How To Buy Contemporary Art: Buy Art Fair’s Top Collecting Tips

Buy Art Fair 2015

Want to start your own art collection, but have no idea where to begin? Ahead of Buy Art Fair 2016 at Manchester’s Old Granada Studios, its CEO Thom Hetherington takes the pain out of taking that first step into becoming a bone fide collector…

More people in the North of England are buying art than ever before, but it wasn’t always this way; it used to be seen as a difficult and intimidating process. Buy Art Fair was launched in 2008, and by 2015 it had an annual attendance of 7,011 people spending over £500,000 on art. Over the past seven years, more than 42,000 have attended the fair and spent £3million. 58% of our fair-goers say events like ours were key to increasing their interest and confidence in art. Two thirds of visitors said they bought a piece purely because they “liked it”, so it can be as simple as that. If you like it and you can afford it, then buy it!

For the more cautious shopper, here’s my top tips to getting started:

Art on a budget – what to buy

  • Collect limited edition prints and multiples. Cheaper than one-off works, these will make your budget go further and enable you to collect more established artists.
  • Sometimes you can buy direct from artists if they’re not already represented by a gallery. Buy Art Fair has an entire studio dedicated to unrepresented artists.
  • Public galleries often sell editions by high-profile artists at less than market price to help fundraise for their exhibitions and programmes. At Buy Art Fair, you will find stands from the Royal Academy of Arts, Liverpool Biennial, Walker Art Gallery and BALTIC Centre of Contemporary Art.
“Be inquisitive: ask questions and approach gallery staff for help”

First time buyer? Get acquainted

  • Go window shopping and start a wish-list collection. Not only is looking at art enjoyable, but the more you see, the better your understanding will become. Do you research before you get onsite. Everything on sale at Buy Art Fair and The Manchester Contemporary is previewed on the website, so pick your favourites and decide which you would like to buy.
  • Visit as many galleries, exhibitions and studios as you can to develop clear likes and dislikes. Be inquisitive: ask questions and approach gallery staff for help and advice. They are passionate about art and will be eager to share their expertise.
  • Attending art fairs like Buy Art Fair and The Manchester Contemporary will enable you to see many different galleries and artists in one place. Remember that gallery owners will represent more artists than they have space to show on their stands, so don’t be afraid to ask to see more work.
  • Specialist art magazines, such as Art Monthly and The Art Newspaper produce summary reports on contemporary art auctions and major fairs that will give you an overall sense of the state of the art market. You can also read up on collecting art in books, like Owning Art by Louisa Buck & Judith Greer (Cultureshock Media, 2006) and A Guide to Buying and Collecting: Affordable Contemporary Art by Beatrice Hodgkin (Vivays Publishing, 2011).
  • When you see a work you like, find out something about the artist. How old are they and where did they study? Have they featured in a group show or had a solo exhibition? Is their work included in any public or private art collections? The price of an artwork should be a reflection of where an artist is in their career as much as the individual work itself.

Buy Art Fair 2015

Talk it out

  • Collecting art can be very social and talking to others will give you a good sense of what is being collected and at what price.
  • Talk to staff in galleries; even if you aren’t going to buy straightaway, if they’re serious about art they’ll speak passionately with you about it.
  • Become a member of a charitable organisation like Contemporary Art Society, where you’ll meet like-minded individuals and gain access to independent specialist advice and art world networks.
“Become a member of a charitable organisation like Contemporary Art Society, where you’ll gain access to independent specialist advice”

Money matters

  • Don’t assume that if there isn’t a price-list, the work will be hugely expensive. Asking for a price doesn’t commit you to buying.
  • Most artists and galleries will hold art on reserve while you think about buying and are understanding if you change your mind.
  • Some galleries offer discounts to first-time clients they hope to cultivate. Ask about their incentives.
  • Don’t forget to check VAT, framing and delivery costs. At Buy Art Fair, you will find an on-site framers who will be able to give you any advice or guidelines on pricing.
  • Spread the cost with interest-free credit or hiring work. In many galleries, interest-free credit is available through the Arts Council operated Own Art scheme, which offers loans of £100- £2,000 towards the purchase of art and craft. At Buy Art Fair, Own Art Plus will be offering loans up to £25,000 to buy that piece that you want.
  • Don’t be put off if the work on display is already sold! Galleries exhibit work that is not for sale to show-off their artists, and sometimes an artist’s output is small, so you may have to wait. It’s worth being patient for a piece that you love.
  • If you like an artist’s work but it has sold already or is beyond your budget, ask about commissioning for something unique and affordable.
“Interest-free credit is available through the Arts Council operated Own Art scheme, which offers loans of £100- £2,000 towards the purchase of art and craft”

After the sale

  • Once you’ve found the artwork that you love, don’t forget to care for it to ensure long term enjoyment from your collection. Avoid sunlight and think about how light moves around a room over the course of a day. If you can spend a bit more, seek out drawings, photographs and prints framed behind museum-quality UV filter glass or Perspex to preserve quality and colour.
  • Keeping an inventory of your collection means you can record the little details about a work you might otherwise forget. Keep the invoice and a copy of the artist’s CV, too. If your collection grows, you might also consider specialist art insurance for added peace of mind.

Thom Hetherington

See Buy Art Fair and The Manchester Contemporary from Thursday 22-Sunday 25 September 2016 — limited preview night (Thursday) tickets are available to purchase for £12 ADV; Sunday admission £4 ADV/£5 OTD

Special offer: Use code “EXCELLENCE” to buy half-price weekend tickets (online)

Posted on 13/09/2016 by thedoublenegative