As a gallery owner, I often hear those who are new to buying art say something along the lines of "I’d love to include art in my home but am completely lost on where to start." So today, I'm rounding up five common questions about art collecting and sharing my responses to help anyone feeling confused or overwhelmed by the process. By shedding light on how it works and how easy it can be, I hope you'll feel excited and inspired to discover and buy art.
Tips for Art Collecting
Q: I know if I look at something and love it, but what is a fair price for it? Is it based on the artists’ time or just what they want to charge?
A: Set a budget.
Rather than wonder if you’re getting a fair deal when it comes to buying art, I’d suggest thinking in the opposite manner and setting a budget before you start looking or at least to have in mind a general range of what you’d be willing to spend. This way, if you come across something you love, you’ll know right away if it’s a feasible purchase for you to make. Do keep in mind, however, that small discounts of 10% can be offered if you’re purchasing from a gallery or the artist directly, especially if you’re buying more than one work at a time. Also, most art dealers now offer the option to pay in installments so even if a work of art seems out of your budget at first if you were to pay right now in full, it actually may be within your budget if you split the cost into monthly payments as low as $100 (like we do with Shop Pay and Art Money).
That said, when thinking about the value of any artwork itself, it is usually based on a number of factors including but not limited to the artist’s skill level and expertise, their education, their experience in the industry (awards, number and prestige of exhibitions they’ve shown in, how many and which galleries they are represented by, etc), the time it takes to make the work, the size of the art, the cost of materials that goes into making the work, and any additions such as framing/shipping/insurance. The rarity of the piece is also important. For example, an original painting where only one version exists and will ever be made will, of course, be more expensive than a photograph the artist offers many copies of. This is why prices of art work can vary greatly between artists and it can be difficult to compare them even if you’re looking at two same-sized, realistic paintings of a beach landscape. One could be $500 and one could be $5,000. It’s up to you to decide what you love and feel comfortable spending.
Please don’t let this overwhelm you as a new collector or make you think that you’re limited to finding decor for your walls from big box stores. You can find incredible artwork at any price point and the vast majority of artists and galleries out there are honest, hardworking creatives simply working to make a living out of a true passion. They’re really not trying to scam you for a quick buck.
(Original abstract painting by Nicolle Cure)
Q: Are there certain types of materials I should be looking for that will last longer than others?
A: Seek out archival materials.
Artists nowadays are very attuned to the longevity of their work. They know it’s in their best interest to work with quality materials to offer professionally crafted art to their clients as well as to ensure their pieces will stand the test of time. Most paintings are made to last a lifetime, any yellowing or cracking of the surface that you may have noticed in artworks at museums happens over hundreds of years. If you do end up purchasing antique paintings, you may have to consider hiring an art restorer at some point, but contemporary paintings should last a lifetime. You shouldn’t need to worry about looking for conservation or restoration services as long as you don’t place them in direct sunlight or in a location where they will be exposed to a lot of dust or dirt. It’s normal to have a little bit of dust on artwork that hasn’t been moved in some time, just carefully brush it off without getting anything wet. One thing you can seek out is thicker canvases since they are generally more durable and show that the artist has invested in a quality, sturdy surface. It can also save you money on framing since these often look fine on their own.
Works on paper like prints, collages, drawings, watercolors, and photographs do require a bit more effort to keep them safe. You’ll definitely want to frame them to protect the surface and look for both art and framing materials (e.g. mats, which are what you put around the border of the artwork to give it space between the art and the frame) that are archival. You should be able to ask any artist or gallery if the materials are archival. When framing, ask for museum glass to help avoid damage but it is still always best to not hang these works in a place where direct sun would hit it as the colors can fade.
Q: Should I consider where or how something would be stored?
A: Yes, plan storage in advance.
If you’re going to take the work down and put it into storage for whatever reason, yes, bear in mind that extreme temperatures and/or exposure to sunlight can affect your artwork and alter the materials it was created with. Try to find a stable temperature room and wrap your art in at least a layer of glassine and possibly also bubble wrap or with a piece of cardboard/archival matboard on the front depending on how long it will be put away for. You may also consider wrapping the corners with cardboard for additional security.
(Original botanical painting by Manty Dey)
Q: How would I clean a painting or sculpture to make sure it lasts long enough to be passed down?A: Ask the artist!
They know best how to handle and take care of the materials they’ve used in their work and can give the most accurate advice. Plus, they’re more than happy to speak with clients and help them care for their art.
Q: How can I shop for art online?
A: Start locally and/or use social media as a research tool.
While there are large art marketplaces online that can offer an amazing variety to choose from, a simple search for “abstract painting” often yields 10,000+ options. Who has the time to sort through that many? I’d suggest looking for galleries in your area, so Google search for “your city + art gallery”. This is a bonus because you can also potentially go see the art in person before confirming a purchase, not to mention, you’re supporting a local small business and perhaps a local artist too!
If you’re in a remote area, however, or simply prefer shopping online, you can also use social media as a great tool for finding art. Browse art hashtags on Instagram or search for contemporary art on Pinterest. This will very likely connect you to artists who you can purchase from directly on their website or by reaching out to them.
Finally, there are also many galleries that exist solely online, like PxP Contemporary. If you’re looking for a curated selection of art between $40-$2,500, we’re a great place to start! We offer affordable original paintings, sculptures, collages, prints, and more. I hope you’ll take a peek around our site. Our motto is “art you can afford to love” for a reason ;)
I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful. If you have any further questions about art collecting, please feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.