When we think of art collecting, we often think of wealthy art collectors. Yes, art is inherently expensive, and rightfully so—it’s the fruit of intellectual and creative labors, manifestations of being, feeling, and seeing. Historically (I’m talking many, many moons ago), in many places, art could only be afforded by royalty or the exorbitantly wealthy. But, times have changed. Our access to the world has expanded. Nowadays, there is art to be afforded in any price range—you just have to know where to look.
1.Visit Galleries and Shows
Art galleries offer great public places to view and purchase art. They may feature current artists or old masters, and will often have rotating exhibits and shows (which are also great venues for seeing and buying art). While galleries generally contain fairly high price points (they serve as hotspots for those wealthy collectors), you may also be able to find some work that is more modestly priced. Galleries get new acquisitions all the time, so keep checking in. In the very least, you’ll get to see and learn about a lot of artwork.
2. Attend Art Fairs
Art fairs are another public venue for art sales. Both local artists and makers from afar gather in booths to sell their work. Art fairs tend to offer not only a wide range of prices, but a wide range of art types. You’ll see paintings, jewelry, sculpture, mixed media, and oftentimes craft goods, as well. A lot of locations will host annual fairs, such as the Artfest Michigan Avenue here in downtown Chicago this July 20-22. If you’re not ready to make a purchase just yet, you can gather artist information through business cards and flyers, and hold onto it for when you are ready.
3. Shop Online
The world-wide web has vastly expanded art-buying options. You can browse listings on art gallery websites. You can visit art selling sites, such as Artspace, Saatchi Art, or Etsy (though, Etsy tends to go more into the crafts realm). Many individual artist websites often include a web shop or links to where you can buy their art. Get on that Google search bar and start exploring.
4. Buy From the Artist Directly
Wherever you meet an artist—at a gallery, an art museum, art show, art fair, through a friend, on their artist site, wherever—ask them what is available within your price range. Chances are, they have or can make something that suits you. Artists want to sell their work as much as they want to share it. You can browse available works or make inquiries on artist websites, Instagram accounts, and Facebook pages (which are wonderful resources for discovering and following artists you like).
5. Think Small
When looking to buy original artwork, larger pieces are usually more expensive (though, there are some really tiny ornate pieces that can get up there in price—just think of all that work!). If you want a piece of original work that isn’t too costly, try going with a smaller piece. Just because it’s not as big doesn’t mean it’s not as important.
6. Buy Prints
If you find a piece of original artwork you like but can’t afford to purchase it, see if a print is available. Modern technology has allowed artists and art sellers to reproduce art in large quantities while still offering something of quality and value. Prints are found more frequently on art sales websites or artist websites rather than in galleries. They may be photo prints or made with a printing press. There’s often a range of surface options available, such as canvas or metal prints, and any array of size options. Sourced from the original itself, a print offers a quality piece you can easily match to your living space as well as to your living wage.
7. Commission a Piece
Many artists accept private commissions—specific pieces requested from a client (that’s you!). If you find an artist whose work you like, you can ask for a piece in their style that’s tailored to fit your taste and budget. Just make sure you’re staying true to the artist’s identity (it wouldn’t make sense to ask an artist who makes black and white train drawings for an acrylic painting of your grandma). Commissioned works can be especially meaningful because you get to take home a piece that was made just for you.
8. Ask About the Artist
There’s art all around us—in galleries, in museums, and in the homes of your friends (looks like they’re a few steps ahead of you). Wherever you see art, ask about it. Find out who the artist is, where the art was acquired, how it was bought. It could lead to your next great art acquisition.
Whether you want some art to decorate your space or you want to start a collection of your own, there are tons of options available, whatever your price range. Rather than spend a few bucks on mass-produced department store art, invest in something more meaningful without emptying your pocket book. Any time you purchase art, you’re making an investment—in a statement, a purpose, a story, in a commodity that may gain value/collectibility, in history, in art itself, and, perhaps most importantly, in the artist who worked so hard to bring it to you. When you purchase a piece of artwork, that’s what you’re taking home.
About the author: Stephanie Lenchard-Warren is a contemporary painter whose work explores the self in nature as well as the nature within the self. She is known for her expressive figurative work incorporating ballpoint pen, oil paint, and bare wood. You can follow her on Instagram at @stephanieflw, and view and shop her art at stephanielw.com.
Stephanie is Art Editor of Third Coast Review.