Let’s talk about art. Adding art is the last element to the total design of a home. The selection, framing and installation of artwork can be the hardest part to incorporate into your overall decor. When selecting art, you want to find something personal, meaningful, significant, inspiring, relevant, interesting – or you just may want something that looks FUN!! How intimidating. I have to say that for myself, the selection of art was the most daunting part of the design process until I met an art guru – Kenneth (Kenny) Caruso of Alternative Interiors. In addition to working with Kenny on custom finishes for interiors including: gold leafing, venetian stucco, stenciling, reinventing furniture pieces for my clients, and just about anything I can think of for a painted surface, Kenny is also my art consultant. He connects interested buyers to the contemporary and street art world and now works with many of my clients. Kenny takes the time to educate you about art and upcoming artists and helps you gain a better appreciation of the nuances and potential future value of a piece. Art purchases can run the spectrum from original pieces of art (on the higher end) to works on paper and editions such as silkscreens which he selects based on the client’s direction. Follow Kenny on Instagram – @dkjcaruso – and get a sneak peak into what is happening in contemporary and street art. Here’s a look at some of the pieces that Kenny has helped clients source and purchase. The Keith Haring is Kenny’s own piece which he bought when Haring was an unknown street artist. Below – artists include: (clockwise from top left) Keith Haring, Dain, Ben Eine, Swoon and Pure Evil.
If you are interested in taking the plunge into art on your own, Kenny has some suggestions alleviate some of the impediments to buying art – let’s look at how to buy, frame and install art in your home.
How to Buy Art – The selection of art is a highly personal choice. Choosing something that you want to live with and look at every day is really up to you. I said to Kenny that I initially did not have the confidence to choose a piece of art. I wanted to make sure my selection would be suitable for my home and from an artist that is reputable. His response – “If you love it, that’s your confidence.” On where to find art, Kenny’s suggestions run the gamut from street artists to galleries to art fairs and even auctions (not for the faint of heart). Kenny is emphatic about supporting emerging artists. His first purchases were of art school students’ work that has since increased in value and stature. So, he suggests that you wander around SoHo – West Broadway, Prince St., Spring St. – to Union Square, the Village, and the LES (Lower East Side) and see what catches your eye. Talk to the artists, find out about their art, their passion and support the arts at the most grass roots level.
To find more established artists, head to Chelsea and walk the galleries. “Just walk in!” Kenny implores me when I tell him that galleries make me feel intimidated. “Act like you belong there…because you do!” Ask about the artists’ background and pricing. Ask to look in the backroom. Ask to see works that may be tucked away in flat files such as A/P’s (Artist’s Proofs) or P/P’s (Printer’s Proofs). Some galleries are willing to do lay away with an initial deposit because the bottom line is that galleries are as interested in selling you art as you are in buying it.
Art Fairs in NYC are a great way to see a wide range of artists, styles and mediums all in one place. Kenny suggests the Pulse Contemporary Art Fair, Volta NY and The Armory Show which all took place in March and Freize New York which runs May 5th to 8th. There are an abundance of emerging and established artists who exhibit at these fairs and if you do your homework, this is a great way to find accessibly priced art.
Kenny’s last piece of advice is to think outside the box about what you put up on your walls. Not everything has to be a framed square or rectangle. He recently purchased some skateboard decks by a great contemporary artist – Eddie Martinez. As Kenny writes in his Instagram post “The set of three, artwork by Eddie Martinez produced by @markskateboards and released by @exhibitiona and limited to just #100 are a great way for any art enthusiast to start collecting or add to the one already in full swing.”
How to Frame Art – Not that finding and selecting your art is hard enough, framing a piece can be equally as challenging. For this step, you need to find a framer that has a good eye, a great selection of framing material and is someone you trust. Luckily for me, there is a great boutique frame shop right in downtown Summit, NJ. I have been working with Mary Kiser at Frames for You for a long time. Mary is the second generation owner of this shop that has been in business for over 20 years. She carries frames in a wide array of colors and finishes and has an amazing eye for helping to select the perfect frame for each individual piece. In terms of framing trends, materials that are popular right now are the new welded steel frames (on right).
Other trends she is seeing are wall collages with a number of pieces intentionally scattered on a wall. Mary suggests using a uniform color for the frame – black, brown, white – but changing up the style of frame. Below is a collage of framed artwork, record album covers and a mounted guitar in a music lovers VGI designed basement.
Mary’s advice for framing is when you look at artwork the first thing you want to see is the art, so she recommends keeping the framing simple, letting the frame showcase the art and using material that relates back to the piece. I recently brought a new KAWS print to have framed and we chose a gunmetal steel frame that allowed the vibrant colors of this piece to stand out and a thick frame to ground this work to create the statement it deserves.
In the photograph below, you can see how an amazing piece of art that is professionally framed can add a dramatic focal point to an otherwise ordinary area of your home.
How to Install Art – We have made it to the last leg of our art journey. Now we have to hang it up!! There are the technical aspects to hanging art for which I will refer you to a great post in Apartment Therapy with an even greater title – “How to Hang Your Artwork and Not Screw it Up”. Be warned, there is math involved!!! So bring get a tape measure and a calculator.
From a design perspective, I like artwork to make a statement and reflect the personality of the homeowner. Going against convention – I think contemporary art can work with transitional or traditional decor as well as it can in a more modern setting. For example. the first two photos below show art from Retna (on left) and Faile (on right) – two well known contemporary artists. These pieces are hung in rooms with an updated traditional aesthetic. Yet, the bold contemporary art adds a contrast and makes a statement.
And in other rooms, the art pulls together the decor and adds a touch of sophistication to the space as do these pieces by Robert Longo in a living room and by Ron English in a family den.
There you have it, I hope I gave you the confidence you need to start your own art journey – from the streets of New York and onto the walls of your home.
Enjoy the ride.