How to rehome artwork in your personal collection

While there are those who have highly deliberate and calculated personal art collections, the majority of us have a collection of artwork in our homes that is much less measured or thought out.

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By Nell Wheal, ArtCIty

While there are those who have highly deliberate and calculated personal art collections, the majority of us have a collection of artwork in our homes that is much less measured or thought out. We fill our walls with artwork that reflects our personal tastes, places we have travelled, people we have met, or with artwork that has been passed down to us from family members. The most prized work of art in your home may be a finger painting that was created by a child or grandchild, or a sculpture that you bought at a flea market. The monetary value of a work of art does not always reflect its personal worth to you.

There are many reasons you may consider rehoming a work of art – whether you’re decluttering, downsizing, redecorating, or have just purchased something recently and only have a limited amount of wall space. You are then left to decide what to do with works that perhaps do not hold as much personal significance. You can always offer your artwork to friends and family. You never know which piece on your walls may be a favourite to someone and you may be able to see your artwork go to someone who you know will enjoy it.

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Before you drop everything else off at the thrift store, it might be worth doing a quick internet search about the artist, as this may help you decide if there is a better venue for you to sell or donate your artwork. If the work of art has any identifying labels or artist signatures, this is a great place to start. You may find more information about the artist, their previous exhibitions, or images of other work. You can also search through an entire database of artists on the Canadian Heritage Information Network website in the Artists in Canada section. This website helps direct you to other library and gallery resources that may have more information on a particular artist.

Documentation about the artist or artwork can often help to give more context to the work, or help you decide where may be the best venue to try to sell your work. If you find little information about the artist, you can always try selling on a site like Kijiji or eBay. Another option could be selling through a local auction house if you have deemed that your artwork may have significant importance and value. There are many specialized art auction houses based across Canada, with several in the Greater Toronto Area.

If you find your artwork has a connection to a particular city or region, it may be worth contacting the local art gallery or museum to see if they would be interested in the object for their collection. While many institutions – especially smaller organizations in more rural areas v may not have the resources to purchase works of art, they do accept donations. Most art galleries have a collecting policy and will not just take anything dropped off at their door. However, if you do find a connection with your work of art to a particular gallery, it could be worth getting in touch to gauge their interest.

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At the Woodstock Art Gallery, while our collection showcases works by local, regional and national artists, one particular focus is on the work of Woodstock artist Florence Carlyle (1864-1923). We are always looking for artwork and artifacts related to Carlyle, as well as her contemporaries. The work in our collection, as with any public gallery collection, is held in trust for the community and is cared for and stored properly when not being exhibited.

There are many options for selling or donating the artwork on your walls or those works gathering dust in your basement. With a little bit of research, you may find just the right place to rehome your artwork.

Nell Wheal is the head of collections at the Woodstock Art Gallery.

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