The art world can seem daunting but don’t be intimidated: everyone can enjoy owning art no matter their budget, says Dina Shoukry
The art world may seem to be reserved for those with deep pockets to spend on artworks by big names, but leading experts disagree and have shared their top tips on how best to start an art collection. The first and overriding piece of advice is to buy what you love. The experts are unanimous on this; you must make a connection. “Collect art from the heart,” says Ali Pettit, owner of Northcote Gallery. “Every day you will experience an emotional connection and be moved by an artwork chosen from the heart.” “The worst mistake you can make is choosing something based upon what you perceive to be its value,” adds Jennifer Conner, regional managing director of the Affordable Art Fair UK, and art advisor at her own gallery, After Nyne Contemporary. Ask yourself, will you still love or be intrigued by the piece years from now. “Always buy the picture that you keep being drawn back to,” says Johny Midnight, artist and owner of Gallery Midnight. “Don’t try to tick every box. Sometimes the painting you don’t quite understand is the one you should have, as you will always be looking at it trying to work it out, so the painting will have longevity.” Longevity is key says Elizabeth Cranwell- Ward, owner of Webbs Fine Art Gallery. “Buy art that you will still love in ten years’ time and that future generations of your family can enjoy too. Don’t base your decision on a current fad.”
EDUCATE YOURSELF It can be difficult to know where to start, so do your research and get a feeling for what you love. “The best way to educate yourself is to go and visit galleries and museums,” says artist, Anna Proctor. “The Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy has an amazing selection of work every year. Also, keep your eyes peeled for new exhibits at local galleries.” Instagram is also a good way to get to know an artist and their style. “Learn more about an artist online or pick the brains of the gallerists that represent them,” enthuses Jennifer. “At Affordable Art Fair, we work with hundreds of galleries with a wealth of knowledge covering all aspects of contemporary art. If you can’t make it along to a fair, you can always connect with our team online.” “If you can, speak to artists directly,” adds Andrew Wenrick, artist and owner of The Last Supper. “Every artwork has a piece of the artist in it and every artist has a story. As an owner of art, you need to connect with that story and it’s always a great topic of conversation at dinner parties.” And don’t forget emerging artists. “Look at graduates, where they studied and their backgrounds,” suggests Elizabeth. Graduates from The Royal College of Art, Slade School of Fine Art, Camberwell College, Central Saint Martins and the Royal Academy Schools can become very successful within a few years. It’s wise to buy early before the price tags on their art rocket. For more established artists or for those no longer with us, make sure you get the right provenance, insists Elizabeth. That is proof that the artwork is real. A good art dealer will provide you with certification of authenticity, receipts and documents of proof.
KNOW YOUR BUDGET Buy within your means. Art should give you joy, not financial hardship! When considering a budget, set a figure you’d like to stay under, but know that if you fall for a piece you can’t live without, you may have to make an exception – just this once! Seek advice from knowledgeable friends or experts in the industry to help you understand why something is priced the way it is. “Don’t be seduced by a high price, says Carolyn Oliver, owner of Oliver Contemporary. “Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean that it’s good. Equally, just because an artist has a very good biography, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be out of your price range.” “If you are spending a lot of money on a piece, some artists will let you pay in instalments,” explains Anna. “When undertaking a commission, I will always ask for a deposit first, to buy materials but also as a commitment to the project.”
SHOW IT OFF Do your art justice and display it well. “Buy a painting for itself, don’t try and match it with your curtains or sofa – you will probably change your curtains at some point anyway! says Johny. “Interior design tastes may change over the years,” concurs Ali. “The presentation of many artworks may be adapted with a framing refresh, conserving the emotional resonance first felt for many years to come.” But the frame should help the painting show itself off, not overshadow it, warns Johny. “If you say, ‘ooh nice frame’ you may have chosen the wrong frame for the painting!” “Framing artwork, although not always necessary with work on canvas, really takes it to the next level and makes it feel complete,” says Anna. “I favour tray frames for my paintings, as they are abstract, and it feels nice and clean. Your framers will also be able to paint the frame in a colour from a paint company such as Little Greene or Farrow & Ball to really set the piece off.” When it comes to hanging art, it depends on the size and style of the piece. “If it is a large piece which you want to be a ‘hero’, above a mantelpiece or in a prominent place
Another way to finance your new purchase is to take an interest-free loan with ‘Own Art,’ a national initiative that makes buying contemporary art and craft affordable. If you have the budget for it, buy original art – it is more likely to go up in value (even though you shouldn’t buy art purely as an investment), but bear in mind that “limited edition prints are an affordable way to buy great artists too,” says Carolyn.
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In a kitchen, dining or living area is the obvious place to put it,” adds Anna. One of the common mistakes people make is hanging their art too high, says interior designer, Emma Green of Emma Green Design. “Make sure that the centre of the piece is at eye level.” Also, don’t be afraid to make your art the focal point or feature of your room. “I have designed entire spaces around art,” says Emma. “You can design your furniture layout, colours and lighting to draw the eye to a large piece of art or if you have lots of small drawings and prints, you can make a feature of them as a gallery wall or in an alcove.” Also, “any artwork in a transitional area such as a hallway or stairwell should be simpler as you will be passing through it relatively quickly rather than sitting down looking at it,” adds Anna. Finally, take your time. “Don’t rush. Learn more about what you love,” says Jennifer. If you get that right, then you are well on your way to having an art collection that inspires you every day.