How To Curate Your Own Private Art Collection

Blair Pfander

fredericksandmae How To Curate Your Own Private Art CollectionIf we could choose one design studio to pull from to outfit our entire apartment with, it would undoubtedly be Jolie Mae Signorile and Gabriel Fredericks Cohen, whose shared project, Fredericks & Mae, has been turning out gorgeous, meticulously crafted art objects, since 2007.
Of course, we admire high-roller collections—complete with Rodin sculptures and Matisse sketches—as much as the next person. But when it comes to decorating our own home, we’re forced to think along more practical lines. Here, Signorile and Cohen offer their expert advice on curating a private art collection. You don’t have to sacrifice on taste, even when there are budget constraints.
1. Give The Gift of Art. “I have an old map of the wind that my grandmother gave me,” says Cohen.”It’s literally a chart of the wind, and it has little faces that look like different winds—like the south wind has a floral headdress. And it kind of looks like a compass. I was eighteen when my grandmother gave it to me. [Signorile and I] aren’t part of an ‘art collecting’ demographic, so instead we make our art, inherit art from family and friends, and we do trades with other artists.”
2. Get Thrifty. “We find a lot of our treasures in dollar stores, sometimes thrift stores,” says Signorile. “A lot of my favorite things are handmade pottery pieces I found at thrift stores. Maybe its like someone’s gift for their mom on Mother’s Day or something, but it’s still really beautiful and special.”
3. Find The Fabled Affordable Art Gallery. “I have a really great painting in my home from LAND Gallery and also from Pure Vision Arts which is where my girlfriend works,” Signorile says. “The work is great and really affordable.” One of her favorite finds? A three-by-five painting of Micahel Jackson in a flowered blouse as a child.
4. Look Under Your Feet. “A lot of the things I have hanging in my house I found on the beach,” says Cohen. “If you start to collect a chunk of coral and put it on a big white wall, it looks terrifically chic.”
5. Paint the Walls White. “Both Gabe’s home and my own home are all white, and that’s something that can tie together a lot of different kinds of art,” Signorile says. “Anything on a big white wall looks great.”
fredericksandmae2 How To Curate Your Own Private Art Collection
6. Embrace a Big Statement. “In my dining room, I have arrows that we made which are mostly all black with different coloring,” Signorile says. “They’re displayed on their own wall horizontally. And the other pieces in the room are fairly neutral or black.”
7. Perfect the Element of Surprise. “Two hers ago, Jolie, and I made a series of idols using doll parts that were painted all different colors,” Cohen says. One had a beard made out of hyacinth macaw feathers, and it just lives in my freezer. Often people go to get ice cream and  scream because it’s a pretty funny thing to have in there. I like displaying things in unusual or surprising places.”
8. Get Sentimental. “A lot of the things that Jolie and I have we found on long walks on the street,” says Cohen. “Sometimes they’re nice objects, like discarded wooden panels or industrial pieces, but the really cool thing is that we found them together or with friends, so they have this memory attached to them.”
9. Commission From Your Favorites. “I think that art from people who don’t even consider themselves artists can be better than a lot of art that would be celebrated by lots of people,” advises Signorile. “Asking somebody to make you a piece of art is flattering for them and also really special for you.”
10. And Remember… “When it comes to curating an art collection, remember that ‘you have to live with it every day,'” cautions Cohen. On the other hand, Signorile believes that no collection “has to be finished. I like to display art in a place that feels relevant at the time…to me, it just has to feel right. You can always move on from it if you collect something later that you like more. Don’t get stuck thinking it has to be there forever.”