How To Start Buying Art

I’ve read numerous articles recently on how to start collecting art. This is all very helpful but most of these articles advise on setting a theme, working out your strategy and planning an annual budget. What if you just want a great artwork to go in your home?

Once you’ve got a few pieces, then maybe you’ll be ready to start focusing on buying more and calling it a collection, but if you’re starting at the very beginning – the first thing to do is decide what type of art you like. Contemporary or traditional?  Neutral or colourful? Calm or provocative?

Do you want artwork to make a statement in your home, or is it just there to quietly fill a wall space? Should it be a talking point or an expression of your style? One thing I would advise against is buying art simply to match your interior. Buy art that you connect with, that makes a difference to your life, to your children’s lives. You can have a colour scheme in mind but don’t be led by that. Let art be more than just an interiors tool.

Decisions, decisions… You need to cast your eye out there and see a lot of art in order to work out what you like – and just as importantly, what you don’t like. Have a think about what you’ve seen in friends’ houses or in magazines.

There are a couple of online questionnaires I have found that are useful in helping define the type of art you are drawn to. I did the one on Rise Art and all the works shown in this post are from the selection they gave me (click on the images for full details). Its very simple to do, just select your favourite image from a selection shown and they’ll give you an idea of the types of art you like the most.

I like bold art. Particularly art that draws me in and gives me something to think about. I like the B&W photograph below as it tells part of a story and leaves me to work out the rest. It reminds me of a derelict house that fascinated me as a child and makes me wonder about its past, who lived there, what happened to them. I like its aesthetic too. I’d have it framed in a soft grey frame to give it a modern feel. B&W photography has a certain nostalgia that sits well against a bright contemporary piece like the panda (which I like for no hugely intellectual reason other than its bright and uplifting, plus I like pandas… Art can be simple like that!).

The Not Sure What painting has an urban edge to it. I like the large format, the colours, the textured surface and the way the text is pushing its way out of the canvas. It has a tension and captures a certain mood.

If you do decide to go down the collecting route, you will probably find that your taste in art changes over time as you develop your eye and way of looking at and appreciating art. We have a couple of pieces in the spare room at home that I’ve fallen out of love with, but the majority have stories and memories attached to them.

I love this sugar-sweet Neon heart balloon too. It has a pop art element going on, but it’s mainly decorative and brings to mind memories of my daughter when she was younger. It would look amazing on a dark grey wall. Whereas the little surreal photographic portrait with a crochet mask is a bit more challenging. It’s a found photo that the artist has repurposed, playing with the idea that a discarded image can be reignited in today’s world.

On a practical level you’ll need to work out the size of art that you want. If you have a large wall space you may want one large hero piece, or alternatively a few smaller pieces to make a gallery wall. It depends on the impact you’re after. Once you get started, you may find yourself buying art because you like it, and then figuring out where to put it afterwards (running out of wall space is a common problem for many collectors!).

Budget is obviously a major consideration. £500 and under will get you a decent print or work on paper. A large painting on canvas is likely to be £1,000 plus (remember too that negotiation is common practice when buying art).

Don’t forget to budget in for framing if its not already framed. Good framing doesn’t come cheap. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for and cheap frames can dilute the overall impact of a piece. Expect to pay £200 upwards for a frame – and make sure your framer uses museum grade materials that won’t cause your artwork to deteriorate over time.

Artwork is priced according to the artist’s experience, exposure and credibility in the market. Most big established artists (Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst etc) will produce limited edition prints which are far more affordable than their unique works. An art print is an artwork that has been designed specifically to be reproduced (limited edition just means how many the artist has agreed to make). Most are screen prints, but there are also lithographic prints, etchings, woodcuts etc… click here for more info on limited edition prints.

The Flower Ball shown above is by renowned Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, whose paintings sell for millions. The edition shown is £1,650 and is likely to not only retain its value (so you’d get your money back if you sold it), but also appreciate in value over a period of time (another good reason to make sure art is framed properly, so its well protected). Buying art for investment purposes is to be avoided, but if you are set on making sure you at least get your money back should you need to sell, then my advice is to stick to the large, established artists and do your research (I can give you more pointers if you send me a message).

There are various schemes available to help you get art on your walls for minimum cost – Rise Art does a monthly hire scheme and the Arts Council has a brilliant interest free initiative called Own Art. They work with 250 galleries and offer a 10 or 20 month repayment period (from £100 to £25,000).

So you know roughly what size artwork you are after, the type of artwork and you have a rough budget in mind. Where next? You can buy art online, in shops, galleries, museums, art fairs and directly from artists. The range is HUGE.

Want more inspiration? There is advice here on visiting an art fair, or if you’re keen to learn more and need some help, drop me a line. Also check out my 4×4 Interviews for stories about buying and living with art.

PS. Thank you to Rise Art and their artists for letting me feature their works!


    1. katejones1

      🙂 thank you, there are some really lovely places to buy art, that make it an enjoyable experience. I’ll be featuring them in the next post! Everyone should have art in their lives, makes it so much more interesting x


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