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  At home in the lodge
  The art of
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Copyright © 2006
Express Publishing Inc
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The Sun Valley Guide magazine is distributed free three times a year to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area communities.

Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper will receive the Sun Valley Guide with their subscription.

Fine art can easily be a part of everyday life.
In this home, curator Jeanne Meyers chose a durable and beautiful wood sculpture by Brent Comber to act as a bench. The metal piece, created by Kiki Smith, is motion-activated, singing to those passing by. And, simply for the joy of viewing it often, the painting by Stephane Couturier hangs in the entryway.

the art of
collecting art.
Enhancing your habitat withfine art need not be a daunting nor expensive prospect. Deb Gelet gathers tips from local experts on how to collect art, no matter what your budget. Photos by David N. Seelig.

Whether we realize it or not, most valley residents live with some form of art in their daily lives. The landscape alone is a thing of great beauty and, in the spirit of Andy Goldsworthy (a renowned contemporary British sculptor who works in and with the natural landscape), we may carefully arrange on our hall table the rocks we found while hiking, or keep the seashell from our last vacation on the windowsill. This simple placement of objects brings visual pleasure, but also evokes an emotional response, a good memory, or sets a pleasant mood.

Culinary-themed paintings by Marilyn Minter are a natural match for the kitchen.

Living with fine art is much the same, although collecting it well requires more self-examination and homework. What it does not require is a substantial bankroll. Nor does your art collection have to match your home’s interior design.

A story from the world of contemporary art illuminates this point. Herbert and Dorothy Vogel lived a quiet, working-class life in Manhattan. He worked as a postal clerk, she as a librarian. In 1965, they befriended Sol LeWitt, who would later become an important conceptual artist. After LeWitt’s first show, they bought their first piece of fine art. LeWitt was a new artist—“emerging” is the term used in art circles—so his art was relatively inexpensive.

Sculptor Jack Burgess edits his collection carefully in his small living space, selecting only what “speaks on many levels” to him.

Over the years, on modest salaries and in a one-bedroom apartment, the Vogels amassed a collection of more than 2,000 pieces by some of the most important artists of the 1970s and 1980s, including Carl Andre, Richard Tuttle, Will Barnet and Christo. They became the darlings of the art world, partly because of their charming, unassuming natures, but also because their collection reflected their intellectual journey into art, and because they were not satisfied with simply purchasing.

The Vogels befriended the artists of the time, gave them unrelenting emotional support, and created a collection that clearly reflects a specific time period in contemporary art. The collection was deemed so important that pieces of it went into an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 1994. Today, elements from the Vogel collection continue to circulate through many important museum exhibitions.

In the firestorm of publicity surrounding that first exhibition, Dorothy Vogel said simply, “We don’t have any real advice for first-time collectors. We buy what we like, what we can afford, and what can fit into our apartment. But, we hope that this exhibition will encourage others living on small incomes to buy art, too.”

fall in love with your art

Collecting and living with art should be more than just shopping for and displaying pieces as though they were trophies, ceasing as soon as all the walls are filled. Serious collectors are unanimously clear on one point: Collecting art should be a passion. And, as with all passions, it requires attention to nuance in the partnership, a learning and growing self-examination.

Artist Lorna Simpson’s mixed medium work lives among books on a shelf.

“You never forget your first purchase. Everybody has a story about theirs,” says Blaine County resident Jeanne Meyers. “It is remarkable how often that first piece turns out to be unexpectedly life-changing.” Meyers, a curator, consultant and self-proclaimed art addict, recently curated Subversive Moves, a show on modern art held at Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

A collection of black and white photography is displayed unconventionally in a powder room.

Selecting art for your home may feel intimidating. How do you choose the right pieces for the style of your home? Is it necessary for art to somehow match your décor? What constitutes a smart art purchase?

tips from the pros
“Living in an area that experiences such drastic differences in seasons, many of our clients rotate their artwork a couple of
times a year…This provides the opportunity to give a whole new look to their home without the expense or inconvenience of redecorating.”
—Carey Molter
Director, The Kneeland Gallery

Wood River Valley residents are fortunate to have a variety of excellent art galleries nearby. They are staffed by well-informed professionals eager to share their knowledge and love for the works they exhibit. Local galleries are far more relaxed—although not less sophisticated—than many galleries in larger cities, and they provide beginning collectors with the opportunity to learn more about particular artists or media. They are also good resources for advice on displaying art, including the important aspect of lighting it.

Oscar Muñoz’s dramatic piece rests casually on a sideboard.

“As new collectors learn and surround themselves with the art of their choice they make a statement about themselves and give themselves permission to follow their own instincts and personal taste in a potentially life-long dedication to collecting art,” said Barbi Reed, owner of Ketchum’s Anne Reed Gallery. “The adventure of looking for the right pieces is as worthy as owning the art.”

