Buying Art as a Couple: He Said / She Said with Frank and Alexa

Frank Desimini and Alexa Samuels, Founder of Mercartto

Frank Desimini and Alexa Samuels, Founder of Mercartto

To celebrate Valentine's Day and the exercise of buying (and living with) art with someone else, we asked Mercartto's founder, Alexa Samuels, how she and her husband Frank navigate these waters.

Have you ever fallen in love with art at first sight? Is there a piece of art that lingers with you?

Halley's Comet as Seen by Giotto, 1979, Paterson Ewen

Halley's Comet as Seen by Giotto, 1979, Paterson Ewen

He said: Yes, Halley's Comet as Seen by Giotto, 1979, Paterson Ewen.

She said: I can’t explain why, but when I was a teenager I went to Paris with my family. We visited the then-relatively new Pompidou museum. By the main entrance was an evocative piece called “Beantown” in which you literally stepped into a 1930’s diner, but the faces of the people in the diner were blanked out. It transported me.  I’ve tried to understand why I latched onto that art’s memory so fiercely, but I can’t explain it. Decades later I returned with Frank to the Pompidou and now carry with me a new memory of a video featuring people in various stages of nudity using their bodies to dance to music. I will never be able to listen to “I Like to Move it, Move it” the same way again.

How would you describe the personality of your home?

He said: Open.

She said: “Reign of the Five Year-Old.” Toys aside, I think our home’s personality is welcoming, warmly contemporary with a twist of mid-century and a slice of humour.

How would you describe your taste in art?

He said: I tend to like abstract, but not completely sure.

She said: Indeed, the very question that led to developing the Mercartto art predictor quiz! I have diverse taste, but I tend to lean toward contemporary works often with strong central viewpoints. I read somewhere once that those kinds of works were a mark of independence.

How about your taste in [women/men]?

He said: I like strong/smart women.

She said: Ha, probably as diverse as my taste in art. But I would say I look for a great sense of humour, kindness, similar values and a killer smile.

How would you finish this statement: "I knew I was in love with [partner's name] when..."

He said: We went away on a vacation and when we got back I wanted her to stay with me that night.

She said: It’s so long ago, I’m not sure I can remember. Frank is definitely the romantic between us. But I do remember when he suggested we move in together. The rest of the world melted away right then.

How would you describe your spouse's taste in art?

He said: Eclectic.

She said: We have surprisingly similar taste in art, so I would describe his taste as exquisite.

Who makes more of the household decisions?

He said: Wife.

She said: I’d like to think we have a fairly democratic household, but I’d have to say it’s me.

What type of person are you: action, thinking or feeling?

He said: Feeling.

She said: Thinking, action. Sometimes feeling.

What's the one piece of art or home decor your spouse insisted you purchase that you can't stand but they adore?

He said: Nothing that I can think of…we really do have similar tastes in art

She said: He brought these old film projectors into the relationship. They are large, heavy, and I am not fond of them. I can’t think of anything he forced us to purchase that I don’t like. We’re lucky that we tend to gravitate to the same art. I did buy a piece of art as an heirloom for our daughter that I’m not sure he would have chosen, but he was a good sport about it. It makes him happy when our daughter tells everyone that it’s a picture of her and Mama.

What qualities do you look for in a piece of art?

He said: I don’t know what I’m looking for until I see it.

She said: What kind of emotional impact does it have on me? Does my initial gut reaction sustain? If you’re going to live with a piece of art, you want to be sure it’s something that you like to look at regularly. Is it priced well in my opinion? Is it well executed? Sometimes I look for art for a specific space, so fit/size will come into play. Ultimately it comes down to personal resonance.

How does having art in your physical space have an impact on you?

He said: [Nothing. He actually didn't say anything.]

She said: When I move into a new place, hanging art is the first thing I do. The furniture can accommodate itself to the art. Art helps my space feel personal, like home. It helps tell the story of who we are. It keeps our physical space interesting and alive. We periodically move our art around - it can really change the feel of a space without spending any money.

Have you ever regretted an art purchase?

He said: No

She said: I have regretted not purchasing art. That piece that pierces the imagination that is no longer attainable because either it’s now far away, or someone else has bought it.

What's the most unique item you own collectively?

He said: The painting above our fireplace of the mother and daughter.

She said: Probably the early 20th century Argentinian chandelier in our living room. Although it’s not one-of-a-kind, I love our Missoni rug in the living room. I got an extraordinary deal on it and it makes my heart sing when I look at it. I have a digital file of the pattern on my computer that I sometimes look at.

Does size matter?

He said: No, we have lots of walls to fill.

She said: If you’re trying to fill a specific space, for sure. If you’re buying strictly out of love, not as much.

What would you say to someone who isn't confident in their art taste?

He said: If you like it, who cares what others think…

She said: Ha ha ha, quite a bit! We wrote a guide to help people with this.

If you could own one piece of art from anywhere in the world or any time in history, what would it be?

Frank's fantasy painting ownership

Frank's fantasy painting ownership

He said: Jackson Pollock – One: Number 31, 1950

She said: I’d probably give you a different answer every day. I’m thinking a Dale Chihuly glass ceiling would be pretty awesome.

Oh, to have a Chihuly glass ceiling...

Oh, to have a Chihuly glass ceiling...