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#ADULTING: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO BUYING ART

WHEN YOU HAVE CHAMPAGNE TASTE ON A BEER BUDGET
By 01.13.17. 5 Comments

Let us first make it clear that we are by no means experts in buying or collecting art. Quite the opposite, actually. But in this process of life we like to call “adulting,” we’ve come to the realization that maybe it’s time to replace the cork board in our apartment filled with pictures from college and our blown-up, framed Instagrams (not that we don’t cherish them), with some actual art. But what kind of art do we even like? Can we even afford to buy real art? And how does one actually go about buying art? These questions may sound simple, but when we’re spending our money on something so “adult,” we want to make the right decisions. If you find yourself asking similar questions, read on.

During our recent trip to Art Basel Miami Beach (read more on that here), we picked up this book by art collector Erling Kagge, which has helped us come up with a rough “to-do list” if you will, on how we might go about discovering, deciding, and finally pulling the trigger on purchasing art.

Beautiful interior decor of RL Chicago restaurant.

Art covers the wall of restaurant RL Chicago.

Contemporary art covers the wall at Nico Osteria in Chicago.

Contemporary art displayed in restaurant Nico Osteria in Chicago.

LEARN WHAT YOU LIKE

It makes sense to learn what styles of art you like before rushing into a purchase. Traveling is a great opportunity to learn about art and culture.  Visit galleries, museums and public art displays when you travel and expose yourself to different types of art to figure out what you’re drawn to. 

BUT DON’T BE AFRAID OF ART YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND

Erling Kagge says in his book, A Poor Collector’s Guide to Buying Great Art, that buying only what you like is poor advice for a beginning art collector. (While there is a big difference between being an art collector and buying art for your personal enjoyment, we think this advice is true for buyers, too.) “Great art is often startling, uncomfortable, complicated,” Kagge says. Don’t try to understand every meaning and complexity behind a piece you’re drawn to. And we agree; sometimes we look at a piece and think, WT actual F? But just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean you can’t like it. Some art might be impossible to understand. We will say, though, if we are going to drop $$$ on something that we are going to put in our home, we want to be okay with looking at it everyday. Take Tony Matelli’s popular Sleepwalker statue, for example, that is now on display on The Highline in NYC. It might be very popular with tourists, with hundreds of people posing for selfies with it everyday. But we would never want him in our home. Like, ever. But maybe that’s just us.

START SMALL

Just because you have a small budget doesn’t mean you can’t find good art you can afford. Drop into local galleries in your neighborhood and start paying attention to different artists and exhibits on display. Get to know the gallerists. Talk to them about what you like and your price range, and listen to their perspectives. 

NOTICE ART IN OTHER PLACES

Like hotels, restaurants, public parks and the homes of your friends. If you notice, art is all around you. We love the minimalistic art in the guest rooms of Public Chicago, for example. It’s interesting how well it works with the design of the hotel. On a different spectrum, we love the way multiple ornate pieces are grouped together on the wall of RL Chicago, Ralph Lauren’s restaurant off of Michigan Avenue. Notice how your friends and the places you frequent display art, but don’t be tempted to jump on a bandwagon. The art you own will be more meaningful if it is personal to you.

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS ON HOW TO START AN ART COLLECTION? DO SHARE!

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Karen Brooks McWhorter says:

    1. I would suggest keeping an eye on auctions, both the major houses and smaller ones. Bidding online is easy these days and you can often get steals off the auction block. This takes a bit of research and prep, but it’s incredibly exciting to be a part of the bidding process. (Just pay attention to the buyer’s premium and factor that in to what you’re willing to pay.) 2. Check out estate sales and second-hand stores – there could be an Antiques Roadshow-worthy peice waiting for you there! 3. Visit college student art shows = up-and-coming artists and affordable prices! 4. If you find a contemporary work of art your are interested in, but it’s too large/too small/too expensive, seek out out the artist or their representative directly to ask about a commission that suits your taste and budget. 5. Follow artists you like on social media – you might be surprised that some offer flash sales via Instagram of Facebook. 6. Start with works on paper. Yes, they’re more delicate, but almost always more affordable. 7. Framing/presentation is everything.

  • Amy Tran says:

    What excellent advice on buying art as a beginner! If you’re planning to invest your money on artworks, you also have to first think about what kind of art buyer you want to be before purchasing your first artwork. The three types of art buyers are a dealer, collector, and investor. The different types of art buyers vary in the way they acquire and sell their artworks. The outcome that the art buyers seek also differs. That’s why having a clear goal before you start to splurge your money on art is a must. Anyway, whatever type of art buyer you want to be, the most important thing is to appreciate the artwork you’re going to buy.

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