The Art of Buying Art

How to buy art? Or maybe the title should be Falling in Love. It will come as no surprise that the golden rule of any art purchase is to ask yourself if you really love the piece. But before we fall in love let’s start at the dating stage.

For some walking into an art gallery can be a bit daunting. Like your old high school dances, all the potential dance partners are lined up against the wall, each waiting for that moment when a connection is made. There are as many forms of art from paintings and drawings to sculpture and within each form there are a myriad of choices such as the mediums, oil, watercolors for paintings, clay and bronze for sculptures, ink, charcoal and sepia for drawings, and many variations of each too numerous to mention here. And let’s not forget the latest wave: digital! Whether you prefer one form over another or enjoy them all here are some things to think about when looking for that artistic dance partner. 

Whether your purchase is for investment or the joy, the quality of the work is important. New work or old, the quality of the materials, the assembly of the art, framing, and the methods for preserving the art like varnishes for oil and UV protected glass for watercolors and pastels, are worth noting. Especially for older pieces it is critical to know if it has been cleaned and/or restored and if the framing materials are of archival quality. 

So, a piece has caught your eye and you slow down to take a longer look. The colours, texture, and the subject are intriguing, and you want to know more. Who is the artist, where are the from, are they local or international, an established artist or a brand new one? Why do they create art, and why this piece? The story about the artist and the piece will help develop a deeper connection to the artwork. Maybe the reason you stopped and lingered over this piece are for some of the same reasons the artist created it. Perhaps the art came from an artist connected to not just a historical art period but an important time in history, maybe a time special to you. Your art date just got more interesting!

If you have found a new artist but don’t want to leap into a large commitment, look for a smaller piece by him or her. Start small, introduce the painting to your décor, and your extended family (just kidding this is your choice!), and see if you still feel the same way about it over time.

The purchasing experience should be a good one too. Hopefully the gallery owners have warmly welcomed you, offered to be assistance and are readily available to answer all your questions. But most of all made you feel comfortable. When looking for a car it can be most annoying to have the salesperson constantly watching and prodding you with questions; this should never happen at an art gallery. You should never feel rushed or pressured into buying art. On the other hand, it is perfectly fine for you to ask as many questions as possible. And don’t be shy to ask about any aspect of the art. You don’t have to have a PhD in computer science to purchase a computer and neither do you need a PhD in fine art to buy it. You are ready to buy and wondering if it is okay to ask for a discount or some form of consideration before purchasing. The gallery is a business, and they will want to maintain the best possible price not just for themselves but for their artists too. The relationship between the gallery and the artist is important and discounting the work is not desirable but finding a home for their work will usually win the day. 

After browsing the galleries, reading about the artists, scouring the internet, perhaps even meeting the artist, the single most important aspect to purchasing is do you love the artwork? Do you keep thinking about it after you have left the gallery? Do you start to imagine where it will go in your house? Trust your instincts and buy what you love.