Yesterday I tweeted excitedly about my preparations for BirdFair (I’m exhibiting along with many other wildlife artists in the wonderful Art Marquee). Someone responded that visiting the art marquee could be very expensive. Now, it’s not clear whether they meant that they were bound to succumb to temptation, or that they expected the art on display to be expensive, or something else. But it got me thinking – can you build an art collection on a budget? And if so, how?
The answer, you’ll be glad to know, is yes. And here’s how:
1. Contemporary art is often cheaper than you’d think.
The price of the latest pieces from the likes of Hirst and Emin is always hitting the headlines, but in reality most original art is priced in tens and hundreds rather than thousands. For example, at the recent NEWA exhibition, the selling prices of hundreds of pieces of original art started at around a hundred pounds.
2. Follow your favourite artists on social media or check out their websites regularly.
Sometimes artists have promotions or sales. Keep up with what they’re doing and where they’ll be, and you could be in the right place at the right time to snap up a bargain.
3. Christmas gifts.
If you see a piece you really like, why not get family members to club together towards a Christmas or birthday gift (or both) for you. You’ll get the piece of your dreams and they’ll love knowing that they gave you a unique gift that you’ll really treasure. Be sure to invite them round when it’s in pride of place!
4. Payment plan.
Ask about spreading the cost of a piece or artwork. Artists understand the realities of a recession as well as anyone, and above all they’ll want their artwork to go to a good home. Suggest paying over a few months and you’ll get the piece you want and they’ll know their painting went to the right person. Win: win!
(NB Look out for my future post on UK gallery instalment plans)
5. What’s on.
Check out the ‘What’s On’ sections of websites and local press. If there’s a local art sale you can bet it’ll be promoted in the Press, and there’s a strong possibility there’ll be a bargain to be had.
6. Check out your local flea markets and boot sales.
We’ve all seen the programmes where someone arrives with a grubby piece and proclaims “My Mum bought it at a boot sale for £5” and it turns out to be an early Picasso or a Ming vase. You’re left wishing it could be you. Well, it could!
7. Signed limited edition prints.
If you can’t afford originals, signed limited edition prints make a great alternative. With the giclee print method, the quality is excellent and colours are lightfast so you can go on enjoying your print for years without fear it will fade.
Charity raffles sometimes include paintings or prints. Buy some tickets and you could end up with an original for just a few pounds’ outlay. If you don’t win, at least you’ll know you’re helping a good cause.
9. Buy unframed.
If you can’t afford the framed original, why not consider an unframed piece now that you can frame later?
10. Follow up & coming artists.
Consider investing in unknown and up & coming artists (providing you love their work, of course). Not only is their work cheaper than their famous cousins, but you might find in a few years time that their work has gone stratospheric and you’ve made a canny investment. Sound good?
11. Set aside a budget, any budget.
Plan a budget every year for an art piece. It may be only a few pounds, or if you get a sudden windfall, it could be a more. But just by allocating a budget every year you’ll be able to indulge your love of art without feeling guilty. And you get all the fun of planning what to add to your growing collection.
12. Know your art.
Spend time at galleries and exhibitions. Not only will you have a great time, but you’ll get to know the market, and be better equipped to spot a bargain when the opportunity arises.
Owning original art shouldn’t be the province of only the rich. In the words of Hedy Lamarr: “A good painting to me has always been like a friend. It keeps me company, comforts and inspires.”