During the last holiday break, we decided to take a little trip to Montreal. Why? Because we have never been. It's a charming city, with an even more charming population. However, the second day of our trip, the temperature did not rise above minus twelve – Fahrenheit that is! The cold was brutal and bitter, and after a 10-minute walk, we all looked and felt like members of the ill-fated Shackleton Trans-Antarctica expedition, complete with ice crystals in our noses and a lack of sensation in our hands and feet. Fortunately, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was nearby so we opted to spend the rest of the day there. This turned out to be a wonderful decision: it is a world-class museum, and one of the first in North America to build up an encyclopedic collection worthy of the name. It now numbers over 41,000 works from Antiquity to today. The contemporary art collection alone made this place worth a visit and provided me with masses of inspiration.
It certainly made me think about how to incorporate contemporary and, more specifically, abstract art into our homes.
Typically, there are two schools of thought on the subject of finishing a room with an art piece, especially a modern abstract piece of art. The first would be that the art should stand on its own merit as to what it represents. “Art for art’s sake” so to speak.
The second school of thought is that the art should reflect its surroundings by harmonizing with the colors or mood of the space you are designing, to provide a cohesive environment that is pleasing to eye. The true art purist would sneer at such a “decorative” approach. In fact, artists can get into a real tizzy about the subject of people looking for art-to-match-the-sofa. As with many things, I think a happy medium can be found with strong art pieces that can stand on their own, yet connect with the décor without being too matchy-matchy.
While not many of us can afford a real Marc Rothko or Jackson Pollock (I wish!), I do love the design tension that is created by any abstract piece in a room that has a more traditional or transitional decorating approach. In fact, while you may think a minimalist approach works better so the abstract work can shine and take centre stage, you may find that too much focus on the piece alone can give you an impression of living in an unfinished room.
And then there is the matter of scale: go big or go home! I love the major design statement you can make in a space by selecting a piece of abstract art that adds impact, both in color and size.
While abstract art is bold and expressive, that does not mean it is designated to the plain walls of a museum or art gallery in order to thrive. Abstract impressionism is perfect for interior design and can both bring a room to life while also complementing other design features.
The art you choose for your home should challenge, surprise and delight you, so don't be afraid to place it somewhere unconventional and above all: enjoy it every chance you get!