Yes, there certainly are more anxiety inducing topics than how to find and buy original art, but when staring down an expanse of blank wall it may not seem that way. So here we go, first you contact your closest Sotheby’s Auction House, or Christie’s if you’d prefer. Second…I’m kidding, but I know it seems exactly that intimidating to many people. The investment, the fear that you don’t know what you’re doing, the fear that the people at the gallery will think you don’t know what you’re doing; any one of these things on their own would be enough to stop most people dead in their art buying tracks. I get it, it’s overwhelming, but there are very few things in life that make me happier than falling in love with and buying a piece of original art. It’s my hope that after reading this you’ll be well on your way to feeling the same.
Oh, you haven’t received a large inheritance from a distant great aunt which stipulated it be used in service of expanding the family art dynasty? Me neither! Guess what? You can still afford some pretty great art. If it’s the investment that’s holding you back, there are plenty of ways to start amassing your collection without amassing a lot of debt. Let’s start with student art shows. Your local college of art and design or fine arts programs are both great places to look for a fantastic piece of reasonably priced original art. Most have shows once or twice a year with the artists receiving the proceeds. Beautiful art, great prices, and you never know whose career you might be helping to launch. In addition to student art shows, check out community art shows, estate and garage sales, and online sources like Artfinder and Minted. One of my favorite things to do is buy art when vacationing. A few years ago, I bought two small numbered prints from a tiny shop in Venice, Italy. They were very inexpensive, allowing for a little extra to be spent on quality framing, but in terms of fond memories they are priceless.
Maybe you’re ready to make a more substantial investment in a piece of original art but you don’t know where to start. Do a bit of research on galleries in your area, check out their websites and Instagram pages. Most gallery websites will list the artists they represent along with examples of their work, any new arrivals or upcoming shows will also be noted there. It’s a great way to find out what you can expect to see if you visit. And it saves you the leg work of ending up at a place that specializes in avant-garde images of ducks in bonnets. Get familiar with the artists working in your area. If you see an artist whose work you like, check out their personal website and Instagram page. I love following artists on Instagram because you get a real glimpse into their creative process, sneak peeks at works in progress, and it’s usually where they first post newly completed work.
If the thought of walking into a gallery on a regular day leaves you feeling too conspicuous, it might help to participate in an event where you can blend in with the masses. Many cities host art walks where, over the course of a weekend, galleries and art studios open their doors to welcome new comers and enthusiasts alike. There are speakers, refreshments, and maps indicating the location of each gallery participating. You’ll get an idea of the type of art each carries, their price point, and their vibe. Were they welcoming? Informative? Happy to answer your questions? If not, move along, you’ll find a gallery you love that loves you back.
Ok, you’ve decided what you’re comfortable spending, you’ve found a gallery you like, but when it comes time to pull the trigger on a piece of art how will you know it’s right? I know we’re going to be fighting after I tell you this, but it’s true: when you see it, you’ll know it. Found yourself standing in front of a piece of contemporary art, smitten, 15 minutes after swearing that no canvas of splatters or drips would ever cross your threshold? Don’t fight it, that’s the magic of art. It can’t be rationalized. Art is subjective, art is personal, the art you buy should be bought because it resonates with you in some way. Don’t worry about the subject not being high brow enough or making sense to anyone but you, and don’t worry if you can’t fully articulate what it is you love. Everyone has an opinion when it comes to art, some more educated that others, and if you’re looking for a serious investment or an up and coming artist you may want to get some professional advice. Otherwise, buy what you love and you will never go wrong.
I hope I have done my job and put you slightly more at ease when contemplating a foray into the art world. In a last attempt to reiterate the importance of buying what you love, I offer you this example of every art lovers wildest dream. In 2013, Banksy secretly set up a stand selling original, signed pieces of spray art in Central Park. Because of their willingness to buy what they loved when they saw it, a few lucky people paid $60 and walked away with priceless works of art which later sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars when they realised what they had. Those people listened to their gut and didn’t care that they were buying what appeared to be cheap art from an old guy at a temporary stall.