In college I wanted to major in art history. I was so proud of myself for declaring a major when I was a freshman. That was until I told my dad. “What the H#%^ are you going to do with an art history major? I’m not wasting my money on that.” And so I changed my major. Journalism. My love for art though never died and has played a major factor in where I travel and what I do when we’re there.
It started in New Orleans as I walked through the colorful maze of art hanging from fence posts in Jackson Square. That was when I bought my first piece of art – a $40 watercolor – from a sweet, old Creole man named Nestor Hippoyle Fruge. It was my first trip to New Orleans and as I admired the vibrant paintings, I decided then I didn’t want to just bring back beads or some silly souvenir that would wined up in the Goodwill donation pile. I wanted to bring back a piece of New Orleans…a piece of art that captured the city’s soul better than any photograph I could take.
I had no idea this $40 watercolor marked the beginning of what has become a travel tradition for us; buying a piece of art from a local artist from places we travel to. Be it paintings in New Orleans, the 40 pound, hand carved, stone chess set we lugged back with us from Brazil or hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments from Moscow. Our travel tradition has outfitted our home with beautiful art from local artists around the world. Art that can take you back there, if only for moment. Along the way though, I’ve learned a lot about buying art…both good and bad.
I wanted to put my lessons to the test though. I went back to where it all started, New Orleans. On our last trip there I stopped into several galleries that lined Royal St. and asked the “experts” who were working the showroom floors. What did they think the do’s and don’t were when it came to buying New Orleans art.
Do’s and Don’ts of Buying New Orleans Art (or any art)
- Don’t buy anything you don’t love.
- Don’t buy anything you can’t afford.
- Buy something that will increase in value.
- Negotiate pricing and be willing to walk away.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned when it comes to buying art – and one the “experts” and I agree on – you need to LOVE it! No, you HAVE to love it. I only buy art I love. Art I want to look every day. Art that will take you back to that place, if only for a moment. You have to want to live with it, enjoy it and be reminded of experiences. So, to the “experts” point about “buying something that increases in value,” it all depends on how you value it. To me, our artwork increases in value every day. It’s priceless, even if it’s not worth very much in cash. Keep that in mind when “shopping” for art. To the point about “don’t buy anything you can’t afford,” you don’t have to spend a fortune on art. Some of the best artists are the folks selling their paintings on the street for a fraction of the cost of pieces found in galleries.If you are in New Orleans, I highly recommend you check out the art scene. Maybe, you’ll find something you love… Of course stop into a few galleries along Royal St. The pieces are out of this world; in pricing too. There are several other places to find incredible and affordable artwork in New Orleans. If you have other places that should be added to the list please add to the comments.
Where to Buy Affordable New Orleans Art
Jackson Square: Head down to Jackson Square to check out some of the latest works by local artists. It’s best to go on Saturday or Sunday since more artists will be out. Friday’s are starting to pick back up, after Hurricane Katrina Friday’s slowed down quit a bit.
Take cash or plan to hit the ATM across the street, next to Café Du Monde. Many artists will do POD (Pay on Delivery) if you ask. This ensures both parties are covered. You don’t pay until the piece arrives and the shipping company won’t leave it with you unless you pay. After we had our information stolen in a market in Brazil I prefer, even if we have cash since the piece will be shipped to us. (Carrying around a piece of artwork – unless it’s small enough to fit into your bag – draws attention to you and begs for someone to spill something on it.)
My favorite artists who sell pieces most weekends in New Orleans are Gustavo Trujillo, Michael Smiroldo and Nestor Fruge. If you run into them tell them I said “hi!”.
French Market: If you don’t find what you’re looking for in Jackson Square, walk up Decatur St. to the French Market. While you may not be able to find too many paintings, you’ll be able to shop for jewelry, books, candies and other crafts. (There are a handful of artists who display their paintings here.)
Royal St.: There are countless art galleries on Royal, but the more affordable pieces will be found outside the galleries among the street artists.
Bywater Art Market: On the third Saturday of each month you can shop for a piece from local New Orleans artists in Palmer Park. Royal St. and Piety St., art-restoration.com/bam, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Have you purchased any New Orleans art? Where’s the best place in your opinion? Better yet, have you inadvertently created any travel traditions like we did?