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  • Tips for Collectors:

    How to Buy Art Directly From Artists

    The following recommendations are particularly helpful when looking at or buying art at open studios, art fairs or festivals, art walks or other events where you have an opportunity to view the work of multiple artists in a short period of time. Many of these directives also apply to one-on-one meetings with artists to see their work....

    * Take your time; keep an open mind. Don't be in a rush to buy. You'll be amazed at the variety of art that's available. If you approach any buying situation with preconceived notions or ideas of what you want your art to look like, there's no telling how many wonderful opportunities you'll miss.

    * These days you can do considerable research online in advance of visiting artist studios in person. For instance, many of the more established open studios, art walks, arts festivals and similar events post information about participating artists on event websites. Visit these sites in advance to see what types of art or which artists appeal to you the most. Most artists show multiple examples of their art online and also provide contact information and links to their websites.

    * Do a quick walk through or walk around first and get a feel for your range of options. Look at art by different artists; take brief notes on which artists' art you like the most and then return to them later. This way, you don't miss anything. Once you're done with the initial survey, come back to the artists whose work you found particularly appealing.

    * Whether online or in person, look at whatever printed materials the artist provides-- statements or explanations about their art, resume, bio, price list or related information. Having some idea of the artist's career accomplishments or what their art is about often helps in the decision-making process on whether or not to buy.

    * If you like a piece of art but don't quite understand it or have any questions about it at all, ask. Most artists are more than happy to talk about or explain their art. Sometimes, a quick conversation or answers to a few questions can really increase your appreciation of the work. You're going to own the art for a long time, so make sure you're perfectly clear on what you'll be getting for your money.

    * Carefully inspect any art that you're thinking about buying-- not just the front, but also the back, sides, bottom, edges, wherever. You want to make sure that the art is in excellent condition, that the artist has paid attention to the entire work, not only parts of it, and that it's built to last. If you have any questions at all about condition or appearance, ask. Hopefully all questions will be answered to your satisfaction. If not, consider moving on.

    * Point out the types or pieces of art that interest you the most. Mention why you like them. Based on what you say, an artist might just surprise you and come up with similar pieces you like even more.

    * If you like a piece of art, show your enthusiasm. Some buyers think that if they downplay their excitement, they'll be able to buy for less, but no artist appreciates buyers who play games. And they can tell too; you're not fooling anyone. The truth is that artists really like people who like their art, and if for any reason you might want to pay less, you may well be in a better position to get somewhere if the artist is aware of how much you really want to own their art.

    * If you have specific questions about the price of a particular work of art or about an artist's price structure in general, ask. Buying original art often involves a significant cash outlay, and you deserve to know how an artist determines their selling prices. For example, a great deal of time or effort may go into producing a work of art, aspects that aren't immediately obvious just from looking at the art, but become clear once the artist points them out. On the other hand, if an artist basically pulls their prices out of thin air and has no reasonable explanation, you might want to think twice about buying.

    * If you like a piece of art enough to own it and you can comfortably afford it, buy it. Artists appreciate this kind of respect and down the road, often pay you back in unexpected ways, like with special invitations to studio events or by offering you their best new art first. Over time, artists often become friends with people who really like their art and what might start out as a single purchase can ultimately evolve into a great relationship.

    * If you are interested in paying a little less than what an artist is asking, have a good reason. If you don't have a good reason for asking, don't ask. Tell them it's just a bit beyond your budget, for example, but that you really like it and want to own it. Perhaps the artist will come down in price, or depending on how much less you'd like to pay, they might offer a payment plan or show you other pieces more within your budget.

    * Be realistic and honest with yourself about how much you have to spend and stick to looking at art in that price range. You don't want to get yourself into a situation where your only option is to offer much lower than an asking price. That tact will only insult an artist. If you want to pay more than say 10-20 percent below asking price, consider more affordable options.


    Several don'ts:

    * Avoid talking about other art you own, other artists whose work you own, or all the great deals you've gotten in the past. Unless art that you already own has a direct bearing on what you're thinking about buying, leave personal aggrandizement out of the conversation.

    * Never play one artist against another or talk about other work you're thinking about buying, especially if you think this strategy will get you a lower price. It won't. And buying art is not about strategies anyway; it's about buying art that you love and intend to own for many years to come.

    * Don't bargain purely just to see how little you can pay. That's really obnoxious. Buying art is not a sport. If you're always looking to buy on the cheap, that's exactly what artists will know to show you-- art they really don't care that much about.

    * Never disparage a work of art just to get the price down, and never tell an artist their art is overpriced (even if it is). Just move on.

    * Don't be rude, insulting or talk down to artists. Don't act like you're doing them a huge favor by buying their art. As previously mentioned, mutually beneficial artist collector relationships can pay big dividends down the road.


    Artists like to stay in touch-- especially with their biggest fans and most dedicated collectors. The inner circle gets perks that other people don't. If you really like a particular artist's art, make sure the artist knows that. Leave your contact information and tell them to keep you in the loop. Good luck and happy buying!

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