Do’s and Don’ts of Buying Artwork - dummies

Do’s and Don’ts of Buying Artwork

By Katharine Kaye McMillan, Patricia Hart McMillan

When it comes to buying art, there is one main rule: Buy what you love and can afford regardless of the type of art. Don’t hesitate to hang different types of art together. The only time you shouldn’t mix fine, decorative, and fun art is when it doesn’t look good together.

Following are some tried-and-true tips for selecting art:

  • Buy art that speaks to you: Well, not literally, but something that makes you laugh, sing, feel nostalgic, or jump for joy.

  • Don’t use art that bores you: Art should evoke a mood, but boredom isn’t the one you want!

  • Don’t pit your art against your furniture: Don’t hang fabulous artwork over furniture if the art fights it. A great piece of art and your sofa both deserve the right setting.

  • Do buy artwork that you enjoy looking at, that boasts colors that look smashing with your furnishings, and that grabs your attention each time you see it: With so much art available, all it takes is a little looking around to find the right piece. So, what’s the rush?

Art is anywhere and everywhere. For best results, bring along snapshots or sample boards and floor plans to help you decide whether a particular piece of artwork fits in with your room. And don’t be afraid to let gallery owners, artists, and others know you’re looking for art that works well with your room — they just might have the perfect piece in the storeroom.

Buy fine art from a reputable dealer who knows the artist whose work he represents and who sells pieces at fair prices. Visit galleries. Ask questions. If you’re not sure about which gallery to deal with, talk with museum curators and art professors and ask them to recommend galleries. Read art journals and magazines to find the names of excellent galleries, the names of the artists they represent, and the value of these artists’ works. Visit artists’ studios when you have an opportunity. Talk with artists at openings. Check their biographies, which tell the names of celebrity clients, museums where their work is hung, awards won, and so on.

In addition to galleries, artists’ studios, and designer showrooms, retail art shops and furniture stores are the easiest places to find decorative art. You can sometimes find pieces in consignment shops, flea markets, and antique shops, and at auctions and estate sales. Personally, we’ve found some of our favorite pieces at thrift shops. As for knowing whether you’re paying the right price for a particular piece, you have to be the judge. Don’t forget your area’s colleges, where students and teachers may sell their art.

Not every piece by a great artist is great art. You may like a lesser, purely decorative piece and get a kick out of owning something by a big-name artist!