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The Art of Buying Art for the Home

In the competitive Costa Rican art market, artists must show dedication, body and soul, according to Marta Antillón, owner of the exclusive Galería Valanti. Shopping for paintings can also demand some effort, and, as described by three Costa Rican gallery owners, could be considered an art in itself.

For art connoisseur Antillón, who opened her first gallery in 1974, two main reasons drive art buyers: making an investment and decorating.

“Art is even better than (investing in) jewelry. If you know how to buy and are well advised, today you can purchase a painting for $2,000 and in four years it can double its value,” said Antillón, who carries art by renowned Latin American painters and emerging artists.

Antillón, a fine arts graduate of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), offers advising services to clients at Valanti’s two locations, in the eastern San José neighborhood of Barrio Escalante and at Terramall, on the highway to Cartago, east of San José.

According to Antillón, Valanti offers advice to help people start good collections. She cited the example that a young couple might want to start a collection by focusing on receiving advice.

She said the region’s young talent offers a more affordable option than purchasing art by famous, established painters.

“When the couple grows more mature, with more money, then they can buy the big names,” she said. “Or they can pay in installments.”

Among Costa Rica’s big names – many of whom Antillón has displayed at Valanti – are the internationally famous Rafa Fernández, the late Margarita Bertheau, famous for her watercolors, and the late Francisco Amighetti, whose artistic legacy also includes poetry and prose.

The gallery, which also holds painting, music and film appreciation lessons, offers home delivery in the San José area and international shipping.

Antillón said she preferred not to divulge her prices because she considers it distasteful.

For more information on Valanti or to buy art online, visit or call 253-1659. For information on art reproductions, contact Antillón’s son, Francisco Castro, a specialist in the field, at 382-9230.

In downtown San José, Galería Bochica offers a selection of Latin American and traditional, souvenir-style art. Its location inside La Casona, a popular souvenir market, offers “a little bit of everything,” from costumbrista (traditional) art, which depicts everyday scenes, to landscape art, abstracts and surrealist art, among other genres, according to owner Jaime Salinas.

The gallery exhibits oil paintings, watercolors, pastels, engravings and sketches, and also sells jewelry, he added.

The Colombian-born Salinas, who has sold art for more than 20 years, said his art ranges from $5 for a traditional hand-painted feather, a staple of most souvenir stores here, to approximately $2,000 for works by coveted artists, such as Ecuadorian painter Marco Serrano, to $3,000 for antique paintings.

Salinas, who said he needs to see art wherever he goes, said art can do much for a living space.

“In the dining room, a still life; in the bedroom, a nude portrait; in the living room, a landscape,” he prescribed, adding that “an (art-) empty home or office is like nothing –it makes you sad.”

For more info on Bochica or to place an order, call 233-6794 or e-mail

Artist couple Brian and Patricia Erickson, who made a gallery of their home, might agree with Salinas in his sadness for art-free spaces.

Galería At Home in the Caribbean-slope town of Guápiles is both a gallery for Patricia Erickson’s Afro-Caribbean-theme paintings, and a workshop where her husband builds bamboo furniture.

The Ericksons, originally from the U.S. city of San Francisco, moved to Costa Rica 18 years ago, and have since ventured into the art world.

According to Brian, his wife fell in love with Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast when they lived in Moín, a port north of Limón.

This ignited her production of paintings focusing mainly on Afro-Caribbean women and their everyday chores, such as raising children, washing clothes and cooking. Her art sells from approximately $250 up to $1,000 for paintings from her historical archives.

At Home exhibits a selection of approximately 12 paintings and Oriental-style bamboo furniture, many that bear flames on their corners – Brian’s trademark. Prices for his work vary; a sofa may cost $600, a mirror, $50. He also offers custom designs. Tin-Jo Asian restaurant, in downtown San José, displays some of his tables. For more information on At Home, where the Ericksons also run a bed-and-breakfast, call 710-1958.



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