An obvious but sometimes complex question when viewing art for sale is, “should I buy this painting?” The often overused and vague advice we’ve heard before is, “Buy What You Love.” That’s fine if you are spending, let’s say, a couple of hundred dollars on art for décor to match your sofa, but what happens if you want to become a more serious art collector and start spending upwards of five hundred dollars or more on individual works of art?
Yes, we agree with “Buy What You Love,” but we advise buying what you love; while making an educated decision and not throwing your money away. There is so much art out there that you can be selective and buy what you love while adding assets to your net worth.
If you buy art for your home and all the art has a resell value (albeit garage sale value) of less than one thousand dollars, we’re okay with the buy-what-you-love (only) advice. However, suppose you want to start collecting art and transition into becoming a collector of “fine art,” which typically gets more expensive. Then, in our opinion, additional purchase criteria should be considered.
One of the most important criteria for many when purchasing fine art is whether you can resell (see “sell artwork” page) it one day. Unfortunately, many beginning collectors don’t even think about this. A gallery patron can spend thousands of dollars on a painting at an alluring gallery, only to find out years later that it’s only worth a small fraction of their cost when they wish to sell the painting. Much of what is called art in many retail galleries are reproductions framed in cheap factory-manufactured frames with little resale value. Often, the art shown in galleries exhibiting “one of a kind” original art by living contemporary artists has little resell value because the artists are not “well listed,” and there is no secondary market for the artist’s works.
If you have become an art collector or a “connoisseur” of fine art, we recommend considering the following art purchase criteria.
Art Purchase Criteria
Do I love it?
- Yes, we advise you to purchase art that you love!
Can I afford it?
- Collecting art can be a passion. However, be careful not to get that on-site impulse to spend too much and later regret it. Note: many higher-end collectors have broken this rule and purchased a painting they maybe should not have bought, and now the painting has appreciated more than any other in their collection and is their most valued and cherished painting.
Is there a “secondary market” for this artwork?
- We feel this is not an absolute buy or don’t buy criterion. Still, it would be wise if you considered the possibility that much of the art you see for sale at many galleries may not be worth nearly as much in the future on the secondary market. In addition, if you purchase artwork by an emerging artist with no established secondary market or seasoned auction history, acknowledge that you are potentially increasing your financial risk and reward.
Is the artwork an excellent example of the artist’s work within their oeuvre (body of work)?
- We believe this is significant when considering an acquisition. Not only are the best works by an artist typically the most appealing, but the best examples will always be more in demand when you or a family member chooses to resell the artwork one day.
- Additional criteria should be considered when weighing whether a painting or artwork is an excellent example.
- Does the artwork have a good to excellent composition compared to other works by this same artist?
- Does the artwork have great color? Darker paintings can but not always be less desirable to many collectors. Remember, though, that certain artists are masters of the dark (especially nocturnes), and this criterion may not apply as much to them.
- Does the painting have excellent brushwork and texture? Some artists are known for their thick (impasto) multicolored brushwork. If this is the case, you want one of those examples.
Consideration for the age and condition of the painting.
- The condition of a painting can be crucial to a buy or pass decision, especially if the painting is old. Purchasing a nicely composed example of an artist’s work in poor condition will significantly affect the value. Restoration and conservation will be needed and, in addition to being quite costly, can, even after conservation, detract quite a bit from the future value. Many older paintings are often in need of restoration and conservation. Knowing whether a painting should be restored, how much it will cost, and estimating how much the restoration and conservation will add or subtract from the future value are essential considerations best judged by an expert or even a team of experts.
Provenance can be significant if an artwork or painting is purchased in the secondary market.
- If you’re considering purchasing a painting by a well-listed artist in the secondary market, you should know the effect provenance may have on its value. A couple of examples of provenance being significant is if the artwork or painting has ever been sold through a public auction house or exhibited in a museum.
Is the painting or artwork a good value?
- Often a tricky question. Why? Because usually, the most outstanding examples by an artist go for top dollar. If you want the best, you usually must pay for it! We’ve seen many collections where the collectors “buy price” instead of quality. Collectors often think they are getting a great deal on an artwork or painting, but unfortunately, when seasoned experts view these paintings when they come up for resale market, they are a pass. The “buy price” collector can have a house full of mediocre paintings, usually with condition issues or, even worse, some fakes mixed in, and they do not even know it.
Adding Synergy To Building Your Collection
There’s so much more to acquiring paintings and artworks. So, if you’re already a collector or have thoughts about starting a collection, let us add some synergy and some of our experience to assist you in curating and building your stellar collection.
Here are a few more art collection topics listed below. Please contact us, and let’s discuss taking your collection to the next level!
- Collecting versus decorating
- More critical things you should know before you purchase art
- The primary versus secondary art market
- Navigating the art market with artists, dealers, and auction houses
- Collection focus
- Collection goals
- Planning for your collection
- A plan for selling your art
- Art as an investment
- Managing your collection
- Art Databases
- Fine Art Insurance