Buying art can be a truly intimidating experience. How do you know what’s good? How much should you pay? Is that gallerina giving you the stink eye? (Probably.) But you’ve outgrown those framed posters you kept for too long post-college and you’re ready to anoint the blank walls of your new grown-up apartment with something truly special. What to do?
As the art world comes into focus this week with celebrities, fashionistas, and art stars converging in Florida for Art Basel Miami, we tapped art advisor Maria Brito to be our guide. She’s advised everyone from Sean “Diddy” Combs to Gwyneth Paltrow and now, the readers of ELLE.com. Here, she tells us the five questions you should ask before buying your first piece of art.
1. Who’s the artist?
This may sound like an obvious question but it is asked with the intention to go deeper and receive more information. It’s common for a gallerist to get engaged and give details regarding the artist’s practice, the medium he or she uses, the location where he or she works, and the artist’s age (this one is important because it will give an idea on where to place the artist, whether in an emerging, mid-career, or more established group).
2. What’s the medium?
Although some pieces fall into specific categories at a first glance—like photography—nowadays the edges are a lot more blurred regarding the materials that are employed when making a piece. Knowing what was used will better inform your understanding of a piece, and it will also help you determine its value. (For example, limited editions that are silk-screened in paper tend to be a lot more accessible than one-of-a-kind pieces.)
3. How do we arrange for delivery and/or installation?
There are often separate costs that must be taken into account unless you buy a piece so small you can carry it with you, as well as time window restrictions to consider (sometimes during a fair, galleries won’t let a buyer take a piece until the fair is over). But while it’s important to know that most galleries do have their preferred transportation vendors and installers, you can research and choose your own methods, too, and that may help cut back on costs.
4. What programs or activities is your gallery engaged with at the moment?
This is a question aimed at understanding where you are buying from and if the gallery is serious about what they do. Galleries who support their artists and are in the business for the long run tend to be very involved in a variety of different events and programs, which may include public art installations, performances, book signings, and lectures. If the gallery has nothing to say as an answer, take the silence as a red flag.
5. A question to yourself: Will I live with this piece of art for a long time?
The idea of falling in love with a piece of art has a lot more connotations than just the aesthetics of it or the impulse of getting something that speaks to you at first sight. It’s about living with an object that should have more permanence than a pair of shoes. It’s about connecting emotionally and intellectually with the artist and the artwork and also knowing that there are worlds that will be opened to you if you allow yourself to see beyond the surface of a piece.
Source: Elle magazine
Related: How to Start an Art Collection You’ll Love Forever