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Tips for art collectors

Christopher Boutlier's edgy-elegant aesthetic is evident throughout his 1,100-square-foot Dupont Circle condo, where an array of quirky, evocative artwork blends seamlessly with more traditional furniture.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Diving into the world of art collecting can be a daunting -- not to mention expensive -- undertaking. Here, Christopher Boutlier and Lauren Gentile of Irvine Contemporary share some hints:

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Buy what you love.

"First, find a trusted dealer at a gallery you respect. Second, buy what you like and buy what you can afford," Gentile says. "If you can't afford what you love, save up a couple of those $500 impulse buys until you can start collecting in the $1,000 to $3,000 range."

Be persistent.

After Boutlier discovered Kara Walker's work in a catalogue, he devoted himself to learning about the artist. He took several monthly bus trips to New York to visit a gallery that carried Walker's pieces, including the "Banks's Army" lithograph seen in the photo gallery with this story. There, he spent hours talking with the staff, supplementing those in-person encounters with daily e-mails and, he acknowledges, a fair amount of Facebook-stalking. "After a while, they liked me and sold me the piece," Boutlier says. "I think they did it just so they could get rid of me."

Do your research.

Gentile recommends keeping up by reading ArtForum and Art in America and watching PBS's Art:21 online videos. If your budget is particularly limited, explore the fine art on Etsy.com, an e-commerce community that offers paintings, sculpture and more at a range of prices.

Look locally.

"Sign up for the local galleries' e-mail lists, and familiarize yourself with their programs," says Gentile, who also recommends attending events at nonprofit venues such as Transformer Gallery and Washington Project for the Arts.

-- Holly E. Thomas


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