Bare Walls? Less Expensive Alternatives to the 'Mona Lisa'

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Vintage posterThey say a house isn't a home until it has art on the walls. Having something to visually grab on to in what would otherwise be an endless expanse of eggshell, bone, burnt sienna, or dangerous robot, is crucial. Still, with this whole recession and all, it can seem tricky for those of us with the kind of budget Jane Seymour was talking about to figure out how to spruce up our walls. And for that, thankfully, there's the Internet.

First up is the poster. And, no, we don't mean the college poster. We're not talking "The Kiss," or "American Girl in Italy," posters that every sophomore from the west coast to the east has lovingly and, they believe uniquely, tacked up in their dorm room. (Guilty!) We're talking old movie poster, sign of the times, emblem of a particular moment of culture. We're talking vintage poster, like the kind now exhibited in an online show of work collected by the International Vintage Poster Dealers Association.

They're calling it "Life Is Beautiful: Posters That Make You Smile," and they do.Encompassing a whole bunch of decades and eras, these posters include cigar ads from the 1930's, the movie poster for "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" (complete with green dressing gown and risque posing), and an Italian image of a woman on a winged bicycle. In other words, this ain't no "Scarface," baby.

Vintage posterVintage not your jam or within your price range? There are tons of other options, including the comprehensive site AllPosters, which makes up for in inventory what it lacks in user-friendly design and cheap prices. This is the place to find those photographs you thought were unique, but also allows you to search by categories like "x-ray photography" and "poultry." AllPosters is the kind of place to go if you either have absolutely no idea what you're interested in, or an extremely specific idea.

Another option is barewalls.com, which is slightly more curated than AllPosters and also is helpfully broken up into categories. Artists include Van Gogh, Kahlo, and Kandinsky; styles include Art Deco, Abstract Expressionism, and Motivational. And subjects include Animals, Architecture, and Urban (which, in fact, has to do with issues of urbanism and cities).

Still, these are all posters, and there's yet another option for the bare-walled aesthete. New York gallerist/art person/renegade/superstar Jen Bekman runs a program called 20x200, and the conceit is simple. Every Tuesday and Wednesday, Bekman announces the day's artist and artworks, which come in different sizes at different prices. 20x200 is the place to get an 8x10" archival pigment print for $20, half of which goes to the artist, or a 30x40 archival print for $2000, which, again, half goes to the artist. Bekman's cause un-celebre is to get people interested in collecting art, and each of her editions arrives with a perfectly-designed tag that say "Congratulations! You bought art." And with everything from contributions from young photographers like Youngna Park, drawings by established graphic designer Kate Bingaman-Burt to brilliant text-based pieces from Mike Monteiro, browsing the archives of 20x200 is both more pleasant, and more personal, than getting lost in the online version of the uncategorized library that is the online poster world.

Either way and whatever you end up choosing, put something on your walls. As Bekman says, "Live with art -- it's good for you."
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