Buying Guides

The basics of buying art

The basics of buying art

The basics of buying art Author: Style At Home

Buying Guides

The basics of buying art

There comes a time in everyone's life when buying prints at mass market stores just doesn't cut it anymore. Sure, they may look nice, but your heart will sink when you see the same print on three of your friends' walls, too.

Starting an art collection may seem like an expensive and daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. Whether you have a goal of something you want to save for (a Picasso sketch, for example) or are interested in buying an up-and-coming artist's work, there are many ways that you can start a fab art collection in your own home. Here are a few basics on what to keep in mind when purchasing fine art.

Do your research

The global art market is massive, and in 2009 took in €31.3 billion, according to art economist Dr. Clare McAndrew. So when you're investing your money into the market, you want to make sure you know the piece you're buying is worth what you're paying for it.

One of the most important things about buying art is investing in a piece that visually appeals to you -- there's no point in buying a work that doesn't make you happy every time you look at it. That being said, investing in a piece means buying something of value (you don't want to pay $5000 for a painting only to realize down the road that it's worth $300).

Do your research by getting to know who the trusted art dealers are that sell works in your price range. The Art Dealers Association of Canada can give you information on dealers and galleries in your area as well as offer appraisals and also advice on Fair Market Value (meaning the highest price that a piece would bring in at a public sale).

Subscribing to magazines like Apollo (an international magazine for collectors) is also a great way to keep up to date on recent sales and happenings in the art community. These magazines often have members-only website access to dealer directories and up-to-the-minute news on the market.


Clockwise from top left:
Gilded silver Roman sculpture, circa 1817, dealer: Alessandra Di Castro; silver beaker, circa 1630, dealer: John Endlich; salon table with white marble top, circa 1825, dealer: Frank C. Moller Fine Arts; gold flowerhead chain necklace, circa 1880, dealer: S.J. Phillips Ltd.

Art comes in all forms
I recently had the opportunity to visit The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, Holland, and it truly is an art collector's dream. TEFAF being the world's leading art fair, I wasn't sure what to expect, and what I did see definitely exceeded my expectations.

One of the things that surprised me was all the different forms of art that were on display by the dealers. When one thinks of art, they often visualize paintings and drawings, and while there was an abundance of canvases, there was so much more -- vintage jewelry, sculptures, objets, antique furniture, silverware, etc.

When you begin your collection, keep in mind that art doesn't come in just one form; there are a variety of ways to invest, so put your money towards what works for you. If you're a fashionista, look into buying antique jewelry --  it's an investment that you can wear, or display on a bust in your home. If you love interior design, your money would be well invested in an original Thonet chair or a Charles Rennie Mackintosh piece (both of which I ogled at TEFAF!). And if you live to entertain, you will appreciate the value of spending money on a spectacular piece of vintage silver.



Favourites from TEFAF (from top, left to right): Portrait 2009 by Philippe Pasqua, Galerie Patrice Trigano; Il Teatro delle Maschere by Marino Marini, Landau Fine Art of Montreal; Joseph Beuys by Andy Warhol, 1980; gold necklace by Charles de Temple, circa 1970.

Plan a trip to The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF)

If you're interested in starting an art collection, there's no better experience or inspiration than attending The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, which takes place in the spring of each year. Chock full of fabulous works from Old Masters to modern artists, TEFAF offers a visual overload of pieces for sale from galleries and dealers across Europe. The main attractions are usually the works coming out of private collections, available for a once-in-a-lifetime viewing before they're snatched up again by private collectors. Imagine seeing works from Picasso, Botticelli, Monet, and Gaugin that have been out of the public eye for decades, all on display in one space.

So what does TEFAF offer for the average collector? While the most valuable pieces are the ones everyone buzzes about, TEFAF has plenty to offer for the lower-end and mid-range buyers as well. Studies from arts economist Dr. Clare McAndrew show that 74% of contemporary art sales in 2009 were for pieces under €5000, while only 4% of the sales sold for over €50,000 a piece. This means that fine art isn't as unaccessible as many people assume, and visiting fairs like TEFAF is a prime way to see what European art is available in their price range.

The most important part of a trip to TEFAF, however, is the opportunity to speak one-on-one with the world's predominant art dealers. Arranged like a convention (a very beautiful one!), TEFAF allows dealers to set-up shop in their own gallery-like sections and to display their works however they wish. The dealers and gallery owners are at your disposal to discuss the pieces on display and answer any questions you have. Transactions are often done on the spot and special arrangements can be made to ship your purchase. You can also buy with confidence, as every piece that enters TEFAF goes through a rigourous quality and authenticity check. Whether you're a beginner collector or a seasoned pro, knowing that you're paying the right amount for the value is priceless.

For more information about TEFAF and to register for next year's fair, visit



Share X
Buying Guides

The basics of buying art