To mark their 15th anniversary, Lisa Diamond Katz and Shira Wood held a big art exhibit at Art Interiors.
The show, “15 years, 15 style makers, 15 artists”, featured pieces of art chosen by well-known interior designers such as Brian Gluckstein, Candice Olson and Sarah Richardson, and House & Home editor-in-chief Suzanne Dimma.
“It was a like a wedding,” Wood says from the second floor studio space on Spadina Road, north of Lonsdale Road, describing the workload and planning process that went into the event. “We didn’t want to do that again five years later so what we’re doing for this milestone is we’re doing something fun.”
To mark their 20th anniversary, Art Interiors has instead opted to give away art — for free. Through a different weekly contest on Facebook, Twitter or an in-store initiative, customers can take home pieces like an $1,800 painting.
“It’s also a way of giving back to our clients,” says Diamond Katz, who grew up in Forest Hill.
Diamond Katz and Wood first opened the gallery in 1993 after graduating from university and realizing there was a niche for an unintimidating place for people to buy original and affordable works of art. An artist herself, Wood says she also understood the struggle of finding a place, as an emerging artist, to show and sell her work.
“We wanted people to come in and feel welcomed,” she said. “The setup that’s here is more like the back room of a gallery, which is more engaging — people can feel comfortable actually touching the art, flipping through it.”
The gallery offers the work of mainly Canadian artists but also features some from Italy, England, Korea and Russia. The artwork lines the walls for customers to browse at their leisure. Although prices range from $25 to $6,500, most of the artwork is under $500.
Wood says they also offer advice and education around a particular artist. “Any requests like who is the artist, where are they from, their education, what shows they’ve had, the media — we will tell you how it’s done, what to buy,” she said.
With customers ranging from the novice art buyer to a seasoned collector, Art Interiors clients also represent a wide age range.
“We have retired people moving into a condo to people in their 20s buying their first piece of art — or even 13-year-olds,” Wood said, adding that some of their clients are people looking for Bar Mitzvah gifts.
The walls in the gallery change on a weekly basis to display different artists and artwork throughout the year. There is also an annual show “Festival of Smalls”, which starts Nov. 9, where the walls are adorned with pieces of art at affordable prices — from $55 to $250.
“Anyone who has ever wanted a piece but can’t afford one by the artists can now afford a piece by them because they’ll all compromise their price point so that they can be a part of the show,” Diamond Katz says, noting the festival usually sees “a lineup out the door.”
From working with celebrity designers to maintaining longtime staff and selecting work from artists, the pair say the people they’ve been able to meet are a highlight of the last 20 years. Another thrill is seeing the pieces they selected to carry in-store on TV while watching a home interview or seeing photographs of how clients have incorporated their artwork in their homes.
While the industry has changed in the past two decades, they note their advice to clients has remained the same when it comes to selecting art: “Go with what you love.”
“A lot of people think of buying art as the last step in the decorating phase, which kind of drives me nuts because people should just buy art because they love that piece and not because it’s the last thing to put up on the wall,” Diamond Katz commented. “People have to stop thinking of it as something to decorate your wall; they have to think of it as something you’re starting to collect and something you’re going to have enjoyment from.”
When clients walk in with a paint swatch or the colour of their furniture set, Diamond Katz and Wood immediately tell them to put it away, they say, because they want them to like a piece of art before they find a place for it in their homes.
“Go with what you love,” Wood repeats. “Don’t buy for investment; buy for what you love.
“Lots of things will no longer be with you in 20 years, but art you’ll always have.”