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  • DW Johnson

Buying Art–Don’t Screw Up


Have you ever bought art? Of course, you have. We all have. Even if it’s a movie poster, it’s still art.


But let’s dig a little deeper into buying art--what pompous artists would call “real art,” that which you would buy in a gallery setting or from a reputable online art dealer.


How do you prepare for what can be a monumental task? Monumental? It’s art. Well, do you want 2D or 3D? Contemporary or Baroque? Abstract or Post-Impressionism or Op-Art? And a host of over 100 other criteria.


You see with so many choices it’s easy to screw up. And in the art world screwing up can cost you a great deal of money.


The topic of buying art could fill a volume or two. But with this blog I hope to put you on the correct path, so you don’t screw up.


Step One is to decide whether you are buying art for yourself to enjoy or as an investment. You can do both with the same piece. But if you’re buying to enjoy art and not looking for an end payout, you need a different mindset.


Step Two Ok, you decided to buy art you like with the possibility of its increasing in value. Now is the time to look at art. Look at a lot of art. Look online, go to the gallery, go to the museum and art fairs. Go everywhere to see as much art as possible. Your goal here is to narrow down the type of art you like. Ignore people who try to tell you what to think. You’re the one who’s going to have to live with the work, so form your own opinions about what you like.


Step Three Now you decided you like contemporary artists and you’re fond of landscapes. You have even picked out several artists you like. The third step is to find out how mature they are as artists. What that means is: Are they starting their career, or have they been doing the same work for decades? Look at a group of their pieces. Do they have consistency? Though each piece will be different, do they have a central theme? If they don’t, it could indicate an artist that has not matured in his/her work. If you’re investing money and wanting a return, then you want a mature artist. Ignore people who tell you someone is becoming “very collectible”.


Step Four Now we get to the cost. If the artist is represented by a gallery and you know this then it’s unethical to go behind the gallery’s back and buy from the artist (Online is the exception). Galleries will have a fixed price on artwork and almost never negotiate. But some of them do take payments. If there is no representation, then feel free to contact the artist for prices. Artists will often negotiate with you on price, but they rarely take payments. You can save considerable money if you buy pieces that are not framed. Most painters these days create work that does not have to be framed.


Being more specific on cost. As of this post (December 1st, 2019) 2D art will run you anywhere from $.20-1.00 per square inch, depending on the artist’s renown. So, for a medium size painting of 20x30 you would pay between $120-600. Again, it depends on a few factors--the artist’s fame, the materials in the piece and what it’s painted on. This is only a general guideline.


Think about each step before you spend any money. It will help you avoid the “I honestly thought this six foot bright orange painting that cost $7000 would look good in the bedroom.”


I’d love to hear about your art buying experience. dwjartist@gmail.com

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