Sharing a living space is all about compromise, but that shouldn't be the case for deciding what to display on your walls.
"Honestly, everyone should live with art they love," says Nahema Mehta, CEO of Absolut Art, the online art boutique committed to "attacking all of the real excuses that people come up with for not living with great art." (More on that later.) Mehta promises finding artwork both you and your spouse adore—without either of you feeling like you had to make concessions—is totally possible and not as difficult as you think. How is she so sure? Partly because she's an expert in art curation, and partly because she's lived it. Just a few years ago, Mehta and then-new husband Brooks set out to cover the confines of their new home together and she learned a lot.
Below, she shares her home art shopping-as-newlyweds experience, seven bits of advice for couples looking to curate their own collections.
Tip 1: Find a Common Denominator
Chillax! We're not going to make you do any math here. We just mean you have to find what aesthetic tastes you and your partner have in common. Mehta says she and Brooks came from very different perspectives; he loves street art (a popular choice among men, she's found), while she prefers more political pieces. "We both liked art that was a little raw and a little bold, but in different ways," she says. "The key for us was figuring out that we both liked art that stood out."
Tip 2: Don't Try to Convince Your Partner to Change His/Her Mind
If you two begin the conversation each trying to persuade the other of a "better" option, then even if you come to an agreement, someone inevitably becomes the "loser." Mehta recalls, "Both of us came at it like, 'Oh, I really love Banksy!' then 'Wait, who is Banksy?' and 'No, no, no! I love this emerging female artist in Pakistan who’s doing this incredible work about oppression.' For a long time we went back and forth until we were frustrated and realized there was a better way to go about this." This brings us to tip three...
Tip 3: Take the Opportunity to Discover Something New Together
This way, you take home two rewards: an amazing piece of artwork and a delightful memory of the experience. With a few suggestions from friends, Mehta and Brooks headed to Stockholm to begin their search anew. "We started visiting artist studios with no inclination of what we wanted or what we were going to get," she says, "But it felt important that we were embarking on something together. It’s kinda like being in a relationship in general—so many special moments come from exploring things together that neither of you knew."
Tip 4: Understand the Artist's Story
There's a reason our culture is obsessed with celebrity profiles and anything behind-the-scenes. Everything's better if you know the story behind it. At Absolut Art, Mehta and her team actually meet with every one of their artists in person. (Many make it into Mehta's contacts on her phone.) Then, they bring in—to borrow her words—a "small, but mighty" video team to film a non-intimidating, non-academic introduction video so site visitors almost feel like they've met the artists as well.
"When an artist is telling his or her story, there’s much more of a connection than if you’re seeing just an image or scrolling through JPEG after JPEG online," explains Mehta. "If you just see an image, it's you as a couple trying to discuss why this image is good or bad because of x, y, z. But if you have the artist's perspective, there's a third party to take in and have a discussion around."
Tip 5: Remember Your Tastes Will Evolve and That's Okay
As you change as individuals and as a couple, your collection will change to reflect that. When making a purchase, don't overthink whether or not a piece will age well. "It’s just about making sure your own tastes are there, as well as the tastes that you have growing together," says Mehta. "Then, when people come to visit your home, you have stories about each specific piece and that specific moment in your lives. People ask about our art and we're like, 'Oh, we found it together, and this why we like the artist..." so it's about more than just a piece and about the actual journey towards the piece, and then the evolution of us throughout our lifetime."
Tip 6: Go With Your Gut
If y'all like it, trust yourselves. The Absolut Art team asks all of their artists for one tip about starting a collection, and "without fail, every single artist has said, 'Go with your gut!' reveals Mehta. "It’s interesting that the art world can feel so intimidating, but from an artist’s point of view — it’s so simple. It’s intuitive...For [Absolut Art], it’s all about giving you confidence and the courage to start collecting art."
Tip 7: Consider Divvying Up Your Investment
When Mehta and Brooks got married, they asked friends and family to contribute to an art fund in lieu of a registry—blissfully envisioning how "easy" and "fun" it would be to go purchase their first piece of art together. "It kinda was," she says with a laugh. "It's just that our friends and family were so generous, we felt like, 'Wow, this is really going to be a big investment, and we should both feel very comfortable about what it is.'" For Brooks and Mehta, it was helpful to think about "art" as not only one piece. "Great gallery walls are a great way to break up your investment," Mehta says. "You don't have to marry yourself to a pricey marquee piece when a gallery wall done correctly is just as cool."
Convinced? If so, grab your partner and check out a few of Mehta's recommendations below. Happy arting, lovers!
For over the bed:
"Not Trustworthy but Lots of Fun" by Miranda July, $280, AbsolutArt.com
For a piece you can’t go wrong with:
"Fun Frog C" by Frog King, $610, AbsolutArt.com
"Bleeding Light (Under Water)" by Ruvan Wijesooriya, $440, AbsolutArt.com
"Untitled (47964 circles)" by Eva Beierheimer, $520, AbsolutArt.com
For something a little different:
"123456, 3500 Yahoo Passwords" by Aram Bartholl, $355, AbsolutArt.com