Shopping for Art and Don’t Know Where to Start? Just Answer these 3 Questions!

By Carrie Lewis in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

The time has come—you’re about to buy some gorgeous art to decorate your home or office. Problem is, you’re not sure exactly where to start.

Sure, you know the type of art you like, when you see it. . . but is that enough??

Honestly, that’s not a bad place to begin. However, there are three factors you’ll want to consider before you start shopping around:

Shop for art

1. Will you buy original art or a reproduction?

Most people won’t be able to tell the difference between a well-done reproduction and an original work of art. Originals in almost any medium can be professionally reproduced on the same paper or canvas on which the original was created.

Even the texture of an original can now be recreated to such a degree that there are very few visible differences between an original and a reproduction.

But—your pocket book will know the difference. Most reproductions are less expensive than the originals from which they were made. There’s only ever one original, so it’ll be expensive; especially if the artist is popular.

Reproductions are available in multiples. More people can purchase the same image, so the cost per each will be lower.

Yet there are also a few different kinds of reproductions, which have varying costs:

Limited edition reproductions are available in limited quantities, often 500 or less. More exclusive reproductions may be limited to only ten or twenty. The fewer there are, the more expensive they’ll be.

Some limited editions even have the potential for investment pieces. Once the full run is sold out, prices can rise on the secondary market. The more popular the artist, the better the chances there are of a reproduction gaining value.

You can spot a limited edition reproduction by looking for two numbers, usually marked somewhere in the margin, like this: 75/150

The first number signifies that the reproduction is the 75th one that was created. The second number denotes the total number of reproductions available.

So if you purchase a reproduction marked 75/150, that means you have the 75th reproduction in a run of 150.

Artists generally sign the reproductions as well as the original, so top quality reproductions have two signatures by the artist. This may also add to the value of a limited edition reproduction.

Open edition reproductions look just like limited edition reproductions, but the quantity isn’t limited. This generally leads to more reproductions on the market, so the price per reproduction goes down.

Like their upscale cousins, open edition reproductions can be numbered and signed by the artist, but it’s not very likely these days.


Because many open edition reproductions are now published by online print-on-demand companies. This means that the artist generally won’t see or handle the reproductions, so they won’t be numbered or signed.

Last but not least, there are enhanced reproductions. These are standard reproductions that have been “enhanced” by having additional marks or accents painted on top of them.

Enhanced reproductions usually—but not always—are even more limited in quantity than limited edition reproductions. This generally makes the cost higher per print, yet still less than the original.

2. Will you buy directly from the artist or from a gallery?

Galleries are often the first—and only place—buyers new to the art world go, and for good reason. Even if a gallery specializes in a particular genre of art, they’ll have work by many different artists, in different mediums, and different styles within that genre. Anyone looking for art in that genre can be certain to find something appealing.

But in many cases, you can also buy directly from the artist. A lot of artists these days have websites and most of them can handle sales through their websites.

If you want to see the art in person before buying, it may be possible to visit the artist at their studio or at a show. One great way to meet the artist, see their work, and maybe get a better deal is an open studio event when an artist opens their studio to the public for a day or a weekend.

So if you have a favorite artist within driving distance, contact them and see what can be arranged.

Will you buy “off the shelf” or commission a piece?

When most people think of buying art, they think of going to a gallery or studio and buying something already finished, framed, and ready to hang. And there’s a good reason for that! It’s finished, ready-to-go, and you can imagine how it will look in your space.

But that’s not your only option.

You can also commission an artist to create something especially for you; something designed both by you and the artist to fit perfectly into your home or office décor.

I spent over forty years painting portraits of horses. My subjects included 4-H horses and million-dollar earning racehorses. Every client thought their horse was unique and special, and they all wanted a special and unique portrait to celebrate an accomplishment or remember the animal.

Portraits of dogs, cats, and all kinds of animals are available if that’s what you want to do.

But you don’t have to limit yourself to animal portraits, or to human portraits for that matter. Believe it or not, it’s possible to commission an artist to paint a portrait of your house and property, a landscape or location portrait that has special significance, or even create a painting to fit whatever space you have available. The options are unlimited if you go this route.

Not all artists are willing to do commission work, and you may have to pay more for this type of original art. But you will also have a one-of-a-kind, personally designed piece of art.

And that’s all you really need to decide before you go shopping for art! Once you’ve settled those three questions, get out there (or get online!) and find that perfect piece for you!


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