An artist who wishes to remain anonymous wrote, “I recently moved into a new house that came fully decorated. In addition to selling most of the furnishings to make room for my own, I found myself with other people’s paintings. After searching online for the artists and coming up empty-handed, I’m wondering what to do. While I respect the creative effort, I want to hang my own stuff. Any ideas?”
Thanks, Anonymous. In addition to being priceless soul polishers and gifts to the world, paintings are, like other physical objects if unappreciated, potential space-hoarders, sentenced to gather dust in the recesses of our furnace rooms. Because of their mystery and status as special objects, they can be harder to let go of than a first tooth. As artists, we may feel extra sensitive to any kind of banishment, lest we end up in the Goodwill pile ourselves. As a result, OPP or “Other People’s Paintings,” unless outtakes from the Guggenheim, end up in a kind of art limbo purgatory: unhung, unsung and unpurged until further notice, squandering any chance for a new life in new eyes, no matter how humble or grand.
Here are a few ideas for letting go:
Paintings by professional, exhibiting or historical artists can be appraised, auctioned or better yet, consigned to representing galleries for the preservation and upholding of the artist’s market value.
Paintings by lesser knowns can also be consigned to smaller auctions, or taken to the swap meet, flea market, antiques fair or eBay. While emotionally tough if it’s your own stuff on the line, being bought and sold, gifted and traded is at times part of art’s long life and provenance.
Unwanted treasures can be gifted to the big museum, or the small one, or school, library, hospital, rest home or community hall.
If a painting’s origin is impossible to source, take the karma plunge and send it to the local charity shop. The charity benefits and the worst-case scenario is that you’ve accidentally purged a masterwork. The best case is that you’ve gifted a symphony in the eyes of another and they scored it for a song. Now, you’ve done your part in keeping alive the myth and mystery of art’s great speculation — sparking joy and fortune in the burgeoning collection of another, while honing and culling your own.
PS: “But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.” (Marie Kondo, from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up)
Esoterica: While installing artwork into the new life of some friends recently, I noticed a small pile of other works, waiting by the door. “I was hoping you might help me with these,” said my friend, with a little uncertainty, maybe even guilt. Piece by piece, she explained each’s origin: a gift, a family piece, something from a previous life — none of significant material value and all now wistfully edged out for more timely passions. I scanned and pulled the strongest from the pile — a small, brushy watercolour — and suggested she reframe it. “As for the rest,” I said, “Thank them for their service and let them go. Let them be someone else’s treasure, hang onto only what you love.”
“Never discard anything without saying thank-you and good-bye.” (Marie Kondo)
3-Days in the rolling hills, century-old farms and rushing cascades of the Ottawa Valley region of Ontario. Keith will lead you to places the Group of Seven and other famous Canadian artists painted. Keith teaches composition fundamentals, how to deal with the chaos of real life when painting en plein air, as well as how modern colour theory can help you mix almost any colour with ease.
Also, watch for these other 2018 retreats.
August 2-7 Canoe-in art retreat in the Kawartha Highlands, Ontario
September 1-6, paint in the Killarney/La-Cloche Mountain area of Ontario
For more information, visit: