The Internet is revolutionizing the art world. In the not too distant past, if you were interested in browsing a few hundred paintings to find a new focal piece for your living room, you would’ve had to spend a considerable amount of time going from one gallery to the next. Now, in just several minutes, you can browse and purchase hundreds, even thousands, of original artworks right from your home. But before you click the “add to cart” button, there are five things you should know that will greatly improve your online art buying experience.
1. Know the Gallery – The most important aspect of buying art online is knowing who you are buying from. There are thousands of virtual galleries, and you want to make sure that you are dealing with a reputable one. If you can’t find a phone number on the gallery’s website, or it takes them more than a day or two to get back to a phone or email message, move on.
Find out where they are located, how long they’ve been in business, if the artwork is curated, how they price their art, and of course, what their return policy is. Make sure that if you decide you don’t love your artwork when it arrives, you have the ability to return it for a full refund, and without being charged high shipping or restocking fees.
Most artwork on the Internet is from emerging artists whose legacy is yet to be defined. As such, you will want help determining if their work is worth your time and money. Find an online gallery with a reliable curator or board of curators. Additionally, this type of art should be affordable. Although there is no exact science to pricing artwork, it should mainly be according to the artist’s previous sales and exhibition history, and the size, medium, and composition of the work. As a general rule, emerging artwork shouldn’t cost more than four figures unless it is a spectacular piece by a spectacular artist.
2. Know the Artist – Once you find a piece of art that you are interested in, get as much information as you can about the artist. Obtain their artist statement and speak with them if possible. If you are buying more for potential future investment, obtain a list of exhibitions that they have participated in, collections they are in, and find out where they went to art school. Overall, you want to make sure that you are buying from a legitimate working artist, and that there is quality and value in the work.
3. Know the Piece – You love the expressionist brushstrokes, now find out the important details. What is the medium, what surface was the work created on, is it framed, is it signed somewhere, and most importantly, what are the dimensions? You may be surprised at how big the artwork actually is, and you wouldn’t want to buy a piece that doesn’t fit on your wall. One of the best ways to combat this is to get a sheet of butcher paper, draw the dimensions of the artwork on it, and then cut it out. You can then put the paper on the wall where you intend to hang the art to get an idea of the size. Also, certain online galleries have a view to scale feature that will show you the artwork in a virtual room proportionate to your room’s dimensions.
4. Know the Edition – If you are buying printmaking or photography, you need to find out if the piece is part of a limited edition or open edition. Pieces that are in a limited edition are produced in a set limited quantity and tend to be more expensive, but can also have more value because of their limited number. Open edition artworks are not limited in quantity and can be reproduced indefinitely. In both cases, each piece in the edition is identical and is considered an original.
5. Keep a Record – Save your receipt of purchase. If you intend to sell the art in the future, this is a must. In the art world, this is known as provenance, or the artwork’s history of ownership. Depending upon how well known the artist becomes, this will help establish that the work is not fake or stolen.
With all of this in mind, buy what you like! Don’t worry too much about what the art market or your friends say, choose artwork that you connect with. Although art may hold a future value, find pieces that you are passionate about. After all, you are the one who has to live with it.
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