You have fallen hard for a painting. The price is even in your budget. You know exactly where it is going to hang. Remember to ask these 5 questions about the painting you are about to buy.
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JANUARY 2023: Updated again. As we still got a lot of questions regarding the value of buying pieces where.
January 2022: This piece has become a widely read and popular article. People have been contacting me at the gallery often. These questions in the original article are not the questions first time buyers are looking for answers for. We largely updated the article to iterate the importance of trust and being able to ask questions to the artist or gallery.
At the heart, people were clicking on this article to feel more assured when walking into an art gallery or buying a piece of art. So now the first part of the article is how to buy an art piece depending on the location of the artwork. This will guide you in how much something should cost and how to conduct the transaction. I highly recommend reading:
Following those steps in that piece you will never pay too much for an art piece.
Where are you buying this painting? An artist studio or a gallery? Or at an Art Fair? The location will impact the price of an artwork. We also included some information regarding consequences of actions taken by "art collectors". The three main spaces you can buy art that involves human interaction is the studio, the art gallery and an art fair. Buying a piece online via a platform like Artsper or Kooness often takes the human aspect out of buying an artwork as you can use filters on these platforms to narrow down your search.
You are buying directly from an unrepresented art in their Artist studio; good on you. Buy from the artist first. Support your local artists in your network. Most probably, the artist is undercharging you for their work. Also, you will never get it cheaper than now. Do you want to negotiate a price down of an object that feels like a part of a person soul? They are asking a fair price for how they feel about themselves at the moment. If you attempt to negotiate, it often feels to some artist, like you are negotiating their worth as a person. You can kindly ask if they can under build the pricing if you think it is too much.
Buying art at a gallery is going to be more expensive than buying art directly from an artist. However if an artist is represented by a gallery, then you can no longer buy the artwork from the artist. This is true in most cases. The sale goes through the gallery. Artist and Galleries work together in symbiosis to present art to art collectors. Artist make the art and Galleries promote and handle the business part of selling art. This allows artist to fully focus on their art work.
If you want to buy a painting from an artist after you saw it at the gallery a few things can happen.
1. The artist will refer you back to the gallery for the sale.
2. The artist might sell it cheaper to you, disregarding the work of the gallery. This will lead to the gallery dropping them, and usually the artist being blocklisted from further gallery representation. This can lead to the end of their professional career as an artist and the value of their artwork will decrease.
3. Bad "Art Collectors" will attempt to coerce artist into selling an artwork for less directly, half or even a quarter of the listing price. Even after being referred to the gallery. The gallery will usually take up further communications, usually in our experience this leads to some rude emails, but never results in a sale. Some younger artist might be harassed to the point of acquiesce or creating a custom piece, the "art collectors" never end up buying the piece for the reduced price, but usually do spread the story of how the artwork is worth less than being offered at the gallery. Harming the reputation of the artist and the gallery. You can read more about people who aren't "allowed" to buy art in this article.
Usually payment plans for an artwork can be worked out through the gallery
Art Galleries can take many forms, online, art fair only, pop up or a store. Gallery Sorelle Sciarone has been all of these and in our fourth year we have decided that the best fit is to have an office to receive art collectors by appointment and partake in art fairs over Europe. This is what collectors have come to expect from us, but is also what is safest for us as a female owned gallery. We stopped with our physical gallery shop after 9 months.
All art galleries guiding principles start with:
"I like this and think its neat, do you like it too?"
Buying art at an art fair, allows you to see 30+ galleries all in the same walking distance, with their bestest art. Galleries have to pay a ridiculous amount of money to partake in an art fair, and the artist is vetted by a commission to partake. So you know, all the galleries and artists at the art fair take themselves serious enough for a jury of their peers and invest heavily in their artists. Galleries have to give a lot of information, and if there are any funny business fairs, won't think twice about blocklisting them. You can also get all the details you need from the art fair if a gallery disappears.
Sometimes art is priced a little higher at art fairs and other times galleries will offer art cheaper at the art fair. We like to keep our prices at the gallery consistent over all platforms, but that does not mean all art galleries do that. I will admit, I am inclined to offer a discount on the last day of the art fair, but in reality the pieces that sell at an art fair are usually already spoken for by the first day. Which results in the most wanted paintings no longer being available by the last day for a reduced price. But you might be able to pick up a piece for cheaper on the last day. Usually by then the gallery representative is very tired, but will still need to repackage every art work for transportation. So if a piece is a little over budget and not sold by the last day of the art fair, you can try and take advantage of the sleep deprived and overworked gallery representative. Some art galleries will not succumb to this on the last day of an art fair, as the sales of pieces shown at an art fair will still be going strong the following several weeks.
No one will buy expensive art from someone they don't trust. If you don't feel comfortable or are unsure about anything, ask. Ask everything you need to know to feel comfortable. At the core of buying art is trust. Maybe the answers don't comfort you or make sense. You can leave and never return. Buying art also often happens in the form of a relationship between the gallerist and the art collector. That's what all the parties are for. Getting to know everyone. Artists, Gallerists, Buyer. 99% of people walking into a gallery is just a quick view. They may return several times. They may never buy, or they may buy every time, and some people only come for the wine at the openings. But that's an essential part of the ecosystem, building relationships of trust and moments to do so.
