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What to Know When Shopping for Art

Shopping for art is a fun and enriching experience. Galleries, art shows and on line resources provide access to every kind of art. But before you embark on your journey to find those perfect pieces, it is best to begin by assessing your art collecting goals.

Defining your shopping criteria - style preferences, budget constraints, size limitations, etc. - is the first step and will eliminate many hours of unproductive time and energy. When you see something you like, you will have the confidence to make the decision, and it will feel good, - the best reason to buy art.

Once you have determined your own specific needs and wants, the next step is to become familiar with the many mediums available. The medium used by an artist, as well as the surface, impacts the price and value and will affect your decision and search process.

With contemporary art, there are many new mediums to consider, and many new debates on what is real art and what isn’t. When photography was originally introduced as an art form, it was heavily debated, and also rejected. This is true when any new medium is introduced. Photography is now considered fine art and new ways to manipulate photography are being developed regularly as technology continually develops.

The original and more traditional mediums – oil, acrylic, encaustic, tempura, watercolor, pen and ink, pastel, etc. – are generally easier to assess and understand for most collectors. Two and three dimensional work, high tech mediums as well as mixed media and collage, can be more challenging and confusing. When you see a work of art that you like and the medium is not familiar to you, it is helpful to hear or read the artist's own words in explaining how they use their process to create the work. The information is often very insightful and inspiring.

When considering an artist, if the name is recognizable, most collectors will feel a purchase is safe because many others have invested in the work. But understanding the artist's career process is also helpful when buying. Once an artist has built a collector base, has a following, and has been publicly recognized, the value of the work naturally increases. At this stage the artist is considered a mid-career artist. New and emerging artists will be more affordable than the mid-career or established artists, but it is not always the best measure to determine whether to buy. When in doubt, buy what you love.

Negotiating a Sale - Every artist wants to sell their work. Once an artist has established a price level, it is not in their best interest to negotiate down, which is something to keep in mind. If an artist’s work is higher than your budget allows, it is often better to seek out a similar artist who may be earlier in their career rather than try to get the work at a discount. Discounting fine art is not a recommended practice.

The price of original art is not always the best indicator of quality or potential value. Price can often be the result of marketing and promotion. If the price of an artists work is inflated too high too fast, the value will not likely sustain. It is advisable to obtain some sale history when possible, especially if it establishes a time line of value increases.

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