This article is for those who love, and are considering getting into buying art. There is a lot of mysticism, hype, and money involved that may make the general population feel anxious or intimidated when buying artwork for the first time. In reality the process can be quite simple, and you may even make new artists friends along the way!
I’d like to address some of the questions that many people have when making their first art purchase.
#1 How to Negotiate When Buying Art?
How you decide to negotiate when buying art will be determined by who you are buying from. Determine if you are buying from 1) The Artist, or 2) A Gallery.
How to Buy Art From an Artist?
The best way you can negotiate is directly with the artist. This is because you are speaking directly with the creator of the art and there are no middle men. This means that there might be some wiggle room for negotiation if you go directly to the artist.
Usually artists will be honest and open with you. They know their artwork and are readily available to answer any questions that you might have about their art when you are considering an art purchase.
Negotiating With an Artist
The First thing you need to do is change your mindset when negotiating with an artist, if you haven’t already.
You must treat a professional artist as a normal person, who is trying to make a living just like anyone else. They need to make money in order to earn a living just like anyone else. Their art is their job, NOT their hobby, and as such they need to be paid a decent wage in order to continue creating art, and improving the world around them.
If you believe that an artist doesn’t deserve to be paid because you consider their craft a hobby, or a fun pastime, or not inherently valuable, you will likely end up insulting the artist with a low-ball offer, and damage your relationship with them. If you respect the artist you will have a much better negotiating position.
Only ask for a lower price if you think the piece is overpriced based on comparable data. You shouldn’t be trying to rip off vulnerable artists, or low-balling everyone.
If you don’t know if the piece is overpriced, ask the artist respectfully why they chose the price they did to open negotiations.
During negotiation I would recommend being tasteful and simply asking the artist if the price is negotiable. You must decide what you consider to be a fair price based on comparable art pieces of the same size, subject matter, style, and location. Your ultimate goal is not to be insulting to the artist. Always be respectful.
What If They Won’t Lower Their Price?
If the artist refuses to lower their price, you have to decide if you still want to buy the piece. Do you truly love it. Or are you just looking for a good deal.
Don’t be offended.
Keep in mind that the artist is the only one who knows how much time they have invested in their artwork, and how much their art materials cost. They are the only one in a position to determine what price they need to stay in business.
I’ve had people offer me only $100 for a small piece of artwork which took 17 hours to complete. Which amounts to about $5.88 per hour. This amount would cover the amount of money I spent on materials; however, $5.88 is not even close to a livable hourly wage. It isn’t even minimum wage in the state I live in.
The buyer also lived far away and shipping would have cost a great deal to get the art to him safely. At this price, I wouldn’t have made enough money for it to be worth the effort. I refused to make the sale at this price which is completely within my rights as an artist.
This was an honest mistake on the buyers part. He had never purchased art before, and I didn’t take his offer as an insult. He simply didn’t know what he should offer. That’s okay, most people are unfamiliar with purchasing art.
Negotiation Through Commission of Art
You can more easily control the price of a piece of artwork if you start a commission with an artist.
This way you can let the artist know that you have a certain amount of money and that you can’t go above that price. Usually an artist will agree to work with your budget, and they can create the piece that you want and keep their expenses and hours close to your required budget.
Many buyers like to commission artwork, because they have more control over the finished artwork. They can opt to fully customize the work and get very close to exactly what they want through revisions along the way.
When negotiating for an art commission. You need to be very specific about what you want. In addition to the subject matter of the drawing or painting, you must specify any other needs including what size, what materials you want, and if the finished piece is to be framed or unframed.
Artists have different ways in which they handle art commissions. Some will ask that you limit the number of revisions to a specific number. They may ask that you give them 50% of the total price up front before they begin. There are no limits to what you both agree to.
Once you both agree to each other’s terms, you can choose to write a contract yourself, hire a lawyer, or you can choose not to have an official contract at all.
Art law is a completely different subject which deserves its own article at a later time. But for the purposes of this article just know that it is well within your rights to request a contract if you want one.
Art is a business like any other, and parties can be bound by contracts.
How to Find Artists to Buy From
The best way to find artists is to visit Instagram, or any social media centered around images, and type in the search bar relevant hashtags. Such as #art #artist #oilpainting #painting.
On Instagram, for example, in the search results you will see a category called Top Posts, and Recent Posts.
Top Posts represent those posts that have the most interaction and likes, while Recent Posts show what was posted most recently.
