SIOUX CITY -- Whether you're looking to decorate your home or aspiring to start your own art collection, before you make that first purchase, Todd Behrens recommends looking at as much art as you can to get a feel for your tastes.

The Sioux City Art Center curator said visiting art exhibitions in Sioux City and elsewhere is a good place to start your search. He recommends relaxing and then seriously thinking about what you want to look at day after day.

"What novice collectors sometimes worry about is that there's something serious about saying that you're going to have a collection of art," said Behrens, who noted that most people don't have the same outlook when collecting music or books. "You can buy art because of subject, because of color, because of style -- any possible reason that you're attracted to something is a valid reason for considering it."

Where can I buy art?

Outside of museums, Behrens said almost any place that hosts exhibitions will have art for sale. Besides the Sioux City Art Center, he said some places you can purchase art in Sioux City include Morningside College, Briar Cliff University, Vangarde Arts, Pierce Street Coffee Works and the Sioux City Conservatory of Music. Drive south to Omaha, where Behrens said a number of galleries house the works of dozens of artists, or travel north to Sioux Falls, where gallery spaces are growing.

"If somebody really wants to go on a little adventure -- go to Omaha and check out the galleries," Behrens said. "Often, if you walk in on a weekday at 3 in the afternoon, it's possible that there won't be anyone else in there. It's going to feel a little overwhelming. The people who are the owners, directors of those gallery spaces, they understand what it's like to start a collection. Since it's also their business, they will do anything they can to help you out in terms of finding something that might suit you based on how much you want to spend, what your space is, what your taste is, because there's so many considerations."

You can also browse a vast array of original paintings, fine art photographs and other types of art from the comfort of your couch online.

While the web could be a good way to get a clear idea of your likes and dislikes, Behrens said he wouldn't recommend making a purchase before you've spent some time looking at art in person. ArtSplash, a two-day festival held Labor Day weekend in Sioux City, which features the works of around 100 artists from across the country, would be a good opportunity to do just that, Behrens said. 

"We still make a lot of decisions (at the Art Center) to show things based on digital images. We still get surprises. Even photography," he said. "You would think that a photograph that you see on your computer screen is going to be the same as what you're going to see in person and you're likely to be surprised. The colors are definitely going to be different. You're going to lose textures."

What should I purchase?

Behrens said he owns between 10 and 20 artworks that don't have a common thread that ties them together, and that's OK.

"Ideally, buying something that fits the space or buying something because it goes with the chair, that's not usually thought of as the most sophisticated manner that you approach a collection, but we have to be practical, too," he said.

Looking around ARTcetera '19, an exhibition on display at the Art Center through March 10, Behrens noted that most of the artworks are of a size that will easily fit in the average room. The sculptures, paintings and drawings can be purchased now or during the March 2 auction. Prices range from $100 to more than $5,000.

The exhibition includes a wood and fiberglass surf board, a sculpture fashioned from golf tees, wood and beeswax, and a painting created with chocolate ice cream, caramel sauce and polyurethane.

"Life is better with art, but you can actually survive without art. These are still accessories in your house," Behrens said. "You don't have to, if you don't wish to, buy something that will transform your space. It can be something that fits your space."

Too expensive? 

What if you have expensive tastes and the art that catches your eye is out of your price range? That doesn't mean that it's entirely out of reach, according to Behrens, who has a print of an Ansel Adams photograph hanging in his home.

"To buy a photo by Ansel Adams is tens of thousands of dollars," Behrens explained. "What we have is some kind of a digital print that was done with authorization of the estate that we spent a couple hundred dollars on. It's not the real thing. It will never have any value, but we liked the image and it's on our wall. There are ways that you can work around things like that."

Now that I've purchased a piece of art, what do I need to know about displaying it?

Most metal, ceramic and glass artworks will not be negatively affected by sunlight, according to Behrens, who said acrylic and oil paintings on canvas are more durable than watercolors and drawings on paper.

If you're careful, Behrens said, paper artworks, which are often much less expensive, but more fragile, can last a long time. Keep them away from heat and cooling sources, as well as direct sunlight.

"Particularly if you have works on paper, you want to make sure that they're not getting direct sunlight," he said. "The other thing that can happen is if they get exposed to the sun, the temperature is going to shift on them pretty dramatically as the sun moves across them. In paper, you'll start to get a little bit of warping both because of temperature and potentially humidity shifts."

Behrens said brass hooks that can be found at most home improvement stores work well for hanging pieces that have wire on the back. He said the packaging includes a guide for how much weight the hooks can support.

"In terms of how you want to display in your home, everybody has their own choice. Some people like to create clusters, some people want to give a spotlight for one piece. Some people like high. Some people, low," he said. "You don't want something too low over a sofa that you're going to bonk your head on it, but short of that, anyway you want to do it is good."

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