Art at home: The Fralin’s Rebecca Schoenthal on acquisition and display

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In her own home, Fralin Museum of Art curator Rebecca Schoenthal hangs a collection of works from well-known, unknown and local artists alike. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto In her own home, Fralin Museum of Art curator Rebecca Schoenthal hangs a collection of works from well-known, unknown and local artists alike. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

As the curator for the Fralin Museum of Art, Rebecca Schoenthal is responsible for creating exhibitions for the approximately 10,000-square-foot space. Sometimes she turns to the permanent collection—more than 14,000 objects—in order to expand upon an idea. Other times, the catalyst for an exhibit might be an object within the collection, around which she then creates her vision. To fuel her ideas, Schoenthal attends art shows, such as Art Basel in Miami and the Armory Show in New York, looking for new, emerging artists. But she also finds inspiration in less obvious media, such as television, Pinterest and fashion.

“When you surround yourself with visual culture, your ideas flow more easily,” she says. “That’s what curating is. It’s selecting. The more exposure to visual culture, the better for ideas to cross-germinate.”

She also runs a consulting business called RKYS & Co. that she describes as “visual consulting and art advisory. I curate people’s homes.” She helps them find and purchase art, rehang or reframe art they already own and/or remove furniture that doesn’t belong.

“My aesthetic in my house tends toward the modern,” she says. “So it’s interesting to work as a consultant because everyone’s tastes are different.” It reminds her of the 10 years she owned clothing store e.g. and essentially curated her clients’ wardrobes. “I come to the job from the point of visual editing.”

She and her husband have lived in their current home for four years. Because it is a rental, all of the walls are white and she’s not sure she’d have it any other way. There are lots of windows, and large-scale art pieces cover the walls that do have space. Their own consists of well-known, unknown and local artists.

“Buy something you like to look at,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t match your couch. In fact, maybe it shouldn’t. If you don’t like to look at it that will impoverish your experience of your time in your space. It’s rewarding when you love it.”

If you’re new to buying art, she encourages you to seek it out wherever you can: museums, galleries, thrift stores, junk shops. Reflecting on the Fralin’s exhibitions, which are free and open to the public, she says, “You might be surprised by what art is.” But wherever you notice art, “You will start to recognize patterns of what you’re attracted to and identify your own tastes and inclinations. Then you can go in that direction when purchasing. Listen to your gut.”

But she also recommends selecting something that will hold your interest for the long-term. “I encourage people to buy art that challenges you a little, just enough that you keep looking at it. Challenging doesn’t mean you don’t love it. Maybe it means there’s something intriguing or mysterious about it.”

Once you know what you like, you can seek out similar pieces at a price point that complements your budget. She says that art fairs are a great place to buy, not to mention artists’ studios, which don’t have the markup that galleries do. But artists’ studios are not accessible to everyone, which is why you might hire a consultant. But then there are places like McGuffey Art Center that offer “a wide range of talents, and a wide variety of styles and media,” she says.

Once you have selected your art and are ready to incorporate it into your home, take some time to think about how you want to display it. The two most common causes for poorly displayed art, according to Schoenthal, are that people tend to hang their art too high and they don’t take the frame into account.   

“Reframing a work of art can be transformative,” she says.

Acquiring art is not a finite pursuit. Schoenthal says she is constantly rearranging, readjusting or tweaking the art and display of it in her own home. “Don’t be afraid to take something down if you’re not enjoying it anymore,” she says.

For it is, after all, about whether the art you have chosen enriches your experience of your home.

Shop smart

Rebecca Schoenthal says to seek art anywhere you can. Here are a few of her favorite local haunts.

  • The Fralin Museum of Art
  • Neal Guma Fine Art
  • Chroma Projects
  • Les Yeux du Monde Art Gallery
  • The Garage

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