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Deck the walls: How to buy art

The walls of Vern Stein Art and Frame in Williamsville pop with vibrant artwork that transcends any one style, period or artist.

To the casual observer, merely walking in the front door could prove intimidating. Where do I begin? What kind of art do I want? Will that look good in my living room? Can I even afford any of this?

These are just a few of the questions novice art buyers have, says gallery director Mary Pabst, who acknowledges that shopping for art can be intimidating. The good news: it doesn’t have to be.

"Oftentimes, especially when people are buying art for the first time, they don’t really know what they like until they see it," said Pabst. "The best way to get started is to visit galleries and just see what you find that you enjoy."

It’s a point of distinction among every art expert we spoke to — beyond how it looks in your home, the most important part of shopping for art is making sure you like what you’re buying.

"Yes, it’s important that the art fits the space well, and works well with the rest of the room or the home, but it is more than that," Pabst said. "People will say to me, ‘I like that piece, I don’t know what I like about it, but I know I do.’ That, in part, is the deeper personal connection people make to a piece of art or to an artist."

Pabst, who has worked in the industry for nearly 40 years, says when selecting art for a home, emotions can play as big a part in the decision-making process as anything.

"There is oftentimes an emotional connection to art, and we see that a lot when couples come in together looking to purchase art for their home," she explains. "A piece of art can often elicit very strong emotional responses from both the husband and wife, and they can be quite different responses."

She says even the most compatible couples can disagree when it comes to taste in art, and it can be one of the biggest challenges to overcome when shopping for fine art. That’s one reason many of her clients will come in with an interior decorator.

Robert Reeder, owner of Robert Reeder Interiors, has been helping people design homes for more than 30 years. He says his advice to people shopping for art is to understand their budget and have an idea of what they want.

"You could buy two pieces of art and spend $10,000," he says. "So, it depends on what you’re looking for. Are you interested in buying original artwork? Do you want them to be giclées [high quality prints]?"

He says for most people, art is intended to be a statement, and that’s why it’s often the last thing he will select when designing a room.

"Art can be, and often is, the focal point of a room," he says. "Whether it is a large piece — say a five foot by five foot — or even a triptych [three hinged panels], it should draw people to it when they enter the room."

One common misconception about purchasing art is that it is a rich person’s game, and unique, quality art isn’t affordable. Pabst works to educate clients on more affordable options.

"One opportunity is to explore emerging artists that we believe have quality work," she said.

Grace Meibohm, owner of Meibohm Fine Arts Gallery, says there is plenty of affordable, good quality art to find; buying art is not just for the wealthy.

Another option for those on a strict budget is to build a collection gradually.

"I think it’s more fun to do it over a period of time," said Pabst. "I encourage people to start out with their focal point — what’s the most important wall to you? Then they can build from there."

Reeder also emphasized that decorating a home doesn’t have to include high-priced original artwork.

"There are companies who make wonderful reproductive pieces of contemporary art," he says. "There are many wonderful options."

Grace Meibohm is the third-generation owner of Meibohm Fine Arts in East Aurora. She, too, has worked to overcome the idea that buying art is something for only the wealthy.

"There are plenty of financially accessible pieces of good, quality art, and that’s where educating yourself, and understanding what is out there, can really help," said Meibohm.

She reminds clients that buying art should be a fun experience.

"There is no wrong answer when it comes to what you like," Meibohm says. "Buying art is such a personal experience."

Her approach when working with a novice art buyer is to ask questions and get to know a little bit about them as a means of understanding what they may like.

"Then I like to show them some pieces and see what they respond to," she said.

So, what are a few of the most common mistakes art buyers new to the process make?

"Most people struggle with balance or misproportion," Reeder said. "Many times, people select a piece that is too large for the room because when they are in a gallery, everything looks smaller. Then, you have it delivered and it is out of balance in the room."

His advice: have a floor plan and a true understanding of the space you are looking to decorate.

"Once you make a purchase and find out it isn’t right for your space, sometimes you can fix it," he says, "and sometimes you can’t."

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