The most confident buyers are there because they know what they like and have found it. If you don't have this feeling, there is nothing wrong with you, rather you haven't found what you are looking for. Down below is more articles you might like to read.
Now on to the old article about material, secret paintings underneath and ownership.
THE OLD ARTICLE FROM 2021
What to ask when buying a painting?
The start of another three-part series: What questions you should or could be asking when you buy a painting. You might be purchasing a painting for the first time or the hundredth time.
Before you ask these questions, you have already answered the question of whether or not you want to own this painting. Today’s questions are about care and informed decisions about where to place the painting in your office or home. These are also questions Art Historians need to answer 100 years from now. So it has a dual function. As an Art Historian, I am obviously biased and informed by my background. If you can think of any other pertinent questions, please let us know in the comments below.
Questions about the painting itself
Most of the information you need would be on a bit of paper next to the painting or sculpture. Like when the artwork was made, who the artist is, what it is made of, and maybe why it was made. These are a few questions that can help you better take care of the work after buying it.
These questions should be enquired after respectfully. Make it abundantly clear that you ask these questions on how to take care of the painting best if you would buy it. Questions 1 and 2 you can skip if you know how to care for your painting. Questions 3, 4 and 5 clarify what you can expect in the care for these paintings. None of these questions has a right or wrong answer. No matter the answer, it does not diminish or add value to the object in the now. It is valuable information for later and how to make sure there is a later for your painting.
1. What material is used in the painting?
You should know what medium it is made of, as it is usually labelled. However, this is an essential question if it is a mixed media piece about what it is made from and how it can significantly influence where you can place your painting in your house or office.
For water paintings and drawings, it is usually a good idea to never put it in a space that gets full sunlight for an extended period of the day. Unless you have added extra UV filtering foils on the windows or painting frame, both are costlier than simply placing the painting outside direct sunlight. Sometimes this is a non-issue as the artist has had the forethought to use a UV Varnish as a final layer over the painting.
Oil paintings will be able to withstand a lot of unfiltered light, but aquarelles and drawings and paper canvasses will disintegrate alarmingly fast in direct sunlight over time.
BONUS: some sculptures can easily be placed outside and stand wind and weather. However, many statues are placed on their pedestals with an iron rod, which, when wet, oxidises and expands. Over time this can result in fractures in the sculpture and even break the sculpture in two.
2. Does the painting have special care instructions?
In mixed media painting, there should be clear instructions on where the painting can be placed. For some people, it is logical that you can not place everything just anywhere. And for other people, it seems needlessly nitpicky that there are explicit instructions on how you can or cannot display a painting in your own home or office. It’s about transparent communication. Oil paintings easily stay beautiful for several generations, before it needs care. With acrylics, it depends, and watercolours are very delicate. And mixed media pieces can either be tricky as they combine different mediums. But they might also only need a bit of extra dusting.
3. Who has owned it before then?
Has the painting hung in someone's house? As part of a travelling exhibition, like the artist group, Monday's Collective does. Has the artist hung it in their own home or at a family member? What effect did the object have in their house? Has it been stored in a shed or under a bed? Has someone bought it and returned it. This has nothing to do with the quality of the painting. Sometimes art is sold, and people have not paid for the painting. For costly artwork and known collectors, some artwork has not been paid for even two years after the sale. This question is more about a painting's provenance, even if you are the first owner or buying from a blue-chip gallery. The information you can keep on a piece of paper at the back of the painting. Or maybe the gallery has it all written down, and it can be extended to you in print form.
4. Where has this painting been exhibited?
Has the painting been exhibited at a museum, art fair or in any other exhibition? Has the painting been part of an art loan project? Again this does not diminish the value. It is about the art trajectory has taken before it has found its forever home (as some American Artist call it). Art can and will last a very long time, so the chance of it having multiple owners throughout its life is very typical. As a collector, it is part of knowing your paintings history. If the Artist is very famous or becomes very famous, you might be asked to loan the painting yourself to a museum or exhibition later.
5. Has the object been damaged and/or repaired?
Paintings can easily be damaged, and it does not have to be the end of the world. Better yet, it hardly ever is. It might need a touch up by the Artist or becomes part of the overall look. Maybe the Artist dropped it; perhaps someone bumped it off the wall. If the painting is repaired, you usually do not see it. It is more something you will see on the back. Again not, a dealbreaker, broken or very damaged art that can not be repaired, will not be offered for sale. But it is good to know beforehand. Not to drive the price down, but to be mindful of the painting's history and damages.
Bonus question: Is there another painting under the painting we see now?
The most exciting discoveries in Art History are figuring out that there are other paintings under the one we know today. Maybe the artist even has pictures of the process. Ask if you could have copies of these pictures to store with the painting.
Is there other questions you should ask about the painting in particular? Let me know in the comments. Next week we will list questions you can ask the artist and after that the gallery owner.
"The smiling Art Historian"