A Beginner’s Guide To Buying Art
We spend so much time in our living space and therefore making it welcoming, grounding and joyful is crucial. Filling your home with art gives it personality and makes it feel your own. While many of us want to include art in our homes, choosing what and where to buy can feel overwhelming. This is not helped by the fact that the art world is notoriously inaccessible and intimidating. However, this needn’t be the case. With the right advice and expertise, buying art can be a wonderful experience.
At the moment, more people than ever are buying art. According to The Independent, art platform Partnership Editions saw a 254% increase in sales between March and April 2020 while online art marketplace riseart.com reported a rise in customer order values of 65% between April and September 2020. Online art sales doubled in value from 2019 to reach a high of $12.4 billion, and 71% of Americans plan to redecorate in 2021, so more people are buying art online than ever.
“During lockdown and still today, we’ve all been spending much more time at home, and I think everyone is noticing particular walls that feel bare. The fact that art transports and inspires you has been even more important during the lockdown,” Rachel Simkiss, Head of Brand at Clarendon Fine Art, noted. Here, we chatted to experts about what you need to know before making a purchase.
Art encompasses a huge category of things. It’s not just paintings or drawings but sculpture, photography and decorative pieces too. The first major point to note is that with all art you can get originals (a unique piece the artist created) or a print or copy. Naturally, originals always cost more. Before you first buy art it’s worth considering what type of art you might like and what budget you have in mind.
After that, there are no real rules. It’s better to go with your gut. “Trust your eye and don’t worry about what other people tell you should be buying,” Elizabeth Dellert from Affordable Art Fair commented. “When building an art collection, it’s a very subjective experience, and you’ve got to connect with the piece you’re buying. There isn’t a right or wrong way,” Simkiss concurred.
Similarly, don’t choose pieces based on money or what might go up or down in price. “Buy art because you love it, and you want to live with it on your wall at home. If you discover in 20 years that the art has gone up in value, you can feel smug about your taste, but you shouldn’t buy art trying to make money,” Dellert said. In a similar vein, don’t get too stressed out by the pricing process or whether a piece is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ value. Focus on what you like, and the rest will fall into place.
Some people buy art based on a space in their home they particularly want to fill while others buy a work and then find a place it will sit. Both methods are valid but if you really love a piece, you will always find a place for it to go. Think about what aesthetic you’re going for — i.e. bold, bright, and colorful — or calm, serene, and minimal? ‘The place you want to put the art may factor into how you want it to look — is the room mostly in neutral colors, in which a pop of color would make sense, or is the room design classic and traditional, in which a replica of a Claude Monet or Paul Cezanne would look fitting?’, says Alix Greenberg, the fine artist and founder & CEO of ArtSugar.
If you’re looking to spend a large sum of money or are looking for advice on buying multiple pieces, consider shopping with an art consultant or advisor. Check out the listings page on the Association of Professional Art Advisors to find someone suitable. They can advise on aesthetics as well as the business and finance side of making art purchases. Some art sites feature curated collections by theme, popularity, new releases, price point, subject, etc. This curation can help whittle down the options available. ArtSugar features an Influencer Curated section with collections curated by influencers such as Vogue contributing editor Jenna Rennert, celebrity jewelry designer Stephanie Gottlieb, and celebrity Lance Bass.
Where to buy art
There are a number of different ways you can buy art. These are the most common ones.
Galleries: Arguably the easiest way to buy art is by visiting a private gallery or dealer. Think of it as a shop. These spaces offer a chance to see the art in person at a leisurely pace while also benefiting from the expert staff’s assistance. “You can get a feel for the artists, their work, and then have a chat with one of the managers. A gallery’s role is to help and guide you and talk you through what inspires you as a person, and your passion,” Simkiss pointed out. Different galleries specialize in different things — maybe it’s the medium of work, period or a more general theme — so if you know what you’re looking for you can do a bit of research about galleries online that suit your style. For example, by Googling: “Vintage photography gallery.” When visiting a gallery, remember the red dot on a piece of work means the art has been sold. If you see something you like that’s already been snapped up, always chat to a member of staff who may be able to advise on something similar or source you an alternative work. Prices can be negotiable so remember to ask about flexibility on costs.
