Getting through December's gifting routines with sanity and pocketbook intact is a bit of an art in itself. But pencilling in time for paintings, prints, sculptures and other visual art can help get you through.
From annual benefits at artist-run centres to holiday shows at high-end galleries, from convention centre megashows to church hall nu-craft fairs, there's selection and pricing to make art an appealing gift option for almost everyone on your list. All you need is a little expert advice on your side. Here, top T.O. gallerists offer tips on the best ways to buy art.
1. Buy with your eyes, not your ears. So says Le Gallery (1183 Dundas West, 416-532-8467) director Wil Kucey to anyone spending a little holiday money on some first-time art for themselves or making their own wish list. Too often, he says, first-time buyers get overwhelmed by information about artists, traditions and influences. Though these details are useful for building a collection, starting one just requires that you to love the piece.
2. Consider the giftee's taste, not your own. Face the fact that someone might like something you'd never hang in your own home, suggests veteran Queen West gallerist Katharine Mulherin (1086 Queen West, 416-537-8827). "Buying art is so individual," Mulherin says. "If you don't know whether they'll like it, you might be better off buying credits so they can come in and select something for themselves." Most galleries and artists are open to purchase of credits or gift certificates - just ask.
3. If you really want to give an art piece, not credits, and are still unsure about what to buy, ask about portfolios of work. "We sell them here, and there might be five works from five different artists in one portfolio," says Michael Klein , owner of MKG127 (127 Ossington, 647-435-7682) . "Hopefully with the variety, shoppers can find something in there giftees would like." Editions of several images from a single artist are another good idea.
4. Keep your mind open about what original art can be, particularly if you're on a budget. "Young artists can't always afford pricey materials," says Scratch Gallery (1358 Bathurst, 416-536-2220) co-owner Eden Bender , "but they can make great original art on everyday objects." For example, the T-shirt show at Scratch Gallery right now has dozens of original Ts ranging from $25 to $150. Also cast your net wide: most galleries are showing at least some affordable art through New Year's.
5. Don't fear the art fair frenzy - and don't let it pressure you either. "I advise people to take two trips around a show floor, noting what interests them before they start purchasing," says Kucey. "If you really love a piece before your two trips are up, just ask if you can put it on hold or reserve." In most cases the artist or gallery will be amenable. And if you love something you're sure will bust your holiday budget, remember to ask about layaway. Some smaller galleries will let you take the work home once you've paid 50 per cent.