Contemporary Collection

Philip Slein, owner of Philip Slein Gallery, displays beautiful artwork at his CWE gallery.

Edited by Melissa Mauzy
Photography by Colin Miller/Strauss Peyton


Philip Slein, owner of Philip Slein Gallery, displays beautiful artwork at his CWE gallery. He is sharing all you need to know about contemporary art.

SLHL: What classifies art as “contemporary”? (Is it the colors? Styles? Etc.)
Philip: Contemporary art is usually considered art that is created from 1960 to the present. Contemporary art is the art being made today in all styles, colors etc. Some contemporary art looks like older art, and some contemporary art looks like things we have never seen before.

SLHL: What is typically the subject matter in contemporary art?
Philip: Contemporary art of today has no limitations on subject matter. The art of today covers the wide range of topics as of anytime prior, nothing is off of the table!

SLHL: How do you know a piece of contemporary art is “good art?”
Philip: Sometimes you just know when you see it, but usually it takes years of study and looking at great art in museums etc. to hone your eye. This is why it's very important to do your homework, see gallery shows and work with a knowledgeable dealer.

SLHL: Should a piece of contemporary art be the focal point in a room? Why or why not?
Philip: The art should always be the most important and expensive thing in the room. The best new trend in my opinion is for your home to be "collected" not decorated. Collected interiors are always far more interesting than a decorated one and much more of a personal reflection on you the individual. 

SLHL: How do you mix contemporary art with traditional artwork or furniture?
Philip: Mixing contemporary and modern art with antiques is my favorite environment. As a species, we have been making wonderful things for thousands of years and the ability to mix them together can make a very powerful and dramatic statement. For example, in my loft I have a wonderful mid-century painting by Maurice Freedman hanging over a heavily carved and pierced Anglo Indian cabinet from 1870. The mix is unexpected and delightful. Don't be afraid to take chances or be daring with mixing things up, you can always move things back. Creating an exciting environment takes some experimentation and creativity, so have fun! 

SLHL: Are there certain frames that better complement contemporary artwork?
Philip: Many contemporary painters do use frames and they don't need frames. However, some use simple frames with clean lines. That said, some artist put heavy gold frames on their work. There are no rules. If it works, it's good; if it doesn't, it's bad!

SLHL: What advice would you give to a homeowner that is beginning to update their collection and in the past had mostly purchased traditional artwork, but wants to incorporate a more contemporary piece?
Philip: Contemporary painting works wonderfully with antiques. It's a very hot look currently to mix periods. I would advise a client to bring one piece of contemporary art into a room and start slowly. Most galleries will let a client try a piece out in their home before purchase, which is something I highly recommend. At my gallery, I also happily give my design opinion!

SLHL: What trends are you seeing in contemporary art?
Abstract painting is hot and so is portrait painting. There are often multiple trends that are hot simultaneously, which is great for collectors because personal tastes can vary so much. I would encourage people to try and be as "broad base" as possible in their taste and constantly try to keep an open mind about contemporary art because there are amazing artists working in many different styles and you don't want to be closed off to anything or miss a rising star.