These Are the 6 Factors To Keep in Mind When Purchasing Pricey Artwork, According to Experts

published Jan 10, 2022
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So you’re ready to make a splash in your home with a new piece of artwork and don’t mind splurging a little. For longevity’s sake and return on investment, what exactly should you keep in mind prior to spending a substantial amount of change on a new painting or photograph? To find out, I turned to all types of experts, including designers and art advisers, who each weighed in below. These are the six most important factors to consider before bringing that stunning new piece home.

Don’t rush to fill a blank spot.

No splurge purchase should be made on a whim. Los Angeles-based designer Kim Gordon advises the following: “Take a stroll through your home, and check out what walls can use a little bling. Snap a photo of the wall with a view of some surrounding furniture, and overlay the measurements for when you find yourself in a gallery or art show, and store it on your phone.”

Gordon also suggests trying out a piece for a bit before fully committing. “Your absolute best bet is to buy art that offers a return policy,” Gordon advises. “Buy it, bring it home, have someone hold it up as you step back. Check different rooms, and don’t forget to hold it in front of your other hanging pieces, as its perfect place may be where your grandma’s mirror has been hanging for years. Art shuffling is an instant design refresh.”

Focus on finding something that brings you joy.

“While art prints are a fantastic way to decorate your home by allowing you to add character and depth, which elevates your space, there are times where you may be looking to add that special one-of-a-kind treasure to your collection,” notes Shira Galili-Berman, co-founder of Artfully Walls, which offers a mix of prints and original works. “Art tends to be a very personal decision for most people, as it’s a matter of personal taste above all else.”

Therefore, Galili-Berman suggests thinking beyond what is trending and instead focusing on pieces that make you smile. “Also, consider thinking about this purchase as an investment in your happiness, too,” she adds. “It’s an opportunity to start your own unique collection that will evolve as you do and will give your space that collected-overtime, magical touch.”

Washington, DC, area designer Annie Elliott shares a similar perspective. “If you love something, it’s worth the splurge,” she says. Plus, as she points out, art can easily travel from one room to another over the years. “If you’re nervous about investing in a piece you love because you think you’ll get tired of it, remember you can (and should) move your art around from time to time. It will look new and fresh every time you re-hang it, and you’ll see it differently in each space.”

Elliott also warns against falling into the trap of thinking a piece is the right splurge item for you just because it’s priced highly — no matter your budget. “The price of a piece shouldn’t dictate how ‘good’ it is,” she notes. “A $10,000 painting is worthless to you if you feel so-so about it. So buy only what you love.” Adds LA designer Lynn Stone: “A good rule of thumb — if you have to ask someone else if they like it, you don’t love it enough to take it home.”

Credit: Ashley Urban

Think local and emerging when shopping and sourcing.

Why splurge on a piece just for it to resemble what you’re seeing in every designer or influencer’s home? “Some of our clients like catching the artist before they really make a name for themselves,” says New York City designer Eneia White. “Researching local and up-and-coming names can open up the door to names you might take an interest in.”

Washington, DC-area designer Tracy Morris agrees. “For myself, I’ve been finding talent on Instagram,” she shares. “There are so many artists out there who are so amazing and just waiting to be discovered. That is my favorite part — not only investing in a beautiful piece, but also creating a lasting relationship with the artist.” As a bonus, your piece could greatly appreciate in value down the line if your fave artist makes it big! You might also save a bit in shipping by shopping local, as you can make arrangements to personally pick up a piece (and maybe even meet the artist!).

Credit: Jiske Kosian

Go big.

“The bigger the better,” Stone says about investment pieces. “Nothing makes a statement like a large, spectacular piece of art. Make sure to hang it somewhere where you are going to see it every day. That’s so important.” Ontario designer Kate Davidson agrees. “If you buy artwork that’s too small, it can look like an afterthought, like you just hung it with no thought of the space,” she says. “If you buy something a little too big, it will create a focal point, and draw attention to the artwork. A great place for statement art is in hallways.”

However, the idea of buying one, large painting may be anxiety-inducing for some, Elliott acknowledges, and she offers a clever alternative. “If you’re nervous about investing in a single large painting, drawing, or photograph for your wall, consider a diptych or triptych that will read as one when hung together,” she says. “You can break them up if you downsize.”

Consider photography.

Investment works don’t have to just be paintings; photographs can also be extremely impactful, too. “I often look to photography as a way to fill grand spaces, as they tend to be more affordable than large-scale original paintings,” Seattle-based designer Amy Vroom notes. “I also like how transportive photography can be — a memory of a beach vacation or scenes of a place where you once traveled.”

You can also find a photo of place you love or a place you’d like to visit someday, or choose a person or something abstract. Photography can offer just as much variety as painting can; you just have to search for a piece that speaks to you.

Don’t forget to search auction houses.

By no means are galleries or Instagram your only option for sourcing fabulous works of art; you can also go the art fair or auction route. Both might seem a little intimidating, but familiarizing yourself with both online first can help to squelch those initial fears. “A great place to get started to look for what you are interested in is on auction house websites,” explains Lindsay Griffith, head of the Prints & Multiples department at Christie’s. “For every upcoming sale (and from past sales), there is a wealth of free information about artists, their work, condition, and estimates. This will help you find what you love and want to live with!”

According to Griffith, it’s always worth consulting a pro if you wish. “Auction house specialists are also always happy to speak with you in advance of any purchase to discuss any questions you may have,” she says. “Everyone is always welcome to come to the public exhibition in advance of the auction and see works in person. At a minimum, always ask for a condition report so that you can get a sense of the piece that you are buying.”