Who is first, what got second, and I don’t know got third-you are at a juried art show.  I recently judged a Wilmington Art Association show at the Hannah Block Center with NE Gallery artist Owen Wexler.  Let it be known that Owen gets me these gigs as we are both on the board of the Hannah Block Center and he is now chairman and I can’t say no to him-

Owen Wexler and Me at the WAA Show being all judgey.

So what is a juried art show and what makes it special?  A jury of peers evaluates all the entries into such an event, only showing those that they think are quality, so that the art is usually (I know this is a generalization) of a higher caliber.  The organization should say that the show is juried, or you can search juried art shows in your area.  They are wonderful places to buy fine art at some great prices.  You should always check them out.  For someone like me, they are perfect places to spot new talent, or pick up a great piece for my collection!  I also call clients if I see something at the show that I think would spark their interest.  It is a value added service, I can’t always represent everyone, and it is kind of my job to put the right buyer in front of the right piece.

We did an earlier blog post about composition, which you can reference, but when I look at a piece of art I am struck by how my eyes are drawn to it.  Does my eye want to stare at it-am I captivated by it?  Usually good composition accomplishes this.  Owen is a formally trained artist so composition is pragmatic for him.  For me it is a little intuitive-but that is why we are such a great team.  Ultimately a piece should draw you in and keep your attention-you should have a visceral reaction to it.

Is the subject matter, the point of view, or the technique original?  Sometimes I am drawn to pieces that are really different, but I look at art a great deal, so if something strikes me as original I find that exciting.

Is the content intriguing?  One of my favorite things to do when looking at a piece of art is to tell myself a story.  If the art invites your mind to start inventing a story about it, pay attention.  I think that one fact has led to me purchasing many of my favorite pieces.  A piece that inspires a story should keep your interest for a long time.

This is a Nathan Ryan Verwey that I own-I fell in love with it from the promotional photos for his alumnus show at UNCW! I love Vivian Leigh. There are so many stories about this piece-

You should also notice how well the piece is executed.  By this we mean is the piece (painting, photograph, or pottery) done well?  Does it look professional, or is it amateurish? Is the presentation good (gallery wrapped, well framed, well done) or is it good in spite of its presentation? I know a great framer, don’t ever let that stop your art decision.  Artists are people too and sometimes folks in this arena don’t have access to good framing or a friend who will say “that frame is doing nothing for your work.”

As always, you should love it.  And you don’t always have to know why.  Art is so subjective, nowhere else is the totem “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” more true than when acquiring art.  Owen and I always try to stay objective.  We love to go in the show before it is carded so we don’t see names.  It amazes me every time we work together how often we agree on pieces and how quickly the judging goes. This time the work was all so good that it was a little stressful and there were so many artists that I had never seen.

We will be talking some about buying art online this month-most of these rules above apply to that process as well. Some additions in that case should be:

Do you trust the source of the artwork? Many artists sell art online successfully and they take great photographs of their work. Nothing is worse than getting a piece and the color or composition was misrepresented. We as a gallery really compare the photo to the original work to make sure the photograph online is representational of the work. You can also ask for more images. Also check the size of the piece, so that you are not expecting something large only to receive something tiny. All online art should tell you the size. Measure it out on a wall and tape it off with painters tape if you need to. Also confirm if you are purchasing an original piece or a print. A print should be priced much less than an original; it will also need to be framed. Framing is a cost that should be weighed when evaluating a work. Is the process to check out easy and do you feel safe giving out your financial information? We have invested a lot of money in the shopping cart on our site to make it work properly.

If you are on vacation, especially if you are in another country, it is always a great idea to hire a guide for a day or part of a day to show you around or to guide you through a particular sight. We have done this a couple of times, and it always works out well. If you tell your guide you are interested in art, many times they will introduce you to friends who are artists, or they will direct you to a good gallery that might be of a higher caliber than a more tourist frequented location. We like to have our guide take us where they traditionally eat lunch, or where they like to go, because it gives you a more authentic experience. Usually much to everyone in my family’s chagrin, I am capable of finding small galleries that have what I am interested in. We have discovered that we really love staying at small boutique hotels, because many times they are nestled in a neighborhood of locals. We ask the hotel where to go to eat, because we want to eat in our neighborhood at night surrounded by people that are living in that area and not tourists. Lots of times in that area or near the art museums is where I find that gem of a small gallery that sells the very items I take home-jewelry, art, ceramics, or silk scarves. The shop is usually so glad to see you, and they appreciate my business (and depend on it) just like I depend on visitors to our city to shop with us.

Whether you are at an art show or shopping online for art, we are excited that you are having an artful experience-

So buy some art, for art’s sake!