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When it comes to shopping for art, sticker shock is so real. While we’re all about supporting and empowering artists, it can be hard as a twenty-something-year-old to even consider investing in your first piece of art.

Luckily, our friend Emma Molson is an experienced art professional, and she shared her secrets for finding that perfect first piece.

Question 01

How did you first get into the art space?

Art is a personal passion of mine; it is also what I decided to make a career out of! After completing my Undergraduate Degree in Art History at Queen’s University, I actually worked in the Fashion Industry for a little while. While I appreciated these experiences in the fashion world, it definitely made me realize that my true passion was art and decided to further my education.

I then went on to do a second degree in Art Business at the Sotheby’s Institute in London. When I returned home to Montreal, I jumped right into the gallery world and worked as a sales associate at one of the leading art galleries in Canada for a few years.

I recently joined a new gallery that just opened in the summer of 2020, and am now the Director of Special Projects. This gallery specializes in Urban Street Art, and I assist the owners with their large-scale Mural Projects!

Question 02

Amazing! What are some of your favorite places to look for art?

In my opinion, there is nothing quite comparable to visiting a gallery in person, whether it be while traveling or discovering new galleries in your own city. Visiting local galleries, seeing beautiful artworks in the flesh, and being able to chat with the gallery directors is truly the best way to look for art.

My advice: Don’t be afraid to approach the gallerists or hear what they have to say about the current expositions, this is usually essential in truly understanding and appreciating the pieces. It is always such a unique experience depending on where you are in the world.

That being said – with the new realities of staying home during Covid, and let’s face it, the fact that we live in a digital-dominated age, there are plenty of amazing places to look for art online. While this might be a common answer, one of my favorite digital places to look for art is Artsy.com. With the experience I have from working in galleries, and the fact that I am a buyer myself, I have been on both sides of the transaction process and it always amazes me how Artsy can connect people. I have been able to sell pieces to clients all over the world (the furthest I ever sent a piece was from Canada to Australia!), and none of those art sales would have been possible without websites like Artsy!

Be sure to use the search filters, indicating the budget and medium you are looking for, there really is an amazing variety once you dig around a bit. Another tip is to take advantage of all the amazing articles on websites like Artsy! This is how you’ll discover the new and noteworthy artists as well as learn about other trends happening in the art world. Other websites I love are: Saatchi Art, 1st Dibs, LUMAS, Yellow Korner, and all the sites for Art Fairs (for discovering galleries) such as Art Miami, Art Wynwood, Photo London, Paris Photo, etc.

Question 03

What should our readers consider before splurging on a new piece of art?

Before you splurge on your new piece of art you should be asking yourself: What is important to YOU?

The answer can really vary depending on the type of collector you are, there is no universal response. I always try to get a feel for what is important to my clients before we begin the process of looking for pieces. For example, I have some clients who look at purchasing art from solely an investment point of view. They want to know they are getting a piece that will go up in value. Depending on their goals and budget, they might choose to go with well-known artists who have an established following and market, or they could take a more speculative approach, hoping to find that rare undiscovered talent that might someday become a big name.

Another example would be my clients who put a major emphasis on collecting local artists, whether that be Canadian or even Quebec artists. It can be very rewarding to support artists that are part of your community.

I have also worked with clients who come into the gallery looking for art with a specific space in mind. They might be looking for a certain size piece that will match with their furniture and complement the other pieces hanging in the surrounding area. Coupled with a pre-set budget, this is a very sensible approach to buying art.

In my opinion, the best kind of purchases, and the ones you’ll cherish for years to come, are less planned out and come from moments of inspiration. We’ve all experienced that feeling when something really moves you and makes you stop in your tracks. Whenever you get that feeling, make sure you stop and take the time to learn everything you can about that piece. Even if you can’t afford it, inquire about the artist, the style, and take note of the things that you really like about it. You might be able to find a similar piece that fits your budget – and keeping track of what inspires you is a great way to develop your taste profile (I personally keep a scrapbook of pieces I love!).

