- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2009

When the Ikea furniture is replaced with Arhaus and the bedroom furnishings finally match, it’s time to ditch the framed posters.

Grown-up decor means grown-up art, but galleries, aesthetics and, of course, price tags can be intimidating for the novice. That’s when an art consultant can help.

Art consultants long have been the eye behind expensive works hanging in the lobbies of tony D.C. law firms or in the salons of Georgetown’s fine homes. However, they also work for regular folks who want to upgrade what is on the walls of more modest places.

Margaret Heiner started her business, Aesthetica Art Consulting (http://aestheticaart consulting.com) last summer with the idea of making art accessible to those who don’t know where to begin. Ms. Heiner has a master’s degree in art history from the Savannah College of Art and Design, a certificate from the American arts course at Sotheby’s Institute of Art and experience working at commercial galleries in New York and Charlottes ville.

“I love thinking about art,” Ms. Heiner says.

She gets clients to think about art as well: what they like, what they don’t like, what the rest of their space looks like, and their reasons for purchasing. Some clients want to start an art collection as an investment; others may just want to fill the empty space above the sofa.

Ms. Heiner says art shouldn’t merely fill up space, though. It should connect with a person’s psyche and soul. Art is there for a reason: The painting in a doctor’s office may take a patient’s mind off his illness. A sculpture in a foyer may make you feel welcome in someone’s home. People have relationships with the art all around them, she says.

Art is very personal, Ms. Heiner points out on her Web site. Something that might inspire a co-worker might not get a second look from you.

“That’s OK,” she says. “If works were uniformly liked or loathed, there wouldn’t be the saying ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ ”

Xavier Cervera of Capitol Hill recently worked with Ms. Heiner to make a purchase for his home because, he says, as a busy restaurant owner, he does not have time to gallery-hop.

“If you are not in the world of art, you don’t know what is hot,” he says. “You don’t know what is hot or what is going to retain its value.”

Mr. Cervera ended up buying a piece by Georgia artist Marcus Kenney. Mr. Cervera spent several thousand dollars on the painting, but he already has seen Mr. Kenney’s work going for much more, so he says it was a good investment.

Ms. Heiner also helped locate vintage photographs and other pieces for Mr. Cervera’s restaurants.

Art consultants’ fees vary depending on the project. Ms. Heiner typically charges an hourly fee of $50 to $100, depending on whether she is earning a commission from the gallery.

Jean Efron, a District art consultant who has been in business for 35 years, says a good art consultant is there to educate.

“We can do a lot to introduce [clients] to art,” she says. “We can determine their taste and interest as well as how much money they want to spend. We can get them aimed in the right direction and make sure their money is not spent willy-nilly.

Once a would-be collector has a direction, Ms. Efron helps guide him or her. She says a good art consultant should be independent rather than having just a relationship with one gallery. In the art world, as in many businesses, it’s all about who you know.

“We know what is out there, who has it and where the good buys are,” she says.

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