What, if anything, should you know about original art before buying? The answer is, it depends. First of all, if you’re like most people these days, you’re a busy person. Very busy. You don’t have time to take courses in art history to become an art expert before buying a piece of art. And even if you had the time, let’s face it. You wouldn’t spend what little spare time you do have in a classroom learning about the Great Masters, at least not unless you intend to purchase the work of the Great Masters. However personally enriching it may be to learn about art through the ages, it isn’t particularly helpful when considering a purchase in today’s art market. So, what is helpful to know before buying art?
If you’re considering purchasing original art for the first time and don’t know where to start, the best place to begin is by going to local galleries and museums. Although the artwork in museums is not for sale and the prices in local galleries are prohibitive, your first glance at the world of art is mostly for information gathering purposes. Check out the work that’s in circulation now. Notice what you like about it and what you don’t. Ask questions about the work (make the gallery owners earn their hefty commissions). Notice the medium, the subject matter, the use of color and light. Do you like realistic art or do you like abstract art? Or something along the spectrum of these two extremes? Do you like narrative art, or art that simply is what it is? Creating art is about exploration, so why not let buying art be about exploration, too?
The internet is a great source for previewing art. There is a vast (and I mean VAST) amount of artwork out there in the ethers. Since most artists have websites (myself included), this is the perfect way to get an idea of the full spectrum of a particular artist’s body of work. If you’re like me and a little hesitant to buy major art online, you can request more detailed photos of the work or you can always request to view the artwork in person before buying. Most artists would be glad to arrange special viewing appointments for interested potential buyers.
If the thrill of collecting art appeals to you, the internet is the perfect place for you. A rich source of material for the would-be art collector, there is a multitude of articles and blogs to check out. Here are a couple links to get you started:
Whether you’re into collecting art or you’re a casual art buyer, by far, the best way to learn about art is from the artist him/herself. If you have the opportunity to visit an artist in their studio (as you would during Silicon Valley Open Studios), you’re in for a unique experience. Here you’ll learn about the artist’s process, the details about how they work, from the practical aspects to the more lofty ones. Most artists are more than happy to discuss their process for creating artwork, from conception to completion, especially with a potential buyer. You’ll get a real nuts and bolts look at how they do what they do. Here’s your opportunity to interview the artist and ask them questions such as, who and what are their influences? When did they first start creating art? What’s their favorite part of creating artwork? Least favorite? (Mine is cleaning up afterwards or worse, in the middle of it because I’m just that messy). Visiting an artist’s studio will change how you look at art, as it goes from being the removed experience of viewing art by an unknown artist in a gallery to an up close and personal look at how the artist works.
The experience of buying and owning art is much like reading a good book or watching a great film; an indelible experience that becomes part of who you are. People who own original art may give you many reasons for doing so, but what I’ve come to realize is that often people buy a piece of art because there’s something about it that speaks personally and directly to them. Before they purchase a particular piece of art, they may already have in mind the perfect place to display it, or they may have a preconceived idea of its shape, size or color. What they don’t have until they see it, is a connection with the artwork itself. There’s something in the expressive nature of that piece of art that speaks to the buyer unlike anything else.