A Beginner’s Guide To Buying Art | sheerluxe.com

A Beginner’s Guide To Buying Art

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The contemporary art market is booming, with more and more new buyers investing in a slice of the art world for their abodes and starting up their own collections. If you’re thinking of having a foray into the art world yourself, but are unsure of where to start, what to look for and whether or not you’re being ripped off, take tips from Rise Art’s Rebecca Gordon.

As internal curator at the site – which aims to make contemporary art accessible to the masses – she knows a thing or two about finding investment pieces that are both aesthetically pleasing and a sound investment. Win-win. 

Buying Basics

Buying As An Investment
If you see a piece of art that you absolutely love and you want to buy it, then buy it. You don't need special credentials or a degree in Art History to start a collection; you just need the desire to collect and the means to do it. The first rule of thumb is to buy what you like, because you will be living with this work - it should intrigue, excite, challenge, and uplift you.

Be Prepared And Informed
Before you invest in some art, do some research: visit galleries and museums, read reviews, and train your eye. Know your taste and budget, and take your time – but not too much time! The wonderful thing about art is that much of it is one of a kind. Excluding prints and multiples, an artwork is a unique object – so if you hesitate for too long you may miss out on something you love.

In many cases, the price of an artwork is negotiable. Do your research and don’t be afraid to raise the topic of a better price. 

Know The Factors That Affect The Price Of Art
Pieces bought on the primary market (i.e. being sold by the first owner) tend to be less expensive than those bought on the secondary market (i.e. previously owned works being sold privately, through a gallery or at auction). Also be clear on how the rare the artwork is (is it one of a kind, or one of an edition of 100, for example?) as this can affect the price. Finally, be sure of the medium: in most cases a work on canvas is more valuable than one on paper - however this is not an absolute, rather it is contingent on the artist and the market for their work.

Be Sure About the Medium You Want 
Paintings have a tactile quality that sets them apart from other artwork and many are one-of-a kind so can bring a real sense of richness and personality to a home. Sculpture can often be harder to place in an environment than paintings; however that should not discourage those who are interested in collecting it as they can be real power pieces. Finally, prints are an exciting and affordable way to start out in collecting – just be sure to understand what the numbers in the corner of a print mean. The larger number indicates the total number of prints made in the edition, while the smaller number is where the piece falls within that edition.

Where to Find Art 

Traditional Galleries
The best way to train your eye – and it’s free! Take as many opportunities as you can to visit commercial galleries and see what is new and on view. 

Art Fairs 
Art fairs are a great hunting ground. Within them you are provided with a huge selection of curated artworks, all under one roof. 

Graduation Shows
Some of the most exciting locales to view contemporary art are at art school graduation exhibitions. Prices are reasonable, there is often an exceptional range of works on view, and you get to meet the artist whilst looking at their work. Bear in mind when investing, however, that the artist may change their style radically as he/she develops. 

Familiarising yourself with the auction house’s buyer’s commission is essential. Auction house pre-sale exhibitions have great displays of art and are also free, so plan a walk through the galleries each season and see what they have to offer.  

Online Galleries
Easy and not intimidating, an online gallery allows you to see a vast range of pieces in one place, from the comfort of home and with the aid of specialised filters.


Now that you’ve started your collection it’s time to think about framing so you can enhance and protect your artwork. It can be worth hiring a professional to do this for you, but regardless of whether you do or if you decide to have a go yourself there are some basic rules to follow.

Firstly use archival materials (i.e. older or antique frames) - they are worth the investment. Avoid Dry Mounting - a hinging technique works much better – and weigh up the pros and cons of glass vs. acrylic (often known as Plexiglas). Glass is cheaper, easier to clean, and more resistant to scratches, but is heavier and more breakable, while acrylic is a better thermal insulator, shatterproof and lighter but it can attract dust and cannot be cleaned with regular glass cleaners.

Here are four different styles of frame...

Window Mounting

One of the pricier options in the world of framing, but it pays off. It provides an elegant effect, especially with abstract and figurative works. If you are trying to fill a large space then this frame is for you. 

Box Frames 

Provide a significant amount of visual depth to an artwork. It will draw the eye of the viewer in, and finishes it off beautifully. 
Floating artworks in their frames is one of my favourite types of framing. It works well with pieces that are hand torn or have a textured edge so it remains visible to the eye. An acid-free tape will provide the support for this floating/rippling effect - but, beware, the artwork can slip down with age. 


Tray framing is a shallow box-like frame that often comes unglazed (without a glass or perspex cover). It is a contemporary style of framing a canvas, which reveals the sides of the artwork. The piece will sit slightly recessed below the front of the frame and creates a minimalist feel. 


When it comes to hanging, make sure you display art to its best advantage. For example, you should hang so the centre point of artwork is at eye level, use wire instead of string, or even D-rings and wire combined if the artwork is very heavy. Lighting is also so important. As a guideline, use a light source that is three times the intensity (brightness) of the ambient (room) lighting. This helps to accent your piece without the light appearing too dim or overwhelming. These are some hanging styles that work well…

The Stairwell 

The larger or focal pieces should follow your eye line as you climb or descend the stairs. Then work outwards, filling the space around them with smaller pictures. Try to get a broad range of different-sized frames to add plenty of interest. 

The Salon

Again the larger pieces are the focal point and all the other works should be mounted moving outwards away from the main piece. This is where you can really let loose with a mix of different artwork and frame styles. 

The Geometric

Aim for symmetry and precision. You should use the same size pictures, the same size frames, and measure the exact same distance between each work, as well as the top and bottom rows. This layout looks great hanging above a bed or sofa. 


Caring for Artwork 

Finally, to look after your investment you should be careful about exposing it to too much light: UV rays will damage and ultimately fade your artwork, so where appropriate use UV protecting glass. Ensure you have mounted and framed your artwork correctly (leaching of acid-based materials can damage them) and be aware of high humidity and acute changes in temperature which can cause swelling and contraction within the frame.

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Inspiration credits: Art.com, AndrewJHoward.com, SuzanneKasler.com