Ask the Experts: Bibi and Conner Answer Your Questions About Living With Art

Our new recurring series takes questions from you, the readers!

Our experts, Conner Williams and Bibi Naz Zavieh. Photo by Hannah Nathans.
Our experts, Conner Williams and Bibi Naz Zavieh. Photo by Hannah Nathans.

In “Ask the Experts,” our new advice column, Artnet Auctions specialists Bibi Naz Zavieh and Conner Williams are here to answer your questions. On the agenda this week: How to live with art! Whether you’re looking for advice on filling the walls of a new home or where to find the right framer, Bibi and Conner share insights about the realities of building an art collection you’ll actually love to live with.

If you’ve got any art-related questions, send them to us at [email protected] for a chance to be featured next time.

I just moved into a new home and have tons of empty walls. I know I want to start a collection, but I also just want to cover up the blank space. What would you recommend?

Bibi: The first advice that comes to mind is do not rush. Buy slowly, buy wisely. It’s a fun process, looking for paintings or prints that you’d want to live with. 

Conner: I believe no place is better than another for starting a collection. Some friends and clients with whom I’ve worked for several years buy exclusively from auctions, others work with an advisor, and others still buy from galleries. They’re all great places to start. Asking questions and finding people who you trust in the art world can be quite important, and can help you navigate and learn about an industry that is quite unique from others. 

Bibi: Definitely agree. Be sure to ask friends and specialists for advice, browse through online auctions where you can find works that fit within an affordable budget, go to galleries that work with young artists, and attend end of year graduate shows at art schools in your neighborhood. And step by step, build yourself a collection that makes you happy. These are works that will cover your blank space, but that you will also be living with. They become part of your home. 

What are your thoughts on hanging salon-style? Is this dated? Do you feel like each piece needs to be on its own to be fully appreciated?

Bibi: Salon-style is definitely back in fashion — it will give a chic, vintage, and boho character to your collection. The key is to refine your hang it doesn’t look messy. You should be sure to consider things like spacing, frame style (I would advise a maximum of three different styles), color palette, different mediums, etc. 

Conner: Personally, I never thought about hanging salon-style because it looked good or different. It came more out of the necessity of finding wall space in an apartment. But, the style is fun, and adds another dimension to how you engage with your collection everyday. 

Bibi: One piece of advice before hanging would be to always lay the works down on the floor first and play around with their positions to make sure it looks great. If done well, it can actually make each work pop! 

Conner: I’ve also found that leaning a framed work against a wall, or on top of a console table, for instance, adds a kind of third-dimension to otherwise flat works. It’s another cool way to enhance the installation of your collection.

What do you do if you buy something, and after you live with it for a few weeks… decide you hate it?

Conner: I don’t think this is terribly uncommon, but you should be certain that the recently acquired work is not for you after all. Perhaps take a bit more time to live with it, and move it to a different place in your residence—this may change your perception.

Bibi: That’s an easy one… if you decide you don’t like it, you sell it! All collectors decide to part with works in their collection at some point—whether it’s because their taste has changed, or because they’d rather sell a specific work to replace it with something they like more. 

Do you have any tips for finding affordable framers—and are professional framers really worth the money?

Conner: Researching framers can be no different than researching art. Ask trusted galleries, auction specialists, or advisors for their recommendations. While you’re likely to get different recommendations, you’ll get an idea of the associated costs from one framer to another. You’ll also learn that framing consists of a few things:

Frame materials: Wood is the most common but other materials like metal, plastic, or acrylic are also used.

Glazing: For prints, photos, or works on paper (and some paintings), you will generally have the choice to frame behind plexi or glass. Glass is heavier and, of course, more delicate. Plexi is lighter and can reflect light a bit differently, yet it is generally better if you plan to move occasionally or fear you or someone may bump into the work. Either way, you should ask for UV-resistant glazing and consider non-reflective plexi or glass (sometimes called museum plexi or glass), which will be more costly.

Custom vs. standard: Standard framing simply refers to the no-frills finish that you typically see in a gallery. This is generally the more affordable option. Should you wish to go with something more ornate or custom, the options and costs can vary widely.

Lastly, you should ask if the materials used in framing your work are archival. Nearly all framers use archival materials these days, which ensures that your work is properly housed for years to come.

Bibi Naz Zavieh is a Senior Specialist & Co-Head of Contemporary Art & Middle Eastern Art.
Conner Williams is Head of Prints & Multiples.

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