Try: There are galleries in every major town and city. Find one near you via the-art-world.com
Fairs: Annual art fairs give you a chance to see a huge variety of work from different galleries and dealers in one space. This provides an opportunity to see what’s out there and chat with different experts. It works much like a gallery with the buying process. Prices are also negotiable here, especially on the last day of the event.
Auctions: Buying art at auction is another option. Auction houses have weekly or monthly sales and release the catalog of pieces being sold in advance. You can either attend an IRL auction or bid on pieces by phone or online. Make sure you do your homework and study the catalog before the sale. Each work will be listed with its guide price. If there is something that catches your eye, research prices of previous similar sales online and decide a maximum price you are willing to go. Big auction houses often group sales by price point, so check out which one will work for you.
Online: The growth in online platforms means you don’t necessarily need to see a piece in person before buying. Many galleries have online shops and there’s also a growing number of digital platforms that specialize in selling art. “Buying online has become so much easier with the leap forward in technology. Imagery is of much higher quality which allows you to really get into the detail of a piece on a screen,” Dellert said. In particular, look out for sites that offer free returns in case the work isn’t right on arrival. Plus, always remember to check measurements clearly.
“Art e-tailers uniquely offer exposure to emerging artists that they may not get in brick-and-mortar galleries”, says Greenberg. ArtSugar is expertly curated to fit a distinctively glamorous, on-trend, and uplifting aesthetic. Plus, ArtSugar donates proceeds from every purchase to notable charities such as God’s Love We Deliver, Gyrl Wonder, and The Trevor Project. It has an exclusive selection of affordable art prints, sculptures and home goods by artists popular on Instagram, along with in-house designs.
You can also buy art on general listing sites like eBay, Etsy and Gumtree — however, proceed with caution if you are spending a lot of money.
When buying art online, take into account shipping costs. Always enquire what the cost to ship a piece of work is before buying as prices can be high due to the size or fragility of the work. You might also have to pay additional costs for insurance for sending an item. If you are buying from abroad, there might also be customs charges. Enquire with the company you are buying from and if they can’t guarantee a final total price, shop somewhere else.
There are taxes to pay too. There’s a sales tax on all pieces, and additional taxes if you are buying from a different state or abroad. As always, check with the seller about what the situation is and whether the taxes are included in the asking price. If your piece of art increases in value over time, you could also be subject to Capital Gains Tax when selling again.
Counterfeit pieces are also a concern. As a general rule, if something seems too good to be true, it likely is. To avoid buying forged pieces, always shop from a reputable gallery, auction house or online retailer. If you are spending a large amount of money, consider using an art consultant or advisor before making the sale. “See if the artwork comes with a Certificate of Authenticity or if the site offers a money-back guarantee. You can also check the e-tailer’s customer reviews and press written about them to see if counterfeit art has been an issue in the past for them”, says Greenberg.
Framing your art
It’s not just about the artwork but the frame too. Frames are firstly a practical necessity. “Framing protects a work and that should always be a consideration for such a special purchase,” Dellert said. Secondly, a frame can really change how you see artwork and how it sits in a space. “Framing is such a personal choice but it can absolutely enhance artwork and should always be at the back of your mind when considering a new piece. Think about how a frame can improve the impact an artwork can have on your wall. It can increase the scale of something small or it can be so subtly that the artwork simply sings,” Dellert added.
If you need help with framing, chances are the gallery you bought from will be able to help. “A gallery will nearly always frame the work to the specifications of the artist, and therefore will probably be well suited to — for example, you wouldn’t want a very heavy, detailed, and traditional frame on a contemporary work,” Simkiss explained.
“Shoppers can visualize how their ArtSugar art will look hung with ArtSugar’s AR feature on each product page. Lifestyle photos of the art hung in a room on art e-tailers’ sites also help you envision how the art might look before you buy it,” says Greenberg. Make sure to look at the size dimensions of the art piece and use a tape measure to ensure it will fit on your wall, or in your room if it’s a sculpture. The e-tailer’s Instagram page may also show examples of art from their site hung in customers’ homes.