Jack Burgess’ sculptures decorate his bedroom

Nearly all art dealers tell collectors, be they new or experienced, that the most important factor in selecting artwork is to buy what you love—a cliché, but true. “Upon acquisition, when asking a client ‘where will you place it?’ an always refreshing reply is ‘I have no idea,’” said Andria Friesen, owner of Friesen Gallery in Ketchum.

tips from the pros

“One of the great advantages of collecting contemporary art is the artists are still living! Many artists love to talk about their work.
Meeting and talking to the artists adds a special connection to collecting contemporary art that makes the work an irreplaceable treasure rather than just another possession.”
—Gail Severn
Owner, Gail Severn Gallery

Knowing what you love may not be clear in the beginning, but education of the intellect informs the eye and heart. An important goal is to trust your taste. As Meyers points out, “Good collections have either knowledge or passion, but great collections have both.”

make up your own rules

Consider these questions in the process of editing or managing your collection. Are you drawn to a particular medium, like works on paper, watercolor paintings, photography? Is there a particular palette or mood that draws you, such as dreamy landscapes or high-contrast abstract paintings? Where will you place the artwork and how does that affect the size of the works you can purchase? “Make up your own rules, as in ‘I only buy prints’ or ‘I only buy what I can’t live without,’” advises Meyers. “Change the rules as you need to, but do it consciously so that you have some structure in your collection.”

tips from the pros
“There is a difference between an interior that has been collected versus decorated. It is always obvious. Good art doesn’t have to match your sofa! I believe it is of paramount importance to collect art with both your head and your heart.”
—Andria Friesen
Owner, Friesen Gallery

Hailey resident Mark Johnstone, writer, curator and a consultant for public and private art, agrees. “Art that is important in your life will provide new experiences over time. It’s similar to reading a really good book or watching a great movie over and over and getting something different out of it each time. Excellent art will provide that experience for viewers upon repeated encounters.”

That presents a challenge to the new collector. It may take some time to understand clearly how you respond to art and to refine the parameters of the pieces you want in your daily environment over a length of time. Take time to gain as much exposure to art as possible and do plenty of research. The Internet is an excellent resource and art magazines offer informative articles. A favorite is Artweek, available online and in print.

“Try to spend enough time looking at a variety of art pieces to gain an understanding of what you like and what you don’t like,” advises Gail Severn, owner of Gail Severn Gallery. “Most people’s taste changes and evolves as they look at more and more art. You don’t want to tire of a purchase only months after acquiring it.”

a question of money

As with all romantic endeavors, there are many practical considerations. When it comes to art, one of the most important is to respect your spending limits and never purchase art solely for the investment. While some art does increase in financial value over time, most art dealers and collectors agree that should not be the primary reason behind any purchase. “Often, but not always, prints and photographs are less expensive than original paintings,” explained Severn. “Sculpture and paintings can be more expensive than prints and photographs and often require different types of space.”

For the first time art buyer, the pricing of art can be somewhat bemusing. Severn attempts to shed some light on the process. “Although artists and galleries try to establish prices based on the law of supply and demand and what the market will bear, there are always extenuating circumstances that contribute to the final price.”

tips from the pros
“No matter what our budget, we only purchase work that stirs our emotions, work that is hard to put out of our minds, and that we will enjoy living with for many years to come.”
—Robin Reiners
Owner, Gallery DeNovo

Remember also that the safety of the artwork must be considered. When you become the owner of an original artwork, you also become responsible for its longevity and history. Again, galleries are excellent resources for advice on protecting works from direct sunlight, moisture, temperature fluctuation and seismic activity.

The old model of precise standards for displaying artwork has given way to a more casual stance of personal preference. Most people are inclined to hang framed works too high. Professional art installers can help, of course, and are recommended for heavy or very valuable works. But if you’re going it alone, ask a friend to hold your new acquisition at eye level while you step back to assess any adjustments you may prefer. Ask your art dealer for advice on appropriate hardware. Art can be clustered in groupings on walls, shelves, or even in museum-quality display cases. Framed pieces can also simply lean against the wall in protected areas. Gone is the old concept of buying a painting that matches the sofa and hanging it centered above.

open your mind

The process of collecting art, the introspection, the research and the inspiration often leads to a more refined insight into self. And, that insight naturally shows up in living environments. In an almost contradictory way, the intimidation that may be felt at the outset of researching art dissolves into educated opinion, or taste, which then reveals itself in our home’s interior design. In the end, perhaps the art does match our interior design although that wasn’t the intent. It is a refining of personal statement.

Collecting and living with art can be accessible to anyone of any means who appreciates the inherent value of surrounding themselves with beauty of their own choosing. Follow the example of the Vogels. Open yourself to all the possibilities of art. And, by the way, do you know the artist who lives next door?

Online art resources