Curating An Art Collection With SLATE Art

We sat down with Ginny Van Dine, a Gallery Associate at SLATE art, to talk about the industry, San Francisco's art scene, and tips for first time art buyers. 

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Where does your passion for art come from?

My passion for art developed from my experience studying art and art history in undergrad and graduate school. Studying art in an academic setting helped teach me how to both actively observe and discuss visual art. My existing love for history helped inform my passion for art over the past eight years.   

What drew you to the gallery side of the art world?

What drew me to art galleries was the opportunity to interact with artists, as well as the public. Being involved in artist studio visits, consulting with artists about their work, and later expressing my thoughts and feelings about art with our clients and visitors to the gallery is a wonderful aspect of the work at SLATE Art.

How would you describe the art scene in San Francisco? How does the art scene in San Francisco compare to other cities?

I think that the San Francisco, Bay Area art scene really emphasizes and champions local art. Cities like New York and London have long established art markets and are internationally recognized as being art centric cities. The San Francisco art scene by comparison is more under the radar globally speaking, but this allows for the development of and focus on local artists. The art scene in the Bay Area in my opinion, has a lot of potential for growth as we live in a burgeoning area of creativity, technology, production, and economy.

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Tell us about the collections featured at SLATE Art.

SLATE contemporary, which is our gallery here in Oakland, features curated gallery exhibitions which rotate once every two months. Each exhibition has a unifying theme that ties the work of multiple artists together. For example, our show Modern Landscape opens March 1st and features three artists who explore different expressions of the physical landscape and environment that surrounds them. Although two of the artists are photographers and one is a painter, the works are curated to interact with one another and address the shared experiences of our surroundings using a 21st century visual language. In addition to the gallery exhibition, we have a rotating hall exhibition featuring work by SLATE artists, and we curate various off-site exhibitions throughout the Bay Area.

How does SLATE Art select art and artists to feature? What qualities do you look for most?

Primarily, we are looking for visual styles of art to enjoy in your home. Finding art that you can live with and love having in your space is very important to us. We are always keeping our eye out for new and emerging artists; and we make it a point to go to art fairs, studio visits, and other gallery exhibitions. We look for artists who have strong bodies of work with well-developed and clearly-communicated concepts.  

What emerging artist(s) have you recently featured or are you hoping to feature?

We are excited to be adding four new artists: Micah Crandall-Bear, Michael Cutlip, Brian Singer, and Lisa Kairos to the gallery roster this year. Some are emerging and some are more established working with galleries in cities across the country.

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What makes SLATE Art different than other galleries?

SLATE Art is unique because we are both a retail gallery, and an art consulting firm. We curate shows and have art in the gallery available for purchase. But we also work with both private residential and commercial clients on art consulting projects, where we start with a space and set of design parameters, and from there go out to find or commission the perfect piece of art.   

Investing money in art is a major commitment. Do you have any tips for a first time art buyer?

It is important to get out to see as much art as you can to help develop your taste. Develop relationships with dealers and don’t be shy about asking questions. Artists and curators love to talk about art, as it is their passion. If you don’t have a lot of money to invest, we recommend starting with prints and works on paper. Also, there are auctions that benefit arts nonprofits where great art can often be purchased at a discount (Artspan & Root Division are good examples in SF). Finally, if cash flow is the issue, we recommend using Art Money. Art Money is an interest fee loan application that allows you to pay for a work of art in ten installments. Instead of paying $10,000 for a piece all at once, you make a first payment of $1,000, get to take the work home with you, and continue payments for nine more months. All you need to do is apply online and get approved, then you’re ready to go.  

What should art buyers keep in mind when picking a piece of art for a specific room?

Having a good grasp of the dimensions in a room and what approximate size the work of art needs to be to a fill a wall is helpful. Think about what orientation would fit a space on your wall, whether it be vertical or horizontal. You may also want to consider the colors already existing in the room, take pictures and bring them with you when looking at art for your home. We also make a lot of home visits, so that we as art consultants can better help curate the art selections for you. Once a client has identified a piece they love, they should ask if they can see it in their home before they make a final decision.

What would we find on the walls of your home?

The art historian in me loves Japanese woodblock prints and Italian Baroque period paintings and prints. The originals of such work are quite beyond my price range, but I’m happy with the affordable reproductions I currently have on my walls!

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Bita Khaleghi