How to look fancy on a budget: rent art


My wife and I agree on lots of things – climate change is happening, real estate developers don’t make good presidents, orange-flavoured chocolate is gross. You know, the big stuff. Unfortunately, one of the things we rarely agree on is art. So when we moved into a new place a while back and realized we had a space on a wall, there was a problem.

At first we did nothing (that’s how most problems get solved, isn’t it?). But eventually I decided to take some initiative and get something as a surprise for her birthday. After spending a whole morning wandering around town in the rain going into art galleries, my enthusiasm had waned. There’s only so many times you can walk into a fancy, carefully curated space, drip water all over the floor and pretend to know what you’re doing.

I did see some stuff that I liked, but it was hard to know whether she would too. The other problem was price. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge people charging good money for their work and no doubt it’s tough to make a living as an artist, particularly in a city as expensive as Vancouver. But whatever way you slice it, this is a big purchase and one you want to get right.

Art rentals

Then I came across rentable art as an idea. More specifically, Art Rental & Sales, a not-for-profit business operated by the Vancouver Art Gallery (the office is tucked away down a corridor off the reception area). Instead of buying something out right, you can rent it. Fallen in love? Buy it and they’ll knock three months rental off the purchase price.

Needless to say, she wasn’t wild about my first choice – an Okanagan scene in mixed media on canvas – and we still haven’t found something that we both love and would be willing to spend big money on. But the beauty of rentable art is that there’s way less pressure, both on your relationship and on your bank balance.

Here’s some more info:

  • There are roughly 800 pieces by emerging and mid-career Canadian artists and about half are on display at any one time (the catalogue is also online)
  • Monthly rental costs range from $10 to $200
  • All you need is a copy of your government-issued ID and your credit card – they charge you each month until you return or purchase the artwork

Happy hunting!

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