Buying fine art can be intimidating. The silent, stark galleries. Feeling like you’re being judged by the Prada footed, bespectacled gallery dwellers. The large price tags. An art lover, I usually opt for a $2 postcard of my favorite pieces from the museum gift shops. But fine art can be yours for an affordable price. You can rent it from the Seattle Art Museum.
“It’s pretty much risk free,” says Jody Bento, manager of SAM Gallery. “People enjoy not having to make that big emotional decision in a white walled gallery, about buying something that’s almost as expensive as a car, in some cases. So it allows people a way to ease into fine art collecting.”
SAM Gallery is home to about 500 unique pieces. Seattle photographer Mel Curtis says renting out his pieces earns him more money than selling.
“In some ways I’d rather rent it than sell it. I have one print that’s been here almost 20 years that keeps making the rounds. It’s kind of fun to see that a piece like that lives and continues to travel.”
The paintings at SAM Gallery sell for between $500 and $5,000.
“Which makes a three month rental anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars per piece,” says Jody. “Then part of that is credited towards the purchase if you later decide to buy that work of art.”
All of the art is done by local artists.
“We call it Northwest Contemporary so these are all artists who are living and working in our community. Raising money for artists so they can be in out community, enriching our lives, showing us different ways of looking at the world through their artwork.”
Kathy Greenberg, who volunteers at SAM, has rented three pieces, and has ended up buying all three of them.
“You can take it home and see if you like it or not. You might be in the gallery and think, ‘Oh, this is perfect.’ But then you take it home and it’s too big, it’s too small, the color… You know, you can decide if you love it or not. We want you to love it.”
SAM Gallery is also used by restaurants, hospitals and real estate agents staging homes.
“It’s exposure because a lot of these pieces are in public places,” Mel says. “So you get a fairly good audience.”
Jody has turned a wall in her home into a mini gallery and she’s constantly rotating the art that hangs there.
“If you have a job, I feel like you can collect fine art,” Jody says. “If you give up one dinner out a month or about $100 a month, you can make a payment on a piece of fine art. Once you step up to fine art, you’ll never go back to your posters or your reproductions. It’s handmade, your eyes your brain and your heart all knows the difference.”