4 Lessons for Buying Fine Art on a Budget

Art collecting can often seem like the pastime of just the very rich, but with the right knowledge and a keen eye, you can start a contemporary art collection that enhances your home or portfolio on even the most modest of budgets.

1. Discover Your Preference
Art appreciation is totally subjective. With no hard and fast rules, an important first step on your journey should be to find out exactly what style you respond to. Browse your local fine art gallery or exhibition and find out which pieces draw you in.

2. Get the Back Story
Fine art is about more than just what’s on the page. Learning the history behind an artist can help inform your purchasing decisions and point you towards an items worth. If you’re buying face-to-face at an antique fair or local art dealer, quiz the seller on the items history; this may also reveal how much the seller knows about what they’re flogging.

3. Different Strokes
An important distinction to make is if the art is original or reproduced by mechanical means. Original art is often the most expensive because it’s one of a kind. This can come in the form of oil paintings, pen and ink drawings, watercolour paintings and more.

Print, while not one of a kind, is also not considered a ‘copy’; this is because, typically, each print differs due to variables in the printmaking process. Prints, while still often commanding high asking prices, will nearly always be more affordable than original paintings.

Posters and reproductions are the least expensive way to collect, with no limit on the run of the item, meaning lower asking prices and higher availability. For the burgeoning collector, reproductions can be the most budget friendly and risk free method for expanding your portfolio.

4. Sourcing on a budget
Of course, this all means very little unless you can actually afford the item in question. Recent years have seen a revolution in the way consumers source and purchase fine art. Here are some of the avenues to consider:

Online Retailers: Sites such as eBay or Amazon offer extensive art collections, available internationally often at a significantly reduced price. It may however be difficult or impossible to view the item first hand before purchasing.

Contemporary Art Fairs: Events where dozens of artists get together to exhibit their work. These can provide a chance to speak and negotiate with the artist directly before buying.

Local Auction Houses: Can provide varied results and may require some digging before you find the gems.

Antique Art Fairs: A great source of 18th and 19th century art. May also require some careful digging but can be a good opportunity to negotiate and grab a bargain.