Regardless of your goals and budget, the best way to discover what type of collector you are is to start buying and see where it takes you. Sometimes it takes a bit of experimentation to find what truly speaks to you, and most people find that the journey is just as inspiring as eventually being surrounded by artworks you love. I know I have!


Question 04

What was the first piece of art that you ever invested in?

The first piece I ever invested in was an urban art-inspired piece by Brian Poli-Dixon. I had attended a fundraiser for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and fell in love with one of his works at the silent auction. When the party came to an end, I was sadly outbid by another buyer. I was so disappointed! I did meet him in person at the event and continued to follow his work via Instagram. A few months later, he posted this new piece he had just finished, and I actually loved this one even more than the original one I had seen at the auction! It reminded me of the famous painting titled “The Scream, 1893” meets Jean-Michel Basquiat – a powerful portrait bursting with emotions, but set in bright, vibrant colors with a bit of an edgy urban vibe. I jumped to buy it right away this time, and I am so happy I did. It hangs in my dining room and is such a conversation starter whenever people come over.

Question 05

Best ways to splurge/save?

Save: Don’t underestimate how much a different frame can give a new life to an existing artwork. One of my favorite artists, Hunt Slonem has inspired me in this domain. Hunt Slonem is known for pairing his contemporary, nature-inspired paintings with vintage Art Deco frames. I love the contrast this creates with something old and something new feeling. Personally, I have also adopted some pieces into my collection that previously belonged to my parents. By putting sleek, contemporary frames on more traditional pieces, the older works flow perfectly with my prints and photography.

Another great way to save… Prints! I had recently discovered the artworks of Montreal-based artist, Dan Climan and instantly fell in love with them! I love pieces that feel Cinematic, where there is a storyline going on that you are trying to figure out. Dan paints on very large canvases, which make his pieces very striking, but at the moment I didn’t have the wall for one of them. My boyfriend ended up giving me one of his small prints as a Christmas surprise. I am so glad to have one of his pieces in my collection. I also have a stunning Riopelle print in our collection, for now an original would be a little out of reach! 😉

Splurge: This may sound a little cheesy, but if you find a piece that you truly love (and it is within your budget of course) go for it! It doesn’t happen every day that you find a piece that really speaks to you… It is a special feeling and my advice with buying art is to always trust your initial instincts. You never know who might walk into the gallery after you and also fall in love with the same piece. I have worked with a lot of clients, and have noticed patterns that they usually end up purchasing the initial piece that caught their attention.

Question 06

Who are some of your favorite artists?

This is definitely such a hard question! I feel so fortunate to work with so many talented artists and I have a very eclectic taste. Every day I am discovering new artists that spark my different interests and inspire me. To name a few…

Zhang He – A Montreal-based abstract painter. Zhang is known for his impasto paintings that are inspired by nature. I find his paintings are almost sculptural because of the depth he is able to achieve with the movement of the paint! He really makes the canvas come alive! His paintings are definitely first on my wish list for a new addition to my collection!

Kehinde Wiley – Kehinde painted President Barack Obama’s official portrait in 2018. He is known for his vibrant, large-scale portraits. In the past, I personally couldn’t always relate to portrait paintings. I found them difficult to confront compared to abstract paintings, which leaves a little more to the imagination. However, over time, I have come to love how powerful portraits can be. Kehinde Wiley does not shy away from confronting socio-political issues within his works, his pieces spark meaningful conversations, and that is the type of art that people will remember forever!

Wolf Khan (1927-2020) – German-born, American painter Wolf Khan’s landscapes are a little slice of heaven! I love being in the country, so his striking Vermont landscapes really speak to me on a personal level. He was a true colorist, his paintings are vibrant, and his color palette was always adventurous.

Did you use any of Emma’s tips to invest in your first piece of art? Tag us on social media using #casadesuna

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