How do you update your taste in art?

person looking at paintings on yellow wall

As shocking as it seems to me, some people don't have any art on their walls. It's not a cost thing, they're just not interested. For the rest of us, it might be time for an update.

You’ve worked hard for years on your career, perhaps raising kids and finally being able to afford a home. Maybe it’s not the home of your dreams, or maybe it is. Over the years you’ve accumulated some art for the walls. When I was at university it was ‘Athena’ posters and open edition prints from the Royal Academy. Next came Ikea prints and I started buying a few limited editions, usually found on holiday when I had time to browse and look in galleries. Sprinkled in with this collection were a few traditional paintings I had inherited. (We still have a huge old painting that brings back childhood memories and adds to the eclectic mix of our home). 

When you finally have some disposable income and the kids are old enough not to break everything, you might decide to buy some proper ‘grown-up’ art for your walls, but where to start? I have had customers visit my gallery for over a year before they decide what they like or have the confidence to take the leap and buy. Buying a sofa is hard, but it’s far easier to justify as a practical purchase. Choosing a painting seems a bit overwhelming. You hope you will just stumble across something that blows you away and sometimes that happens. If you take it too seriously and overthink it, deciding on size, colours, framing and hanging becomes exhausting. Handing it over to an interior designer is an option for some but the way art can transform a home needs to be personal. 

Buying art should be a total pleasure, a welcome indulgence. You are choosing something that will last beyond your lifetime and bring you years of pleasure. Treat it like exploring a new hobby. Research online and visit your local independent galleries or open studios. Talk to artists and ask questions. If you see a painting in a local cafe or at someone’s house ask about it. Find out who painted it. Most importantly when you see a piece of art, stop, look at it up close and from a distance. Think about how it makes you feel. You don’t have to understand what it is or what it means to the artist but it’s useful to consider how the colours, shapes and movement in the painting are making you feel. Take some time. Pause. Enjoy the process. 

Most of us are used to seeing representational paintings. We’ve grown up learning about Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and we expect to look at a painting and be able to see what it represents. If we can’t our brain tries to interpret lines and shapes and to match them with images in our head. It can make us feel confused and vulnerable when we don’t know what it is or how to interpret it. Add to this the pretentious nature of the fine art world and it’s no surprise that you might reject anything abstract. If you can switch off that analytical side of your brain when you view a painting you might just be surprised by what you like and don’t like. 

Abstract art is uniquely modern. It is a fundamentally romantic response to modern life - rebellious, individualistic, unconventional, sensitive, irritable.

Robert Motherwell, American painter & printmaker

 There is no right and wrong answer to art appreciation. It’s personal. The more you explore and look, the more you will develop your own taste. The more you see, the less vulnerable you will feel and you will start to get excited and enjoy the experience. Then you can curate your own home. Look at what you already have and get rid of the pieces that no longer make you feel good. Re-frame all those sentimental ones in something more contemporary or re-paint the existing frames. Mix it up with some new modern finds that suit your growing personal taste. It doesn't have to be expensive, just find what excites you. The size, colour and framing can be easily researched but the fun is in finding new dynamic artists and having something at home that you are so thrilled to live with.