-dimensional art by nature is so much more appreciated in person. You can look at it from any angle you wish, not just the one or two provided by the artist. You can get up close and marvel at the fine details you miss in a small photo. In both 2D and 3D, you get a real sense of the size of the piece. On the computer or in a catalog, a 5"x7" looks pretty much the same as a 48"x60". But in life, you have much more appreciation for the detail in that miniature or the time invested in that mural.
So where can you go to view fine art? One of the first places I went to show my work was the local art center. They have several themed juried exhibits during the year, and artists do not have to be a member to enter. Juried exhibitions require a panel jurors to review each entry and accept or reject it to the show. Typically work of low quality is rejected, but high quality work can be rejected for lack of space or just not fitting with the other accepted pieces. After having my work in a few local shows, I started looking online for similar opportunities in other areas.
Not every artist belongs (or wants to belong) to a gallery, but looking at galleries with a set list of exhibiting artists is another place to look. Many of these types of galleries have a theme, such as "contemporary art" or "southwestern art" or "photography." Artists that belong to one or more galleries are usually mid-career to established artists, rarely emerging artists.
So if you are not an artist, how do you go about finding these exhibits and galleries? Just open the Yellow Pages or Google. Search for "galleries" or "art shows" or "art exhibits" in your area. Local newspapers often have show openings or fairs or other such events. Some big art areas put out publications dedicated to art listings. In New Mexico, for example, there is a weekly paper (Pasatiempo, part of the New Mexican) with upcoming art events, and a yearly book (The Collector's Guide) which covers most galleries and many artist studios in the state.
Galleries are kind of an obvious place to start. Arts and crafts fairs have fine artists that you can meet and talk with. If you like their work, grab their business card. Restaurants also often hang local artists' work. Next time you're in a non-chain restaurant or coffee shop, take a look at what's hanging on the walls. If the art has a little tag next to it with a title and price, it is likely a local artist's work. Other places to view work in person include live art auctions, estate sales (hit or miss), college class exhibits, and of course, artist studios. I'm not a big fan of doing art fairs, but I really enjoy participating in my town's annual Studio Tour. Local artists set aside one weekend to open their studios to the public. Many people enjoy trying to visit every studio on the map, while others carefully choose just a few. This is a great opportunity to meet an artist and see how they make their work, and while things are for sale, there is usually no pressure to buy.
I will talk about finding art online next time.