Pablo Picasso is credited with saying “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” With this, there is no dispute. Art enriches our lives and homes. But what about the dust that collects on our art, especially the pieces that are unhung or unloved? Art in general occupies an exalted place, practically exempt from consideration when it comes time to de-clutter. As professional downsizers we work with lots of clients coming to grips with too much art. If they are moving to a smaller residence with less wall space, they know that some paintings and photos will go with them and others will not. These are hard decisions fraught with pangs of guilt, steeped in personal history and often a mistaken sense of inflated value. That accounts for one half of the dilemma. The other relates to distribution. If you don’t want a painting or sculpture, are you going to be able to find someone to take it off your hands?
People collect art for different reasons. Some people collect art as an investment. Art is often introduced into the home by interior designers to match specific themes or colors in the décor. A great deal of art is passed down in families from one generation to another. Art is also self-generated encompassing everything from a preschooler’s squiggles to framed photography or needlepoint. Art gets purchased as souvenirs from vacations. We also get works of art as gifts. When you add it all up, including the framed maps, quotations, religious symbols, certificates and posters that date back to your dorm room, we are talking volume.
As our lives progress, our taste and aesthetic sensibilities change.. Many people regularly edit their wardrobes or upgrade appliances and electronics over time. Art just endures.
Calm down. There is no reason to take umbrage. We are merely suggesting that like other forms of domestic overload, art must be viewed with a critical eye. Art falls victim to CRUD (Completely Ridiculous Useless Debris) status when it we no longer appreciate it. If you are looking to slim down, start with the pictures and sculptures that have not seen daylight for at least a decade. Here are some examples: posters and paintings you never framed; inexpensive prints you inherited that are still in the boxes you cleared from your parents’ home; string art; any painting done on black velvet; pictures you are saving only to re-purpose the frames and those Keane paintings with the kids with the big eyes from the 1960s.
Once you have identified your candidates for removal you will have to do some research. Contact a certified appraiser for anything you want to have evaluated. The remainder could go to friends and family members (particularly the family heirlooms), charitable organizations consignment and thrift stores and some can be recycled. Consider re-framing some of the artwork you decide to keep, giving the pieces a fresh new look. We often counsel clients to rotate their art, so as not to overcrowd their limited wall space. Use this exercise as an opportunity to collect some new images as replacements for the old stuff, just as long as they don’t depict clowns.