Buying art can be a tricky thing, especially if you're new to it. When I think of buying art I think of walking into an art gallery in a big city, like San Francisco, New York, or London, and paying tens of thousands of dollars - something that is well beyond my means. I think of art as something worthy of being in a museum. Or I did until recently.
A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to start collecting art. Not as an investment, but something that brings me joy and adds color, texture, and inspiration to my home. I had no idea if I could afford anything or where to start looking. While there are places you can buy art online the whole thing seemed pretty opaque to me in the beginning. So, I want to share the resources I found to hopefully make it easier for others. Collecting art is a lot of fun, and supporting artists is always good in my book.
What is art?
I think this is an important question because it was the main stumbling block for me when I start collecting. Google "what is art?" and you get the dictionary definition of art - the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. Notice there is nothing in there about art needing to be a specific medium or to cost a certain amount. It's very broad and inclusive. I take the definition to mean anything that someone has made that I love that can go on a wall or sit on a flat surface.
This includes posters and prints. I've been buying posters since I was a kid and never considered them art because they weren't originals. But I've rethought that. There are a bunch of posters that I have that I love, including a bunch of old maps. There's nothing wrong with wanting to branch out and also buy hand made originals. But don't discount pieces you already have just because they aren't one of a kind. Think about photographs. How do you define an original photograph?
I also include things like textiles, baskets, and ceramics. My family is a little textile crazy so we have lots of them. Mounting fabric and hanging it on the wall is a great way to add texture to a room. Decorative plates can also be mounted on the wall, like in my dining room, as can baskets if they're on the flatter side. And then there's the objects that can sit on a table or shelf. If you love it and think it's beautiful it counts as art.
Where to find artists
Aside from seeing something you like in person, like in a gallery setting, how do you find/figure out which artists you like? Art blogs are a great place to start. My Modern Met has a great post recommending art blogs for daily inspiration. My personal favorite is Jealous Curator because it's run by an artist. The tag line is "turning jealousy into get-your-ass-back-in-the-studio inspiration". I follow the blog on Instagram which is how I found three of the artists I've bought art from in the last year. Find one you like and check in with them daily. You might find artists you want to pursue buying art from or you might just figure out what you like. Either way it'll get you into the scene.
Another way to find artists is to peruse Instagram. This is not for the faint of heart or easily discouraged. As of writing this post, a quick search of the hashtag #art returned 419 million posts. That's a lot to sift through, which is why I prefer letting a blogger do the curating for me. But if you scroll through the search results things you like will probably jump out at you.
Where to buy?
There a bunch of different resources and methods for finding art to buy depending on how specific you are about what you want.
If you know a specific artist/maker that you like you can go to their website. Some of them will have online stores where you can see what's available and how much it costs. Some of them will just have portfolio images of work they've created and contact information. Sometimes the contact information will just be for a gallery that represents them. Usually if an artist is represented by a gallery the prices are going to be substantially out of budget for the average person. But if there is an email address for the artist and you really like their work, send them an email to inquire if they have artwork for sale and how much it costs. I did this and ended up buying a piece that I love. The worst they can say is no, or yes, but their prices are out of your budget. But you won't know unless you ask.
Craft or maker fairs are a great place to find one of a kind pieces and/or prints. Renegade and Unique Markets both have fairs in multiple locations all over the US, (Unique Markets just expanded and announced holiday markets in 10 US cities) but there are lots of others. Some of them will require tickets, like Unique, and others won't, like Renegade. Do a google search to find something local to you. This has the advantage of being able to see pieces in person and talk to the artists.
If you prefer to buy things online Etsy is a great option. Many sellers do custom work if you don't find something exactly to your liking. Society Six and Minted are great for photography and prints. For more online shops carrying affordable art check out this Architectural Digest article.
Make it yourself
If you can't find something you like the other option is to make it yourself. Create something to complement things you own, fill a hole that you just can't find something for, or just because you enjoy doing it. You will still be filling your home with joy and beauty. There are lots of DIY tutorials online. This one by Studio DIY for a no-weave wall hanging is one of my recent favorites. I'm also still loving my splatter paint canvases. Or just go to a craft stores for supplies and wing it.
For my collecting art is not about the money that I spend or gathering status symbols. It's about bringing beauty and joy into my life and home.
Do you collect art? What kind of pieces have you fallen in love with lately?
Photo by Sophia Dunkin-Hubby