Call us biased, but at Hang-Up we think there’s no better gift than art. As founder and director Ben Cotton explains; “The right piece will give the recipient a lifetime of pleasure. It’s the antidote to the throwaway culture that many of us are trying to move away from.”
Choosing a piece is not without its pitfalls, however, which is why we’ve put together this guide on the best works for a variety of lucky people. Yes, art can be polarising (probably best to avoid anything covered in formaldehyde unless you’re on really good terms with the recipient), but get it right and your gift will be much appreciated. It might appreciate in value too.
Check out our gifting guide below.
For your other half
There’s no easier way to get your feelings across than pictures. Whether you opt for figurative, abstract or typographic works, the art world offers hundreds of ways to say I love you – and, even better, I know you.
Artists themselves are renowned for conveying their own their romantic liaisons in their chosen medium– and whether your relationship is as tumultuous and passionate as Jeff Koons and Cicciolina (the porn star who he portrayed in multiple works but eventually divorced) or as enduring as art duo Gilbert and George’s (they’ve been together 50 years and counting), you’ll find something to reflect your relationship in a gallery.
For romantic figurative pieces, opt for artists such as Swoon and Tracey Emin. Emin’s unflinching and honest portrayal of the female form remains refreshingly modern, while her prints and editions often come with bold and passionate statements. Swoon, meanwhile, captures relationships with a rare and realistic tenderness – as witnessed in Switchback Sisters, which portrays an intimate snatched moment.
If you want to give your partner a not-so-subtle message, typography can also be a fantastic way to get your point across. For an irreverent take on the medium, Tim Fishlock’s knowing prints are the antidote to ‘keep calm and carry on’ tweeness. Bagged yourself an activist? They’ll appreciate his ‘Placard Waving’ print.
For friends or family
You’re familiar with their home, so let it guide you when you’re choosing a piece. You can garner a lot from an interior design scheme (look out for our forthcoming How To... Add Art to Interiors editorial, in which we’ll delve into the topic a bit more). Do they favour monochrome, neutrals or bright colours? Do they have plenty of whimsical touches or a more monastic approach?
If they have lots of art on the walls already, you’ll know their style – a good guide for choosing a piece. In this instance, smaller is better. A larger work can be an inconvenience if there’s limited space to hang it. Sketcher extraordinaire Mark Powell has a selection of beautifully intricate, smaller editions that will be treasured forever, including the 20cm x 30cm To The Soul, which is rendered on vintage postcards and depicts a man looking through a camera lense.
If your friends’ home is very busy interiors-wise (with clashing prints and coloured walls), consider gifting something simple or graphic, which will be easier to place in a crowded scheme. Nancy Fouts' witty editions chime with maximalist sensibilities, but come surrounded by plenty of white space so they won’t compete with other home design elements. Alternatively, if the person you’re giving art to has lots of bare, white walls, you can afford to opt for something that makes a bigger statement. Editions from Marc Quinn’s Labyrinth series are based on the uniquely abstract patterns of fingerprints and their undulating patterns are serene and hypnotic.
For the kids
While it’s unlikely that a toddler will appreciate the true value of a Banksy at the bottom of the tree, they might thank you for the gesture when they’re 18 and facing a hefty bill for tuition fees. Starting a collection for your child can be a fun way to invest for their future, and help foster a love and appreciation of art along the way. Many collectors buy a piece from an emerging artist every year, which is a fantastic way to build up a portfolio of work gradually. For others, it’s a way to give a meaningful present which will last well into adulthood.
A few decisions will help guide your choices. Think about whether you want to hang the work in the child’s room immediately, or store it until they’re older. Consider if the gift is primarily an investment or a way to build enthusiasm, and set a definite budget. Once you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to ask a gallerist to help you make choices. We can give you an overview of return on investment potential, as well as guide you towards the best pieces in your price range.
Many artists have been influenced by kids, including pop artist Keith Haring who famously claimed “children know something that most people have forgotten”. This affinity often results in simple, bright pieces with a pared-down aesthetic which appeal to little viewers. Other favourites draw on childhood themes with universal appeal: Magda Archer’s kitsch imagery and Katherine Bernhardt’s bright, cartoon-inspired canvases would both look brilliant on playroom walls.
For corporate gifting
Want to impress a client or say a huge thanks to a supplier? Give them something that will stand out amongst the inevitable flurry of booze-related presents. Steer clear of anything that’s themed in line with the recipient’s work or hobbies (unless you’re opting for national treasure Sir Peter Blake’s insouciant ‘F Is For Football’ edition) and instead opt for an artist who will resonate for a broader reason – hailing from the same generation or a city they love, for example. Patrick Hughes’s slightly psychedelic rainbows (encasing spider’s webs and shooting out of easels, skulls and busker’s hats) whisk the viewer back to the 1960s and 70s like joy-filled time machines.
If you need to go all-out to impress someone you have a more formal relationship with, an edition by a well-known artist with an instantly recognisable style is a safe bet. Sir Peter Blake’s good humoured works will brighten up even the most corporate office.
Whoever you’re buying for, you can spread the cost of your purchase across ten interest-free payments using the Arts Council England’s Own Art scheme. As long as you’re over 18, you can apply for the scheme on our website, or contact the gallery for a form. Happy shopping and a very merry Christmas from all at Hang-Up!