Holiday Gift Idea: Fine Art by Boston Artists

‘Tis the season to bang shoulders and queue interminably for Nintendo games and skinny jeans, or drop 50 grand on one of those swanky luxury cars that smug yuppies seem to keep giving each other in TV commercials. But here in Boston, you can also easily buy something lasting that your favorite aesthete will enjoy for years.

Joo Lee Kang, Bouquet of Nature #2, 2011. Ballpoint pen on paper. 55 x 85 inches.
Image courtesy of the SMFA.

If I’d bought a lot from Ellsworth Kelly at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts years ago, I’d be a wealthy man today, for sure. None of that would have happened, as Kelly got his diploma there in 1948 and the SMFA’s annual art sale is only in its 31st year. However, if you have the ducats, you actually can buy a Kelly right now at this year’s show which runs from now through Sunday. Other alumni, like Boston’s old art superheroes Rachel Perry Welty and Brian Burkhardt will also have stuff on hand, along with faculty and the latest students — and that last category is where the budget buys with the best rewards may be. And if that’s not enough for you, just keep walking down Huntington Avenue and comparison shop at MassArt’s holiday sale (though Sunday), where some our city’s hippest students and alumni are eager to peddle their wares.

Then there’s the Holiday Small Works sale at the Copley Society of Art, which runs through December 24 for last-minute shoppers. Dating back to 1879, it’s the oldest non-profit art association in the country and boasts hundreds of local artists as members. For your friends, relatives, or spouses who have a more traditional sense of art, the CoSo stuff is a great first stop, as you can find many landscapes, street scenes, and still lifes, but there is also a fine selection of cool mixed media items as well. The great thing about this exhibit every year is that the genuinely compact scale of each artwork makes this one lovely, quirky exhibit of wee objets. A very similar but more contemporary sale can be found downtown that the FPAC store, where the Fort Point Arts Community is hosting its own small works selloff this month. And you can’t get any more supportive of the painters and sculptors who have devoted their lives to working and living here in New England.

Nancy Simonds, Chartreuse and Teal, 2009. Gouache on paper. 29 x 41 inches.
Image courtesy of the SMFA.

But if you want to support something bigger in addition to the arts, swing by the stylishly stark Barbara Krakow Gallery for the AIDS benefit exhibit, opening Saturday and running through December 17. All proceeds benefit the Boston Pediatric/Family AIDS Project and the African AIDS Initiative, both of which have received tens of thousands of dollars because of this annual event. And for a mere $350 donation to either of those organizations, you get to walk away with a great piece of art. I’d love to tell you what’s available this year, but Andrew Witkin and the Krakow folks keep it under wraps both in house and online until the exhibit is officially open for business.

Of course, many other art sales abound in the Boston area. In the end, though, don’t think too much of investment or the bigger picture that your purchase represents. Remember the old adage when you’re caressing your checkbook while standing in front of a canvas: The best art to buy is the art you like. Or that your lucky special friend will like. (Because it’s meant to be a gift, right?)