Art Buying: Follow Your Heart

How do you know what to buy? 

If you were the one who bought the famous work by Banksy a few months ago that, upon the $1.4 million purchase, shredded itself, or you were the person who dropped $66.3 million on a Van Gogh a few years back, you can go back to surfing the internet and counting your money.

If you were not, and even the thought of buying any original art makes you nervous, keep reading. If you think you’re ready to finally replace the posters you bought when you got your first “real” apartment, but aren’t sure of where to go or what to do, keep reading. And, in fact, keep reading if you are just looking for a little reassurance before you get going.

Step 1: Decide what you like

There are lots of general styles of art – abstract, expressionist, impressionist, pop, realism, hyperrealism and many more, plus photography, textile, glass, ceramics, and sculpture. Start by narrowing down to a few styles, the ones that really engage your interest. Don’t let anyone talk you into anything you don’t like because a certain artist or style is fashionable. 

Step 2: Who do you love?

If you are a beginning collector (I think we established that at the beginning, right?), forget buying art thinking that in 10 or 20 years you’ll sell it and make a killing. You might get lucky, but at this stage it’s more important to buy something you can live with. So pay attention to whose work you really like, the ones that make you stop and say wow. Make a list of names. Research them. There’s a good chance they are on Instagram and an even better chance they have a website. Sometimes you’ll even find a review or two.

It should go without saying but, if you share your home with someone, be sure they can live with it, or better, love it, too.

Step 3: Establish your budget

An artist who is just getting started, a so-called “emerging artist”, is likely to have work that is very affordable. If you can’t afford a big piece, get a smaller one. A giclée (pronounced zhee- KLAY) is a very high quality reproduction and may be more affordable than the original. Studies, drawings and older works may also be more in your price range.

If the gallery you’re visiting doesn’t display prices or provide a price list – well, I have to ask, do you really want to do business with them?

Step 4: Where to get it

Galleries are the first place to look, but they can be intimidating for some. Or perhaps the piece you saw in a gallery had already been sold (that’s usually indicated by a red dot next to the piece). The gallerist should be delighted to help you find other work by the artist. And you can always contact the artist yourself.

You can also buy art online. There are millions of images on Instagram and you can filter by artist or description, for example, “impressionist”, or “blue” or “flowers”. There are many art sites – essentially online galleries – or if you have an artist in mind, contact them directly via their social media or website. Before you buy online, be sure you understand shipping and tax are on top of the sale price and that you know what the return policy is. Most artists are willing to take back a piece, but only within a narrow time slot, usually no more than a month.

Buying directly from the artist will sometimes save the artist the 50 percent commission that goes to a gallery – but not always.

Step 5: Enjoy!

Once your new art purchase is in your home or office, sit back and enjoy it. Whether it is the energy, the peacefulness, the texture, the color or just something you can’t even define, just enjoy it for years to come. And, somewhere down the road and many years from now, it may even be worth many thousands more than you paid for it.

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