Be art smart

Art adds colour and dimension to a room and is a good way to add a cosy, 'lived in' feeling to your living space. According to Pam Heller-Stern, co-owner of Artistic Innovations art gallery in Bedfordview, Johannesburg, rooms with bare walls have a distinctive echo and wall art helps to absorb this 'empty' sound.

The art you choose should never be selected purely to suit your décor – personal taste is also important and going in search of an artwork that suits your home doesn't mean you have to find an exact match. Rather make sure that the piece you choose picks up on a few colours in your décor scheme, thus creating a subtle link – this can be achieved by choosing a frame that connects the piece to what you already have.

Feng Shui practitioners teach that every piece of art in the home has an emotional effect on the occupants. Paintings depicting calm scenes evoke softer emotions and are perfect for restful spaces such as the bedroom. Those with warmer colours and vibrant patterns are more suited to spaces where energy flows faster, such as in a bar area or family room.

Is art an investment?
Original art is regarded as a good investment but never in the short term. A piece, however, will continue to increase in value over time. Make sure that you like what you are buying – the pleasure you get from purchasing a piece should be in what you feel when you look at it, rather than in how much money you can make from it in the future.

Consider that oil paintings always fetch a higher price and are considered the most valuable medium. Unlike photographs, oils can last for hundreds of years and can be passed down through generations. Acrylics are also considered a very sophisticated medium, says Pam. 'Although they are water-based they are still regarded as oil and fall within the top category.'

There is a distinct difference between the value of a piece by an artist who is still alive as opposed to a piece by a deceased artist. For example, before his death in 2005, an original Gregoire Boonzaier oil on board (300 x 400mm) was worth about R45 000. Today the same painting is worth approximately R90 000.

Guidelines for selecting art
Art enthusiasts agree that buying art purely for the sake of investment isn't sensible. You need to like what you are buying as you need to take responsibility for the care and preservation of the piece.

When selecting art for your home, consider sculptures, ceramics, glassware or metalwork. If you're keen on purchasing a wood carving, pay attention to style, form and detail. The theme should also be unique.

When buying a photograph, the print should be signed and preferably be part of a limited edition numbered series. If you are looking at etchings, look for the indentation lines created by the plate as the paper passes through the machine – they should be visible running along two sides of the paper.

Etchings should always be signed and should be part of a limited series, which usually consists of about 300 copies. Broadening your knowledge will help you to make better choices: there's no point buying an oil painting if you don't really like oils – perhaps you prefer pastels or pencil drawings.

Content is also important. Do you enjoy abstract or modern art? Do you prefer landscapes or wildlife? Browse through a few local online galleries such as, or and international galleries such as

Art museums are also great places to pick up a wealth of information and learn about trends. Once you have your ideas firmly in place, you can visit a reputable gallery and start the process of finding your dream piece.

'Seek good advice from knowledgeable people before you make a purchase,' says Shaun Maloney, a practising artist and owner of the Art Café Gallery in Milnerton, Cape Town. 'Everyone has to start somewhere so it makes sense to buy the best you can afford.'

Original art doesn't have to be exorbitant, so buy the original wherever possible. Here are a few questions to ask the gallery owner:

  • Is this artist established in the market?
  • How old is the artist?
  • May I see early works by this artist?
  • What do you like about this artist's work?

  • Click here to read the rest of the article on the HOME magazine website.
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