displaying art in the home

There is only one rule to keep in mind for introducing art into your living space: the rule is that “there are no rules”. There is no science, no rights and wrongs, no instruction manual, no gurus to follow, just the beautiful opportunity to be creative and express yourself with your own cherished artworks in any way that you feel inclined. 

I am not an interior designer or an interior decorator, so my opinions on displaying art are coming from a very different background. I am an art dealer for over 30 years. My history of living with art goes as far back as my childhood home filled with an eclectic collection of art. My mother was also an art dealer and our home was always filled with precious and unique art pieces from around the world. My own experience with handling art goes as far back as my late teens when I began collecting African, Oceanic, and Northwest Coast art. I have visited a countless number of art galleries in Canada and internationally, enjoying and studying art and the various historical art movements that have occurred over the last century and a quarter.   My focus has been on modern and contemporary art. 

Often when I deliver a newly purchased artwork to a clients’ home, they generally will ask where they should hang or display their new piece. I often ask them where they would like to see the particular artwork in their home. What room do they sit and relax in?  Do they want to see it as they wake in the morning?   There are no right or wrong answers, just very personal thoughts and tastes.   

 In our modern world, we are often influenced by what we see on online interior design magazines and websites, retail settings, and magazine layouts. Digital media can often influence our perceptions on the way we decorate our homes. In advertisements, the common image is a specific toned painting over the couch with a bare coffee table beside it. We cannot have an ensemble of knick-knacks on a side table – too cluttered! You cannot have a collage of paintings working together on the wall, even though they may look stunning together and create a dialogue with one another. You cannot display an African sculpture on top of a fine English antique cabinet with a modern abstract painting hanging above it (as seen above). Too much going on!  This is what most interior designers would tell you. I would argue that displaying your favourite art pieces in whatever assemblage you like will bring more joy, happiness and interest to your room than any other preconceived or prefabricated interior setting. Colours, materials and textures in a work of art do not have to complement the couch. 

In my opinion, an original artwork should stand out and freely express the artist’s intention. The visual impact or vitality of the artwork was the reason why we were drawn to that particular piece of art in the first place. Dramatic tones and materials used in an art work can significantly enhance a piece of modern furniture. Don’t be afraid to express yourself in a room. If you have a special art piece that you picked up on a memorable trip and you want to look at it all the time but you don’t think it goes with your decor, don’t sweat it. Make room for it creatively, give it some respect on your wall or on a coffee table if it is freestanding. The opportunity to view and engage with it will bring you joy and interest to your room. 

Being a fine art dealer in contemporary, modern and historical post-war Canadian art, as well as a collector of African, Oceanic and Inuit art over the course of three decades, I have learnt to engage my ethnographically diverse art pieces with each other in our personal living space, creating a dialogue between pieces from vastly different cultures. What I have learnt over the years is that mixing it up in your home can create a fun and engaging living environment.

James Rottman Fine Art carries a significant inventory of contemporary and historical artworks by renowned Canadian artists. Do not hesitate to contact us with any inquiries.