Welcome to a lifelong love affair...
The art-world can often seem mystifying, slightly daunting and full of a cast of characters that are in turn both bizarre and terrifying. But that doesn’t have to be the case: trust us, this world is populated with so many amazing people — be they artists, curators, or gallerists — all involved with beautiful and inspiring projects. Let us give you the inside scoop on how to build your dream art-collection, with joy (!) and on a budget.
Do your research
This is so much fun! Start by visiting local museums and galleries. Remember, commercial galleries are open to the public, whether you are going in to buy or not. Smaller galleries often curate some of the best shows.
If you are feeling brave (and full of energy) visit an art fair. The atmosphere is great but it often costs a lot for a ticket, and it can definitely feel overwhelming for a first-time art buyer. I personally find there is simply too much to look at and my head starts to spin after a while.
Another mind-blowing experience is visiting a degree show at an art school. These are so much fun (if a little off-the-wall!). It can be so exciting to discover an artist you love at a degree show, just as their artistic career is taking off.
If you prefer to do your research with your feet up at home, the online art world is booming. Galleries like Subject Matter literally bring the art to your home: you send us a room shot, with dimensions, and we can advise what would work best in the space. Or if you already have an idea, we can “place” the piece there for you.
I personally could also spend hours browsing blogs such as The Jealous Curator, or platforms like Artsy and Artnet. Both platforms bring together hundreds of galleries from across the world, and also some fascinating articles about artists and the art world. They are also a great starting point to find out more about a particular artist you may have seen in a museum show, including which galleries sell their work and how much it would cost. It can often be less than you think!
Instagram is one of the best tools for quickly and easily bringing art into your daily life. Most galleries use the platform, so many artists post work on there, and there are some very cool accounts which genuinely stop you mid-scroll.
At this point, all you are really doing is developing your eye and your personal aesthetic: educating yourself for sure, but also working out what mediums you respond to, and often surprising yourself with your own taste. What speaks to you now might well not be what you expected at the start of this artistic journey.
Consider your space and your budget
This is the point where you start focusing in on what might work best in your home, and what you really want to spend money on. Is it one big piece, which will make a bold statement in your room, or smaller pieces that you can swap around as the mood takes you? Can you mix in some items that you already own — beautifully framed family photos possibly? It seems like every interiors blogger on Instagram has a gallery wall, and while they look beautiful, they do require a great deal of careful planning.
Don’t rule out sculpture too; art doesn’t have to be just for your walls. You can find some beautiful pieces which would work well on a coffee table or sideboard. These could be sculptures, but also painting and photographs which have been framed in a box frame.
Once you have decided where the artwork is going to go (tip: make sure it is somewhere you spend a lot of time, so you can really enjoy it), measure the space. If it is a large piece, do remember to measure the doorways and space up the stairs too — otherwise it might not fit!
This is also where you have to start considering budgets. Hopefully your previous research will have given you an idea of whether your favourite artist is out of reach or not but now is the time to get real with yourself. Remember, there is something incredibly exciting about buying an emerging artist, as their work is often much cheaper and you can genuinely watch them grow as an artist over the years. So don’t feel you only have to choose the “big name”.
Also try to seek out galleries that offer instalment schemes. We use Klarna, but some schemes are Government-backed, like Own Art in the UK, or run by the galleries themselves. Paying for your art on a month-by-month basis could make the difference between owning a work of art, or not.
Buy your artwork!
Most artists who sell their work are represented by a gallery, so that should be your first call. Galleries are incredibly knowledgeable about the artists they represent and should be able to answer any questions you might have about the artist and their work. You could visit the gallery in its physical or virtual space, or possibly at their booth at an art fair.
Don’t worry if it takes you several trips to finally decide — it’s a big decision! Step away (no matter how much you love the artist) if the gallery makes you feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. It is simply not acceptable.
Make sure at this point that you enquire about any additional charges, such as sales tax, shipping, or framing. They seem inconsequential but can really add up further along the road.
If you want to buy from a degree show, the process is completely different: the college will usually take the payment for you, before distributing it to the artist. You might also need to speed up the decision-making process, as you might only have 2–3 days while the show is on. That said, I can wholeheartedly encourage you to buy from a degree show. The work is rarely expensive, and it is so exciting to engage with an artist at that particular juncture in their life.
Show your art some love
You have just bought something beautiful, now cherish it and enjoy it. Invite your friends and family round, show it to them. Shout about this wonderful artist from the rooftops. You made the choice to buy something special and meaningful, rather than a piece of mass-produced canvas. You supported a great artist and your money has helped them in their career.
And the journey you are on does not stop here. Keep in touch with the career of your chosen artist. Follow them on Instagram! Attend talks and private views at the gallery you bought from.
Once art is a part of your life you will never want to let go, I promise.
There’s a reason why people call art-buying an addiction….