Director of the Affordable Art Fair New York City, Cristina Salmastrelli is dedicated to figuring out ways to put art within reach of everyone. With a B.A. in art history from Colgate University and a masters in museum studies from NYU, as well as extensive travel and professional experience, she has gleaned priceless insight on collecting art. Now based in Brooklyn, she believes fairs are the heart of the art world, providing a place where galleries and collectors can exchange ideas and learn. However, for the novice, buying your first piece can still be a daunting and intimidating experience, so here she gives practical ideas for turning your passion into a collection you can be proud of.
Expert Tip #1: Prepare Beforehand
Before you step into a fair with some 1,000 to 1,500 pieces on display, have a sense of what you might be looking for. “First, figure out what type of art that you like,” advises Salmastrelli. “Go online, research genres of art, and find the ones that are your favorites. Ask yourself basic questions, like ‘Do you like photography?’ ‘What about oil paintings or drawings?’ Or maybe three dimensional works are up your alley. Take note of what your eye is drawn to.” Next figure out where you want to hang or place the piece in your home. Perhaps you have a blank space in your living room or bedroom, but says Salmastrelli, “Never forget about the bathroom! That is where you can put the funkiest pieces of art.” Once you’ve settled on where, measure and write down the dimensions (you’ll need these).
Expert Tip #2: Take Your Time—and a Coffee Break
Take a lap around the fair and think about the piece you are contemplating on buying. Snap some photos if you can get permission from the gallerist, and even go home and sleep on it. Chat with a friend, take a coffee break, or get some food. There is no need to rush anything or buy impulsively. It’s a good idea to build your collection slowly with careful consideration, one by one, piece by piece. A small collection grows and grows. Says Salmastrelli, “We want you to feel comfortable when you make your purchase. If it takes time, the gallery should understand that.” Likewise, don’t feel intimidated. There is art for every budget. At the Affordable Art Fair, which Salmastrelli oversees, there are pieces priced from $75 to$10,000.
Expert Tip #3: Be Fair
Art fairs are a great place to start getting acquainted with the art world because you have a large range; the Affordable Art Fair, for example, has 57 international galleries on display. However, when there isn’t a fair going on in your city, be sure to tour local galleries. Get involved in the art scene, go to openings, and get a feel for what’s going on. Look online at art websites and blogs and sign up for art newsletters. Says Salmastrelli, “Another great tool is Google alerts. I have many Google alerts for different art categories, such as ‘contemporary art NYC,’ ‘international art fairs,’ and ‘photography.’ This keeps me up to date.”
Expert Tip #4: Ask Questions
If you are going to purchase a piece of art, it’s important to get as much information about the piece as you can. Ask as many questions as you want. The answers will help you feel more comfortable with your purchase. Then when it’s hanging in your house, you can also give your friends and family “the tour.” You can speak about the background of the piece, the artist’s inspiration, and the reason why you wanted it at home with you. Salmastrelli’s favorite questions to ask are: “How long did it take the artists to make this piece?” “What influenced him to create this work of art?” “Is this art work different than what the artists has previously done in the past?” and “Why did you as a gallerist choose to represent this artist?”
Expert Tip #5: Buy a Piece for Love—and Love Only
Organizers of art fairs do it because they love art, and likewise, they want you to take home a piece of work that you have fallen in love with. Think of them as matchmakers. “The true investment when purchasing a piece of art is the joy it brings you every day when you see it in your personal space,” says Salmastrelli. “This will bring you ten times more satisfaction than buying a piece of art of any other reason.” Don’t worry about what anyone else will say about the piece. This piece is for you and you only. If it brings you joy, stick with your gut and go for it. Self-discovery is one of the best rewards when buying art.