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Art of the matter

Experts agree that people should follow their own personal taste and be driven by what their eyes and heart tell them, not by the opinions of others

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 November, 2014, 8:33am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 5:31pm

If you asked art consultant and curator Jules Lambe the word that best describes her is, she would probably say “nomad”.  This year, the director of Hong Kong-based gallery Gaffer has traversed the globe finding and representing emerging artists at some of the world’s leading art fairs and Biennales, and sourcing art for corporate clients such as the Peninsula, Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental.  Put simply, art is not just Lambe’s job, it is her passion.  “I believe you should buy art you love and wish to bring into your home.  Art can communicate a memory, a feeling, a mood. It is an expression of the artist’s thoughts, whether it’s a sculpture or oil on canvas, it is communicating an idea”.

Lambe is the perfect person to talk to about researching, sourcing and purchasing art – pieces that suit a home’s décor while reflecting the buyer’s lifestyle and personality. She suggests starting off by exploring the art world to discover pieces and genres you like, then visiting a multitude of galleries. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, she adds. 

This is relatively easy in Hong Kong – a city awash with dazzling galleries that cater to every palate.  There is everything from international contemporary giants such as the Gagosian or White Cube that offer works by Damien Hirst, Frank Gehry or Tracey Emin, to local galleries including The Cat Street Gallery or Amelia Johnson Contemporary. If you are looking for Asian works there is Lambe’s Gaffer and other Hong Kong boutiques such as Grotto Fine Art that  showcase Hong Kong artists, or Sin Sin and 10 Chancery Lane that champion artists from across the region.

The modern alternative to pounding the streets is to let your fingers do the walking, and scour the internet for the perfect purchase.  While most galleries have an online presence, there are some websites that act as gallery and store, with all viewing and buying done online.  British-based New Blood Art was established in 2004 by former art tutor Sarah Ryan.  The website offers affordable artwork by emerging artists – usually fine art graduates.  The idea behind the site, Ryan explains, was to promote little-known artists and art students, offering them a platform to showcase their work and sell their pieces.  The site is interactive so while you can’t actually be in the same room as the pieces, you can enlarge and enhance them onscreen and even select a background colour to “hang” them on – Ryan says it is important to consider how the piece will look in its home, so choose the colour that matches your walls/interiors. 

New Blood Art has been so successful that Ryan says she is looking for Asian partners.  “It just shows how the site is growing – we are ready and want to expand our reach to Asia. Obviously there is fabulous art in the region, and we are excited at the thought of reaching and bringing together local art colleges and buyers.”

There are many ways to find art to suit every taste and budget, but what should you consider when it comes to the actual purchase?  “Art is one of the most defining features of your home; it brings soul to a house,” says Mandy d’Abo, founder of Hong Kong’s Cat Street Gallery.  She says it doesn’t hurt to be a little bit adventurous when buying. “A show-stopping contemporary piece can make an impressive statement in a traditionally styled living room; sometimes a contradiction is exciting and new. Think outside of the box.  Colour is also key – take into account your wall colour, furnishing, pillows, throws and curtains to create a palette of colours to look for in your artwork – perhaps even pick artwork that contains some of your room's more attention grabbing colours”.

Lambe says once the basics such as colour are worked out, find a piece that will function in the room you are buying for.  “If you hang the artwork in the bedroom, is it something you want to wake up to each day?”  Lambe says.  “Generally, a softer quieter colour tone works best here.  I have just moved one of my favourite artworks out of my bedroom, as the vibrant red tones were too much to wake up to. These strong, bold colours though work wonderfully in the lounge. For the bedroom, a better choice is blue, or a romantic landscape or perhaps a black and white photo.” 

D’Abo says mixing things up can help make a room more interesting, and bringing attention to your artwork. “From the bathroom to the kitchen, bedroom to the living room - anything goes.  I don't think there is any space that isn't game for contemporary art. In fact, I love to try daring combinations and incorporate art in unexpected places.”

In the end, the experts agree it all comes down to personal taste, and this is what should drive any purchase. “Always buy the piece of art that you like and can afford,”  d’Abo says. “Always keep in mind, you don't go for price, you go for what your eyes and heart tell you to buy. Otherwise you will end up with an unimpressive collection of ‘bargain art’ or a collection of art that pleases the taste of others and not your own.”