You can find all sorts of new artists in both these categories. Keep in mind that the most popular posts could be sponsored by galleries or other marketing organizations. Popular posts do not necessarily mean organic.
When you discover a new artist, don’t be a stranger. Reach out to them and let them know you are considering buying their artwork, and how much they generally charge for their work.
Social media makes it very easy to contact artists. Don’t hesitate to contact them, artists love to hear that you like their work and most of us won’t track you down and murder your goldfish.
Many cities and art organizations offer services to artists such as an online registry. A registry is a free database of artists with their contact information and links to their websites.
You can use artist registries to search for specific categories of artists.
Suppose you want to buy oil paintings, you can filter artists by their medium. You can even filter artists by their style and subject matter.
Many art registries allow users to create their own account, and save favorite artists or artwork in an easy to use way.
Be warned, online galleries will sometimes pose as artist registries. They are not the same thing. Just be aware that not every website allows artists to register for free. You may be looking at a biased site that only displays top selling artists prominently, or that take a commission if any art is sold on their website.
Once again, don’t be afraid to reach out to artists directly and ask them about their work. Let them know you are interested in buying. Rest assured your goldfish are mostly safe.
List of Art Registries
Art registries can be difficult to find which is why I’m creating this section. I’d like to create a database on this page of registries to help buyers find and talk with artists. In the comments please refer me to only FREE online registries for artists. Thank you.
#2 How Do you Negotiate with a Gallery
Each art gallery or online art gallery is different. However, because galleries can take up to 50% of the sales price, negotiating room will be tighter. Usually if an artist is a part of a gallery they must sell their artwork through the gallery.
Art galleries do expect that their prices will be challenged by buyers, so you should always ask if the price is negotiable.
Collector’s Discount When Buying Art
Oftentimes there are what is called a collector’s discount.
Collectors discounts are often 5%-20%, and are offered to collectors who buy a certain number of paintings from the gallery. The terms are different in each case, so always ask.
There are some ethical considerations when using the gallery discounts. Sometimes discount expenses are split between the artist and gallery. Ask the gallery if they do this.
This practice is unethical, and you should carefully consider supporting galleries that do this to their artists.
Galleries should foot the bill for any discounts, if the discount applies to any artwork purchased, from multiple artists.
Many artists split discounts with a gallery not realizing that for a gallery, the main purpose of giving a discount is to reward loyalty and patronage and to create an incentive for the collector to remain a client. A discount therefore is a marketing expense for the gallery.
Artists should not have to foot the bill for a gallery’s public relations marketing campaign when galleries already ask for 50% of the sales price!
Artists should not have to pay an additional 10% to support marketing announcements for other artists, or for the gallery itself.
When Are Discounts NOT Unethical?
Ask the gallery if there is a collector’s discount. If the cost of the discount is shared, note whether or not the discount applies to works purchased only from the same artist. This would be more ethical because the discount is only applied if a customer buys a certain number of works from the same artist.
In any case, collector’s discounts can put you in a difficult situation. Do you take advantage of the discount even though it might be unfair to the artist? If you don’t buy from the gallery the artist will get nothing!
As always, you can reach out to the artist directly and ask them about how they feel about it. The artist may be considering switching galleries soon, and once their contract is up they may just sell you the artwork directly if it hasn’t been sold already.
#3 Questions You Should Always Ask When Buying Art
7 Questions For Beginner Art Buyers
#1 What is the Medium?
The medium is not a supernatural term. Medium refers to the material that was used to create the art. Such as Oil Paint, Acrylic Paint, Watercolor, Bronze ect…
#2 What Size Is the Artwork You Are Buying?
You should always ask what size the artwork is before you purchase it. Sometimes online pictures can be deceiving. You might have thought you ordered a wall sized mural but you could be getting a postage stamp instead.
You should even ask about the sizes of sculptures.
Also check to make sure that you have enough space on your walls to fit the piece of art you are going to buy.
Many art collectors like to buy many different pieces of artwork that they then rotate when the mood strikes them. If you plan on doing this make sure to ask the artist what they recommend if you must store the piece of art. Most likely they will tell you to protect the art from moisture and sunlight, but there may be other considerations as well.
#3 Is the Art Framed, and Does The Price and Size Reflect That?
When buying art for the first time, it is always important to ask if the art is framed. Sometimes artists will display their artwork with a frame, but they might forget to mention if the frame is included with the purchase. Usually it is but always ask. Ask if the dimensions and price also take into account the frame.
