And let me assure you, buying original art doesn’t have to be all that complicated. You can go with your gut and buy something that moves you without any of the considerations I’m about to suggest. Still, here are some things you might want to think about as you look for art:
1. Think about size and location
You may want to begin your art-shopping process by knowing where you’d like to put the final artwork. For the most part, this is because you’ll want a piece that fits that space!
Accurate measurements of the space are vital. There’s nothing quite so disappointing as finding the perfect piece only to get it home and discover it’s too small or too large.
When you measure potential artwork “in the wild,” make sure to include the framing as part of your measurement if you plan to keep the frame. (If you want to have it re-framed, you’ll still need to know the dimensions of the artwork so you can get the appropriate framing.)
2. What’s the viewing space like?
In addition to the size of the artwork, consider the size of the viewing space.
Big pieces require a certain space for optimal enjoyment. Across a room, down a hallway, or along the ascent of a staircase, for example.
Even if you have a huge, blank wall in a small room, a large piece of work probably won’t be the best fit. You won’t be able to step far enough back to take in the piece as a whole. Nor would you want one small piece on that big wall in the small room.
Instead, consider this option: for large open walls in small rooms, why not display a grouping of smaller art?
3. Decide on a few potential subjects
Most people go into the art buying process by thinking first about the subjects they most enjoy. Whether that’s landscapes, westerns, or abstracts, they tend to make most selections from within that genre.
While you may be able to put any subject in any type of room at home, you may want to rethink that process if you’re looking for artwork for your office or place of business.
Most people who depend on selling for their living know all about target audience. Believe it or not, no matter what business you’re in, you have a target clientele, too. Unless you’re buying art for a private office, you may need to consider the tastes of your target clientele when you chose what to display. It makes no professional sense to choose art that is disagreeable to your clientele.
The type of business you’re in is also important. Western images are going to fit best in the décor of a tack shop for example.
While some professional venues have a wider latitude in this area—corporate offices for example, can include a wide range of subjects and styles—it is important to keep your business goals and clientele in mind if you’re chosing art for a smaller business or sole propriatorship.
4. Familiarize yourself with your framing options
When I was gallery director and helped artists prepare pieces for exhibit, it was customary to recommend they frame pieces with simple, standard frames. Why? Because many buyers wouldn’t necessarily want the frame, too!
In fact, some of them were prepared to dispose of the frame and have the piece re-framed to fit whatever room they had in mind for the art.
I’m including framing in this discussion to let you—the buyer—know that it’s perfectly acceptable to re-frame your art purchase. In other words, don’t automatically exclude a painting or drawing you absolutely love because you don’t like the frame. You can absolutely have the gallery re-frame it, or take it to a professional framer yourself.
5. Buy art to enjoy (not just as an investment)
During my gallery days, I was periodically asked what art was a good investment. The question always surprised me because that was never a consideration on my part, nor did it seem to matter to most patrons, collectors, or artists.
But there are also people who purchase two of each artwork they buy—one for themselves, and one to sell; a method that works especially well with reproductions.
The question of value is still asked today, and my answer is still pretty much the same: don’t buy art as an investment; buy art for enjoyment.
The art market is so changeable that it’s impossible to know which hot, new artist is going to be a good investment down the road, and which one is going to fizzle. Trying to guess which way the market will go is a good way to spend all your money and end up with a house full of paintings you may not even like!
The key problem with buying art as an investment is that any “sure” thing is going to cost you a lot right now. After all, the artist is already popular and established. Yes, their value may increase, but will it increase enough to make the purchase worthwhile?
My advice is simply to buy original art that you like, that checks all the other boxes I’ve mentioned in this article (and any other boxes you may come up with) and then just enjoy it! If it increases in value, great!
If not, you still have a piece you like and can enjoy.
6. Settle on a price range ahead of time
I put price last because for most of the people with whom I’ve worked, price hasn’t been a major consideration. Sure, no one wants to spend more than they have to (for anything!) but the people who purchased originals—especially big originals—already had an idea what they wanted to spend when they began the process and had the wherewithal to make it happen.
Having said that, I’ll also say that for most of those people, the artwork mattered more than the price did. So I add it here just to let you know I am aware that price can be a deciding factor. I just put it last because it’s not usually a deal breaker if someone really falls in love with a piece.
So there are my 6 tips for buying art. . . I know there can be many other factors to consider when purchasing your first original (such as where you live, your lifestyle, and other details) that are specific to you. But the tips I’ve listed above are a good place to begin—for anybody—and hopefully will get you started on the path towards purchasing art you love!