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Sharon Dellamonica

Art dealer Sharon Dellamonica of St. Helena at Mumm Napa, decribes herself as someone who “sells fine art, photography, sculpture and paintings by people who are recognized in today's contemporary fine art market.” J.L. Sousa/Register

Enjoying high-end artwork doesn’t have to break the bank, thanks to St. Helena’s Sharon Dellamonica.

An art dealer, longtime designer and consultant who also curates art exhibitions, Dellamonica is making rentals the latest twist to her St. Helena business, Sharon Dellamonica Fine Art.

“I can provide clients with really high-quality art without the sticker shock,” she said.

The service is a fresh aspect of her business, which opened in 2010.

The idea of renting upscale artwork isn’t new, but the concept has been gaining ground recently in metropolitan areas, Dellamonica said.

Art sales are slowly picking up as the economy inches upward, but buyers remain more cautious than in years past, she said.

Noting the lasting dip in art sales, Dellamonica said tough times call for straying from traditional business models.

“It’s been a very difficult time in the fine art business because of the economy,” she said. “I read an article in the New York Times about renting and I thought, ‘I’m going to expand on this, because it really makes sense.’ Renting art is an adaptation.”

Her recent rental clients include real estate agents, wineries, medical offices and even young families, she said.

Dellamonica’s art sale prices range from about $500 to $15,000, but rentals — which usually require a three-month minimum — will set you back as little as $25 monthly. At least 150 artists’ works are available for rent, with pieces including sculptures, photographs, collages, mixed media and more. Most in demand, however, are paintings, she said.

“If it’s a medical office, my recommendation is to have very tranquil, soothing paintings” to offset a clinical atmosphere, she said.

Dellamonica’s featured artists are not exclusively local and some are longtime clients.

“Many of these people I’ve represented for years already,” she said, “and they recommend other artists to come to me.”

Entrusting her artists’ works to renters comes with a caveat: Renters must insure the pieces through their existing homeowner’s or business insurance policies — a requirement Dellamonica said is standard practice.

Clients who fall in love with their leased artwork can buy the piece for its sale price minus the rental fee.

When it comes to style, she said, contemporary realism is hot. Standing the test of time, abstract paintings also remain in demand.

Dellamonica, who is also a calligrapher, earned a bachelor’s degree in fine art with an emphasis in painting from San Francisco State University in 1968. She was a graphic designer and art director for a now-defunct New York advertising agency before moving to the Napa Valley in 1980.

Dellamonica did interior design work in local homes and commercial spaces during the ’80s. She worked at St. Helena’s I. Wolk Gallery from 1998 to 2009, first in sales, before becoming an art consultant there and briefly serving as the gallery’s director.

“I started at the bottom and learned everything about the business,” she said.

In addition to her art sales, rental and consulting services, Dellamonica also curates art exhibitions.

One currently on display at Mumm Napa through early March is called “Quatre Femmes Photographes” and features the work of photographers Brigitte Carnochan, Susan Friedman, Thea Schrack and Sharon Beals. At Domaine Chandon, Dellamonica curated an exhibition titled “Mostly Urban,” which features the paintings of California resident Philippe Gandiol, who hails originally from Paris.

Looking ahead, Dellamonica hopes to grow the art rental aspect of her business and install a permanent sculpture garden at a Napa Valley winery.

“I think people need to know that art is accessible on many levels, and that they can buy it or rent it,” she said. “It’s important to have art in your life. Good art should stop you in your tracks for a moment and make everything else go away.”

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