How to Buy Art, or Not.

Several weeks ago I went to a visual arts event in Northeast Minneapolis (aka Nordeast) that has grown to be quite the popular cultural weekend in Minneapolis. At Art-A-Whirl hundreds of studios in warehouses spread around the neighborhood open their doors to the public and hundreds, actually thousands, spend a weekend strolling from one to another, taking in the wide array of forms and styles.

Of course, virtually all of it is for sale.

If that sounds cynical, re-read it. It’s not. It’s a good thing. Artists need to and deserve to be paid for their work, and paying artists (of any genre) is not a cut-and-dried method. I think it’s wonderful that these painters, photographers, sculptors, etc., use the group dynamic they have to bring people in and I hope many of them rested easier this month knowing the rent on that studio is paid.

My few hours at ArtAWhirl were spent on a rainy, steamy Saturday. The hallways and stairwells were crowded, people squeezed past others to get to things, or to get out, and everywhere was the fear of knocking something over or off a wall. Several studios put out snacks or treats, so we nibbled our way down one hallway.

We had been in the market for a painting to hang over our new fireplace. We were hoping for something colorful, and possibly relating to the north shore of Lake Superior, a favorite destination of ours. We wanted something that would work well on the muted, but colorful stone facade. I had done a little homework and had identified a number of artists in a couple building whose work might be right and that I wanted to visit. Not too realistic, but not too abstract, types of things.

We saw some great and fascinating pieces, and if I had the money and space I’d have bought at least ten paintings. I’d find something I like and my partner would be kind of “meh” about it. Or vice versa. When we stopped in Douglas Ross‘ studio we found things we both liked. Colorful images of the rocky shore of that Great Lake. We considered sever, agreed to both liking the look and size of a particular one, we moved on with a “we can stop back if we decide we want it….”

Half hour later we were back.

We met the painter, with whom we surprisingly had a lot in common. The painting is of a sunny day, at a point, he tells us, in Lutsen. We buy it.

We chat as he wraps it safely for us, then places it in a plastic bag for extra protection from the possible rain. We pay buy by check, directly to him. We shake hands and go off with our original painting.

When we get home we immediately unwrap it and place it above the fireplace and step back.

There’s a pause. We both contemplate.

One of us finally says, “Well, that doesn’t work there.”

We thought we found the perfect companion to that wall of colorful stone, but we hadn’t. It was too much, too busy, too overwhelming. The good news is that it looks terrific on the colors of either the dining room or the living room walls. And that’s where it’ll hang.

Luckily it made us realize just what it was about the painting we liked and what it was that didn’t work, giving us guidelines as to what we should buy for that special place. This discovery was remedied weeks later, up North, in its own special way. (I’ll share that later.)

Owning original art feels great, and buying it directly from the artist even better.

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