Art... in the bathroom?
from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here)
What do you do if a collector wants to place a work of art in the bathroom, of all places? Should you refrain from selling serious pieces for this location?
I’ve come across the art-in-bathroom scenario many times, as both a seller and as an advisor o sellers. Many people incorrectly assume that art placed in bathrooms must naturally be the poor relation to serious works. Surely if it were serious art, it would be prominently placed in the living room, or the dining room?
Nope. The challenge from the collector’s point of view is not always where to situate a particular work of art, but what art can be placed in the bathroom, all the while maintaining the standard of collection presented throughout the home.
The bathroom is an essential room to any home, and one of the most frequented at that. Not only that, it’s a location where people can have a moment of contemplation, in quiet and solitary fashion. In my days as an art advisor, I recognised the importance of placing works in the bathroom, mindful of materials that could withstand moisture. Fabulous works were placed in large en suite bathrooms for the clients to enjoy whilst doing otherwise mundane daily rituals.
It’s no surprise to me that a little bronze sculpture in my own bathroom is one of the most commented upon pieces in my personal collection; it’s placed so that visitors can gaze upon the work while washing their hands. Upon seeing it time after time, one has the opportunity to study it, noticing detail, form and meaning.
Despite recognising the importance of placing pieces in bathrooms, you might still maintain a concern about it being a lesser type of art. Let me banish this concern for you.
Many moons ago, I learned a great story from an assistant to one of merica’s most prominent collectors. The man is so well recognised that numerous galleries and wings of major art museums are named after him. Does he have art in his bathroom? Oh yes! He has an original Matisse painting above his master bathtub. Just imagine what an extraordinary experience bathtime must be! The painting is housed in a sealed, protective frame that actively controls the temperature and humidity, so it’s perfectly safe.
The next time that you are asked to place a piece in someone’s bathroom, or are asked how you could frame a work to make it bathroom safe, think about the Matisse. What you are placing is someone’s Matisse, in pride of place where they will spend much time studying it, multiple times a day for years to come.
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