#4 Is there a Certificate of Authenticity for the Artwork?
A lot of times artists won’t create a certificate of authenticity. But you can always ask for one. A Certificate of Authenticity is a document that gives physical details about that specific piece of artwork and should be unique to that piece of art. Here are more details.
#5 Payment Methods?
How does the artist receive payment? Whatever service they use should be safe an secure for both you and them. They should always use a service that includes an Automated Clearing House to protect against fraud. PayPal, and Google Pay both utilize ACH.
If you are buying art online you should of course take measures to protect against fraud. If you have never seen the art in person this can be concerning. Never buy art by sending cash in the mail. I would not send a check, because you might have to wait for up to a month before the check fully clears.
I would suggest using a credit or debit card, in conjunction with a payment service that utilizes an Automated Clearing House. That way if art never arrives you can contest the charges on the card with your service provider and get your money back.
If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, trust your gut.
#6 How To Take Care of the Artwork?
Once you buy the art it is now your responsibility to take care of it. Make sure to ask the artist their recommendations on how to take care of the art.
Ask them if they used any UV reducing varnishes or glass. This will help you decide where you need to hang the art. If there is no UV protection care should be taken to make sure sunlight can’t reach it. You might even consider purchasing a special frame with UV protective glass to help if you don’t have anyplace suitable.
In any case you should always keep sunlight exposure to a minimum.
Make sure to ask the artist, if they think the artwork can survive in areas where there might be a lot of humidity in the air. Especially works on paper. Water, and humidity can destroy your artwork!
#7 Shipping Art?
Special care should be taken when shipping art. I would ask the artist if the price includes shipping. What delivery service they are using and if any insurance will be included.
Ask them what their policy is if the artwork gets destroyed in transit.
7 Questions For Art Investors
If you are looking to buy art as an investment, you should always consult with an art investor professional. I know investing in art can be very fickle but here are some questions you should consider when buying for investment:
#1 How Much Did the Artwork Sell in Auction?
Auction results are the only public source of knowledge that are available on price. You should check the records to see what it sold for most recently. If there are past auctions, did the piece increase or decrease in value? All art will fluctuate in price. Just because it sold for less this auction doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t sell for more next time. Always consult with an expert if that is your main concern.
Art Auction results can help you find good comparable artwork to help determine what you should buy for. If there is a piece in a collection, you should always compare it with other pieces in the collection first before comparing it to a unique work.
#2 See What Public Organizations Own Works From a Collection
If public organizations own artwork from the same collection, you can probably bet that another piece from the same collection will be worth about the same or more, because demand is higher. People generally like to have their collections complete.
#3 How Many Owners Has the Artwork Had in It’s Lifetime
Check the full Certificate of Authentic to see how many owners the artwork has had.
#4 How Many Times Has the Art Been Auctioned
#5 Has the Artwork Ever NOT Sold During Auction?
This could be an indication that the piece was priced too high at that auction if it was recent, or that the piece is going out of fashion.
#6 Is there a Certificate of Authenticity?
If you are buying an artwork for investment there should always be a Certificate of Authenticity. A Certificate of Authenticity apart from guaranteeing that the work is authentic, also gives the physical condition of the artwork. It describes the exact dimensions, the medium, the artist, date, title, and all other information about the physical condition of the specific piece of art.
Certificates can be forged, of course, so if you have any doubt you can always check the receipt directly from the artist, or gallery directly representing the artist. This is considered proof of authenticity.
If in doubt you can always consult with forgery experts.
You should always request the full copy of the Certificate of Authenticity before purchasing any investment art.
#7 Has Any Restoration Work Been Needed?
Visually checking the artwork, and checking the Certificate of Authenticity before purchasing a major work is always a must. This will give you a chance to inspect the “health” of the artwork. You don’t want to buy a $10,000 painting only to have it disintegrate on you after a few years.
The Certificate of Authenticity should include any information about the physical condition of the art.
If in doubt always consult an expert as to the condition of the artwork before buying.
Buying Art Conclusion
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope that if you are just getting started buying art, that this has helped to demystify the process. If you enjoyed please make sure to share with your family and friends on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media. Feel free to comment below with additional questions or additional Free Artist Registries from your state. We need to help artists meet buyers, and buyers meet artists! Check out my portfolio to see some of my artwork.