The Secret to Buying Affordable Original Art That’s Been Under Your Nose This Whole Time

updated May 3, 2019
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Anyone who knows me knows I love investing in art. I’m not at Picasso-level investing or anything, but I like to pick up original pieces I can afford from local artists from time to time. That’s why I was very excited when I heard this tip for buying affordable, original art; it might be news, to you, too. (And it might help you grow your art collection!)

→ Invest in student art from art schools!

I’ve long since known that most of the art I see in galleries is out of my price range (though I do so love a wine and cheese gallery opening). And while I’ve seen a few student art shows in my lifetime, it just never occurred to me that these pieces might be more affordable. Student art shows certainly give off a less-intimidating and more user-friendly vibe than some galleries. And though the internet has made buying original art more affordable, you don’t always get the chance to see work in person. Going to art schools can be a great way to collect entry-level art or works by emerging artists.

I asked Heidi Elbers, Director of Exhibitions at the New York Academy of Art, for her best advice on buying student art:

The best time to go is spring

“That is the end of the school year and students will have completed works to show. Definitely look at second year MFA students because they will have completed their thesis work and it will be the most polished artistically. Like many schools, the New York Academy of Art has a special designated day of Open Studios (ours is April 15), but if you miss it, many schools are happy to have people do a walk-through of student studios.”

Sneak a Peek First

“Many art schools have “student work” pages on the internet, which gives you an idea before you go of the kind of work their artists produce. New York Academy of Art’s page.”

You’ll get a deal on sculptures and statements

“Art schools are the single best place to get sculptures and large statement paintings, which are prohibitively expensive over the internet and at galleries.”

Consider custom

“Even if a piece you really liked is already sold, because you are talking to the artist directly, you can always ask if they’d be willing to do a commissioned piece like the one you saw. Most students are happy to do it! It’s a fantastic chance to have a custom-made piece for yourself.”

Don’t forget about frames

“Pieces may have a framed price and unframed price. Always ask! Also, if you see something unframed, ask the artist about framing because they will know what kind of frame it needs to look best.”

Yep, you can negotiate price

“(But do bear in mind these are students and the funds are going to support their education.)”

The New York Academy of Art‘s Open Studios is today from 6pm – 9pm, so check it out if you’re in NYC. But be sure to check out the art schools near where you live; you might just find your own great source of original art from emerging artists!

More affordable ideas to decorate your walls: