An Expert’s Advice on Buying Art

John Barry | Photo by Joseph Y. Wong

John Barry | Photo by Joseph Y. Wong

John Barry of Kevin Barry Fine Art specializes in procuring art for hotels, businesses and residences across Las Vegas. And since no one wants to stare at a white wall, he gives recommendations on how to get the right pieces for the space and at the right price.

Dilemma: I just bought my first house, and I am not an art collector but I need something to hang on the walls. What is my first step?

Art is such a personal thing, and being able to figure out what you don’t like is just as important as what you do like. Be aware of what you’re gravitating toward—a color palette, an overall design scheme, even a detail that stands out or something that inspires you.

How do you know if you’re getting a good value when you purchase art?

Artwork is not like a showerhead where you can go on Amazon and compare price points. Two artists could paint the same subject and the price points could be so different. I advise people to buy what they like, and if it goes up in value, great.

How do you recommend starting an art collection?

With the Internet the way it is today, you can find artists whether you’re on a budget or looking for something that is an investment. An investment for someone just out of college might be a $300 limited-edition print. Collection-grade for someone with young money could be a Damien Hirst-type of piece that costs $50,000. For someone with a substantial art collection, it could be $100 million. It’s all relative.

Do you have any tips for choosing and displaying art?

If you’re not sure what is going to look best in a space, use butcher paper or cardboard and cut it to desired sizes and shapes to see what works on the wall. Not everyone can digest abstract art or contemporary work. Photography is what it is, and can be more [familiar]. Framing can make or break a piece, helping it go from a timeless look and feel to current décor and help it work from home to home.

Any art trends you can tell us about?

It really depends on the home, style and aesthetic of the space. There’s a lot of industrial art and different media such as wood and metal right now. Pinterest and Etsy have helped people explore their DIY side. There are some great graphic artists out there doing fun things like large-scale digital work on vinyl, which can be really powerful.