Top 10 Tips

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Top Ten Tips on Buying Art

For those who are considering a purchase however large or small of a work of art, here are our top ten tips on buying art. What to look for when buying a contemporary painting, photograph or sculpture. What to avoid when buying contemporary art. This advice is aimed at individuals buying art for their home, not art galleries and museums making acquisitions where so many other factors are considered. It is particularly tailored for emerging artists, though much of what is said below would constitute good tips on buying art generally

  1. Buy art you love Above all else, buying a work of art requires you to fall in love with something. Cruise the galleries or art fairs and wait for something to “sing to you,” ideally to the point that you can’t go home without it. Investment considerations must be secondary to whether or not you just love the painting, photograph or sculpture. Something may be very important, well produced, or, indeed, simply “outstanding,” but do you want to sit and look at it?
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  3. Go to art fairs. By all means surf the net to get a good idea of what’s out there, and what prices are like, but nothing compares to seeing an artwork in the flesh.  Obviously galleries are worth visiting, particularly if you find one you love, but increasingly art fairs are taking over. Art Fairs are a great way to see hundreds if not thousands, of pieces of art in one place, in a short period of time, and to get a good overview.
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  5. Buy original art work. When buying a painting, if you can afford a “big name” then that is great, but if you can’t, then what is the point in buying an overpriced print of that work. Find out how many editions are in a print run. The larger they are the lower should be the price. At some point, you end up doing little more than buying a poster of the Mona Lisa.
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  7. Is “name” important in buying art? Yes, if you are spending above $20, 000 then you should be buying a work by a well-known artist. However, point one above is the most important – buy art you love. Many of the artists who are considered important today, and who command excessive prices, may well not survive the judgement of posterity. There is a very good short story by Edith Wharton on this point. Just because an inner sanctum in the art world decides a pile of rags is the hottest thing, it may be just a pile of rags 100 years from now. No one’s judgement is better than yours.
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  9. Buy Photographs which are fine art, well printed in limited editions. With photographs, it is vital to establish what the number in an edition is.   Limited editions of five (with one artists’ proof) are in our opinion ideal. Certainly, avoid a photograph that is one of an edition above twenty five. At the same time, have an eye on how much an art work costs to be produced. If you are buying a fine art photograph it should not in our opinion be an ink jet print. The quality of the print and the paper used are vital components in the purchase of fine art photography.
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  11. Buy art for your home. If you buy a masterpiece, be prepared to redecorate. Otherwise, consider carefully, where and how you would display the piece of art you buy. Lighting is vital. When viewing an artwork at an art fair or gallery, it is well worth considering what better lighting can do for art. This is especially true of sculpture, but it is frankly a good tip for buying any art form.
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  13. Make sure an art work is authentic. Make sure the work is signed, or has an “Artist’s Label” that is signed. If you are spending more than $1000, then it is wise to buy from a reputable dealer, who can discuss provenance, and who knows the artist personally. Ask the dealer questions about the artist.
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  15. Consider protecting your art. Avoid purchasing art from or hanging art in a smoky room. Beware similarly of moisture/steam/humidity, and also heat and direct sunlight.  Never hang art inn direct sunlight. Consider protecting with glass or plexiglass  (particularly photographs). Obviously, review your insurance if necessary.
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  17. Reframe an artwork, if you want to. Old masters have enormous value in the frame, but something recently produced it is less likely to have an importance in the frame (with rare exceptions).  When looking at a piece think, how a new frame might make it work better, better that is for you. Again, you are the person who matters when buying art.
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  19. Buy more if you like an artist’s work. Keep in touch with your dealer, and consider new work by an artist you like. Don’t be afraid to ask a dealer for advice, if you like a particular style or theme, but remember, don’t buy anything you don’t really want.