Tips for Collectors:

How to Buy Art Directly From Artists

For all you art collectors and buyers out there who like buying art directly from artists, the following pointers are particularly helpful when looking at or buying at open studios, art fairs or festivals, art walks, online or other events where multiple artworks by multiple artists are for sale. And they apply whether buying in group settings or in one-on-one meetings...

* Take your time and always keep an open mind. Don't be in a rush. 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. Unless you're an experienced collector who's focused on particular types of art or artists and already knows what things are worth, impulse buying is not recommended.

* Do your research. These days you can do pretty much all of it online, either in advance or on-the-fly with any art or artists whose work you catches your eye. For instance, many of the more established open studios, art walks, art festivals and similar events post information about participating artists on event websites. Some even publish hard-copy directories. Visit these sites or get directories in advance to get an idea of what types of art or which artists appeal to you the most. As well as seeing examples of the art, you'll often find brief bios, statements, contact information, and website or social media links, like Instagram.

* When at a group artist event in person, first survey the situation and get a feel for the range of available options. This way, you won't miss anything. Briefly check out all the participating artists, take cards or brief notes on the ones whose art you like the most, and return to them later.

* Whether online or in person, look at whatever printed materials the artist provides-- statements or explanations of the art, resumes, bios, price lists or any other 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.

* Look for indications that the artist is serious about their art career. These include regularly producing and showing new work, getting third-party recognition for their accomplishments like awards or media coverage, and actively posting updates on their artistic lives. Checking out an artist's Instagram feed can be very enlightening here.

* 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, top, bottom, edges, wherever. You want to make sure that the art is in excellent condition and well-crafted all the way around, 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 people 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 do so if you make the artist aware of how much you really want to own their work.

* 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 or the artist might point out details that aren't immediately obvious just from looking at the art. On the other hand, if an artist doesn't have good solid reasons for how and why they price, and appear to be basically pulling dollar amounts out of thin air, 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 and buy their art, and what might start out as a single purchase can ultimately evolve into a great artist-collector 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 in 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 can't afford 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 like or 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 bragging out of the conversation. You might think you're impressing the artist, but you're actually putting them off.

* 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 what you love and intend to live with for many years to come.

* Don't bargain purely 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 huge favors by buying their art. As previously mentioned, mutually appreciative and respectful relationships between artists and collectors can often 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!


(at by John Belingheri)

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