On Buying Art Directly From An Artist

In Art Galleries, Art Collecting

The benefit of buying art within a gallery or an art auction is that generally speaking, these institutions have a set of known buyers who could buyback the work if you choose to resell it. These institutions set his/her reputation for each new artist they take on. They do not want to see the artist's work be sold for considerably less, because it will impact their reputation in the art market.

However, if you choose to buy art directly from an artist, what do you need to know?

Where is the artist from?

The above question will help you learn more about the artist's background. Art from certain regions are "trendy" and may have higher or lower resale value. You can talk to an art advisor to learn more about region-based art sales trends.

Where, when, and with whom the artist studied with?

The above question gives you a reasonable idea of who the artist is and their investment in their career.

How long has the artist been painting?

The answer will help you understand if art is a passing phase for this prospective artist or whether the artist will create an identifiable canon. Ideally, you want to purchase from an artist who has a unique style that would be imitated by others. You can easily differentiate from the Andy Warhol, Jack Pollock, and the Robert Rauschenberg below:

There are distinguishable differences, even though they were all painters during the same period and sold to a similar clientele.

Where can I see the artist's previous work?

If the artist says you can see it in a gallery or a museum, verify, but that is an excellent chance of resell value. If the artist lists his or her client base, you will have a sense of the type of the clients who buy the art. Other reputable collectors of the artist's art would be corporate or public collectors.

Could you tell me more about this specific work?

The above question is a general open-ended question to learn more about the artist. It can be substituted with another or could be strung with a series of other open-ended questions. It allows you to have a sense of the artist's idea and conceptions of the world. There is nothing more beautiful than knowing the inspiration behind the work in your home.

What's next for the artist?

You should find out how to follow the artist's career. The purchasing of even a single artwork is a long-term investment in the artist's career. The artist should rise in prominence within the art world because that would be the most significant indicator of the artwork's future resale value.

The following questions should be something to search on your own and not directly from the artist:

  • Did the artist exhibit artworks anywhere prominent?
  • Did the artist receive any popular awards?

I believe these questions may be embarrassing to ask the artist directly, or the artist may lie. These questions should be searched online or from a knowledgeable secondary source. 

Gallery Questions

If you're buying from a gallery, similar questions should be asked:

  • Where is the artist from?
  • How long has the artist been painting?
  • Where can I see the artist's previous work?
  • Do you have a price list available?

The above question will allow you to know the comparative price list of the artist. It will also give you an understanding of the pricing. A good rule of thumb is to aim to negotiate for an at-most 10-percent discount. At a gallery, the discount will most likely hurt the artist rather than the gallery owner. So intend to buy at the price point to help the artist and the future resale value of the artwork.

The more sale records that you find, the more accurately you can assess the price. Generally speaking, there should be a minimum of five to determine the price range accurately.

However, you should also be aware of where the majority of prices fall. If you're thinking about paying $10,000 for a painting but find that most sale prices of record are under $2,000, be careful. The art may be overpriced, and the seller should reasonably justify the new price point.

The price list will also allow you to see how many unsold artworks. If most of the artist's work is unsold, it may not be a substantial investment. 

  • Can you buy prints?

Although Budget Collector does not recommend buying prints if an artist has prints for sale, it shows that they are eager to show their work to a mass market.

  • Did the artist receive any popular awards?
  • Did the artist exhibit artworks anywhere prominent?
  • Does the artist have auction records?
  • Can I pay in installments?
  • Are there any additional costs?

There is some wiggle room in pricing here. If the gallery sets you up with its preferred transportation vendors and installers, you can research and choose your own methods. This process may help cut back on costs.

  • How do I display the work?
  • Can you provide me with documentation on its authenticity?