How to Buy Art on Instagram & Facebook

Tips for Buying Art Online

More and more people are buying more and more art online all the time, not only from artist websites or online stores, but perhaps even more so, on social media websites like Instagram and Facebook. You can tell plenty from locating and researching an artist's online profile these days, including in many cases being able to view a significant selection of their art. In fact, so much information is now available online for so many artists that you can acquire a complete collection without ever having to set foot in a gallery, or ever meet a single artist in person for that matter-- not that you would want to do that, but it is an option. Regardless of the level of personal involvement you want to have, here are some helpful guidelines for researching and buying art directly from artists online:

Search, locate and review as much as information as possible about artists whose work you're interested in, not just their websites. This includes social media pages (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), stores or shops or galleries on group art websites, third-party websites that mention the artist or their art, and so on. If you're in the preliminary stages of looking, you can do basic image searches on Google for either specific artists, subject matters or types of art you're interested in. Facebook and Instagram each have their own search options as well. Searching Facebook is similar to searching Google. On Instagram, however, you'll be looking more for hashtags that match up with your wants in order to locate and browse relevant selections of art.

Once you have a list of artist names, visiting their personal websites is generally the best way to start. There you can usually find information like the artist's statement, biographical details, resume of shows and experience, selections of their art, specialties, descriptions or explanations of their art, what materials or mediums they use, contact information and more. Some artist sites also provide details on pricing, how to buy, how they ship or deliver their art, and other relevant details like whether you can return the art within a set period of time if you're not totally satisfied. The more of this data you can gather before you make contact, the better. Having a pretty good idea of what you're getting yourself into before you get into it is always recommended.

The most important parts of any artist's website are the resume or CV, and the gallery or portfolio of their art. The resume gives you a good idea of how active the artist is and how serious they are about their art. Do they regularly participate in shows and exhibitions or are there gaps in time where the artist does not seem to be active? Consistency and regular shows or activities are generally what you want to see in a good solid resume.

As for an artist's gallery or portfolio of art, look at all the work and not just a little. Get a sense of the artist's range of skills and abilities. See how well they organize and present their art. Is it arranged in ways that make sense? Generally, you want to see the art separated and categorized into specific groups or series or bodies of work that are similar in theme, idea, concept, subject matter or other related criteria. What you don't want to see is a hodgepodge or disjointed presentation where you can't quite figure out what you're looking at or what the artist's focus might be.

On both websites and social media pages, check to see when the art was made (or ask the artist about dates if no dates are posted and you decide to make contact). Is the artist currently active or is the art on the website older? As with the resume, you want to see a consistent track record of production, signs that the artist is regularly producing and posting new work, and that there aren't significant gaps between productive periods. If all of the work on the website is older, for example, it might be reasonable to assume that the artist is either no longer active or only producing a small amount of work. Basically, productive artists tend to be more serious about their careers than artists who approach art-making more casually or periodically.

Look for basic explanations or descriptions of the art. Websites that provide guidance are preferable to those that don't. You want to get a sense of what you're looking at, what the work is about, what's important to the artist, an idea of their capabilities, specialties or intentions. Whatever those happen to be, you want to see selections that are extensive enough to give you a visual understanding of where the artist is coming from as well as how they're progressing and evolving with their art. Clear, coherent and well-organized image pages or galleries of art with basic introductory text are almost always preferable to confusing ones with little or no explanations. In other words, you want an artist who appears to know what they're doing and where they're going rather than one who's still trying to figure things out.

Another critical component of an artist's online presence is their social media profile and in fact, it can often provide more useful information than their website in a number of ways. For one thing, you can get a pretty good idea of how conscientious an artist is about making art and being an artist. Look for signs that they're producing art on a regular basis and not just every once in a while. You can tell this from viewing day-to-day postings and image galleries on sites like Facebook, or from image feeds on Instagram. Don't forget to scroll back in time to see how long they've been at it; what's happening now might look great, but you also need to see what's happened in the past in order to form a more complete picture.

Look for consistency in postings; that's always better than random unrelated postings. A well-defined narrative or story line that's easy to understand and follow is almost always preferable to a confusing progression of posts. See how the artist describes their art. Interesting or engaging texts or explanations of art, even brief ones, show that the artist is in touch with what they're doing, that there's a focus, purpose and direction to their art. Explanations like "My new art" or "Latest art" or "Just finished" or a bunch of general hashtags add little or nothing to a viewer's overall understanding of the work, and may be indications that the artist is not really clear on where they're going with their art.

See how many followers an artist has. Is their fan base local, regional, national, international? How do they interact with their fans? What do followers think of the art? What kinds of comments do people leave on their pages? Does the artist actively participate and respond to their audience? If you're thinking about buying art, you at least want an artist who seems accessible and willing to engage in conversation.

See how active an artist is. Do they show or exhibit their art on a regular basis? Are they involved in the art community? Do they sell on a regular basis? Are buyers satisfied with their art? Does the artist post images of buyers with their art or of newly purchased art on display in owner's homes or offices? Answers to these and similar questions are critical to making final decisions on whether or not to buy.

In addition to an artist's website and social media pages, you also want to see who else might be taking notice. Is anybody writing about them? Are there any reviews or articles or interviews or coverage of shows on art websites or blogs? Do people talk about their art? Incidental coverage like this can sometimes provide real insight into where an artist is right now and what might be on tap for their future.

Keep in mind through all this that you can buy whatever you want to buy for whatever reason you want to buy it, but knowing something about what you want to buy and who you want to buy it from is always preferable to taking a more casual approach and hoping for the best. Researching, making contact with, and getting to know an artist online can be more fun and rewarding than you ever realized once you learn how to do it. On the way to making those final decisions about whether or not to buy, be sure all communications with the artist proceed smoothly from beginning to end and that you understand exactly what you're getting. Be sure you completely and fully understand how you'll be paying, how the art will be shipped and delivered, whether you can return it if not satisfied, and basically what the transaction will involve from start to finish. That's how you maximize positive outcomes when buying art online.


In case you're interested, I consult and advise art buyers and collectors on all matters involving buying or selling art. If you'd like to make an appointment or have any questions about what I can do for you, call 415.931.7875 or email me at


(art by Miriam Böhm)

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