Best Fine Art on the Cheap - 2008
Peter Vanstone Inc.
There's a funny little stretch of Sunset that climbs the hill just east of Silver Lake Boulevard to a place where the war between immigrant shopping strip and Echo Park hipster hangout has not, and might never be, settled. And it's here, along a dusty curb and behind an alluring store window display, that home decorators and posh Westside antiquers quietly slink to Peter Vanstone's shop, in search of startlingly affordable fine art.
Proprietor Vanstone is a self-effacing English gentleman who describes his wares as "just stuff" he chooses from swap meets and auctions because he loves "to be around beautiful things." But there's a grander method underlying his mix of modern 20th-century paintings, sculptures and unusual items, like string art. (Not to mention all the goodies in his big "flat file" of paintings and lithos not shown on the walls of this sweet storefront, which isn't big enough for it all.)
You get your first hint of the shop's underlying theme when you notice the 1930s WPA etchings, one of his specialties, and the steady supply of California Fauve paintings Vanstone finds, often with help from two buying agents. "I specialize in working-class, listed artists at medium prices," he says.
Yes. But that's not quite it. It's great art for people who can't really afford great art. He has two very nice Guy Maccoy oils (or at least he did at press time) and he always has an eye for the dramatic — probably because he worked as a commercial set decorator before getting into art and antique selling 12 years ago. A glitter Jesus grabs your attention until you hear Vanstone's story of the giant gold fiberglass Buddha that used to draw in customers until he finally sold it for $1,500. But this isn't Melrose Place or Abbot Kinney, and you haven't got $1,500 for a giant Buddha. If you have far less than $1,500, there's something strange and beautiful waiting for you at this perfect little store.—N. Jenssen