The Art of Collecting

Professional photographer and Sophiella Gallery owner Kim Kelly shares tips for starting your own art collection.

Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

Admittedly, art — and the thought of starting an art collection — can be intimidating. Perhaps even stepping inside a gallery feels outside your comfort zone. But Kim Kelly, owner of downtown Mobile’s Sophiella Gallery, hopes to change that. Kelly says she, like most gallery owners, offers a no-pressure-to-buy atmosphere where gazers can linger and admire. “I enjoy it when people come in and take their time in the gallery,” she says, petting Scout, her gallery dog who immediately puts me at ease.

My head is aswirl in a sea of color and artistic styles, and I wonder how a buyer ever makes a decision. “There’s something inside you that will connect to a piece of art,” Kelly explains. “Maybe it’s something that hearkens back to your childhood or a particular color you’re fond of. Buying original art is exciting, like adding a piece of fun jewelry. But if you have to ponder too long, you should probably keep looking.”

And whether that “jewelry” is in the form of ceramics or canvas, Kelly says, “It brings me joy to put artists together with people who are looking for art and to help people see that they, too, can be art collectors. It’s not just an elite group of people.”

Starting Your Collection

1. Establish the location.
Choose where the art will be displayed and consider the room. What size canvas would work best? Would a horizontal or vertical piece work better? Do you want something large and dominating or a smaller accent?

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2. Know your interests.
Art themes run the gamut. Are you drawn to abstract art, landscapes, still life? More important than style, however, is finding a piece that makes you smile.

3. Ask questions.
No need to be shy — most gallery owners are eager to share their knowledge. Learning about artists and the stories behind their pieces creates an emotional connection.

4. Consider your budget.
Art is an investment, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. Emerging artists’ works are a great value, and established artists often offer original prints at affordable prices.

5. Mix it up.
Don’t buy a piece just because it matches your sofa or color scheme. Art should flow and complement the home’s feel, however. When adding pieces to an existing collection, a commonality, such as matching frames, creates a cohesive look.

6. Take it for a test drive.
Many galleries offer a trial period during which you may take a piece home to see how it works in your space.

7. Take your time.
Buying art should be fun; there’s no need to rush the process. Don’t be afraid to visit a gallery more than once before making a purchase. If you find yourself constantly thinking about a piece, you’ve found the one.

Sophiella Gallery • 111 Dauphin St. 287-6040 

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