A first-time buyers guide to purchasing art [7 top tips]

Daniel Lee-Jacobs Daniel Lee-Jacobs

We'll breaking down the challenge of buying your first artwork into 3 digestible chunks - finding, evaluating and buying. For each of these areas we'll provide you some fantastic tips which will take you step by step from confused to confident!

A first-time buyers guide to purchasing art [7 top tips]

You’re well into 'adult life', you've got a good job, a well thought-out wardrobe and your own place. And although your living room no longer resembles pg 22 of IKEA's spring catalogue, you still feel like your place looks a little more shabby than chic! Sound familiar?

Well, this guide is here to help you bring some personality and sophistication into your home. And what better way than with your first piece of artwork!

So where to start? It all sounds well and good, buying Art for your home. But we understand that the process can feel a bit daunting.

It can seem like a big commitment where you don't have all the information. You might be asking, what makes for a good purchase or why is a certain piece a certain price? With so much choice, where do I look and how do I choose?

This guide is here to help answer all those questions and calm those niggling fears about choosing the perfect piece for your home!

Finding your artwork

1 - Get out there and get to know your style

The first thing you need to do is to get to know yourself and your artistic style! Start looking at art in galleries, online, in books, in magazines, even on Instagram! Get as much inspiration as you can to help figure out what you're attracted to.

Drawing out the common themes about those artworks will help you understand the styles you love. Are you someone who likes attention to detail or broad expressive brush strokes; expansive landscapes or enrapturing portraits? Getting to grips with some of the technical terms or art movements will also help you to articulate what you enjoy! (Check out our simple guide to art jargon here.)

Or why not try out this fun interactive quiz to find out more about your art personality!

Apart from visiting your local gallery or artist studio, art fairs or degree shows also provide a perfect opportunity for first time buyers who want to take in lots of work all at once. These wonderful spaces bring together affordable art for the home in a compact space making it easy to browse hundreds of pieces in a day.

Art Fairs happen regularly in most major cities, often promoting both local and international Artists work. Art Fair organisers also regulate the art that is exhibited at the fair, meaning that you’re more than likely to pick up quality pieces by reputable artists!

However, Art Fairs – especially larger ones – can become overwhelming. So before you go it’s worth doing a little research into the fair and what galleries will be represented in the space, so you know what to expect.

Don’t be intimidated by gallerists either, ultimately these people are there to help and guide you. Don’t feel off put by having to ask questions – natural curiosity and learning about the art you're interested in is half the fun - you shouldn't feel a pressure to buy if you just want to browse!

Unlike anything else, art is about finding something you have an emotional connection with – so always look for artists that spark that instant attraction.

2 - Understand your limitations

Although it's not much fun being practical, you do have to consider realistically what you're willing to spend and what space you have to play with.


Art has a stigma of being expensive, but good art doesn't mean expensive art! Any original art will certainly will cost you more than a poster from IKEA, but it's important to consider what goes into the creation and execution of the artwork. (Read our article on 'What affordable art really means' to get an insight).

Besides the longevity of love you will have for your first piece, you are helping independent artists earn a living, which is so much more rewarding than buying mass-produced art off the high street.

Regardless, be mindful of what you can afford - overspending on your first purchase can put you off buying your next artwork, especially if you have to eat like a student for a month!

Setting a realistic budget is crucial, but if you find something which is a little out of your price range which you can't keep your eyes off, then talk to the seller about financing options. Most galleries now allow customers to set up instalment plans where they reserve and house the artwork after you’ve paid a deposit, and then you receive the piece after paying off the full amount in bite size chunks over a period of time.

If they don't offer their own finance options a common programme that galleries might be part of is the Own Art Scheme. In a similar way this allows buyers to spread the cost of a purchase over 10 months with an interest free loan. This makes buying larger, more pricey statement pieces affordable for first time buyers, meaning that you don’t have to compromise on affording an original that reflects your unique style.


Are you looking for something for your living room or your bedroom? Would you like a larger statement piece or something more versatile?

When buying your first piece on a budget, usually buying smaller pieces are a great way to build your confidence. Over a period your smaller pieces can come together as a beautiful gallery wall. (Check out our guide to creating the perfect wall gallery here). They also may be more versatile in terms of where they can be placed around your home - fitting in with different pictures or objects that may already exist in your home.

Even large wall art needs additional 'breathing room' otherwise it can overshadow everything in your interior making it feel cluttered and overly busy. On the other hand, a small painting on a large open wall will equally look lost and out of place!

Try not to buy art simply because it matches the interior of your home because, like the interior of your home, you’ll outgrow it and get bored of it. Buying for love is a clean-cut way to a successful purchase.

Evaluating Artwork

3 - Be aware how your choices affect pricing

A lot of things affect the price of an artwork; however one of the principal factors is the artist in question. No matter how 'good' or 'bad', 'simple' or 'complex' a piece may be, one factor that will always influence the price of an artwork, is who’s hands crafted it. For your first purchase you may be unable to buy artwork from an artist with serious pedigree and that's ok! Your purchase could be supporting an emerging artist which is equally important!

Other factors include size - most of the time, the larger a piece, the more expensive it will be - simply because it cost more time and materials for the artist to create.

The medium of the artwork also plays a large part in determining pricing. For example, sculpture, oil and Acrylic Paintings tend to cost more than photography, as they take more time and cost more to craft. Paintings and drawings for example are 'one-off's'. There will only ever be one 'original' whereas with original prints many more are available - making them more affordable.

Limited edition prints shouldn't be disregarded simply for their multiplicity however. Many galleries and artists produce limited edition prints in order to make their work more affordable and accessible. Some are hand-made 'original prints' using classic techniques (e.g Andy Warhol's famous Marilyn Monroe portraits), whilst others are reproductions of paintings for example (the price should reflect this).

These are perfect for buyers just starting out on a budget and you may even find very reputable artists work for a good price. Always ask if the gallery or artist has prints in stock, and if not ask if they can be produced. A lot of artists will produce prints to supply demand when asked.

If you ever need a hand navigating your way through all the options - the ArtsHaus team will be happy to provide free independent advice!

4 - Do your research

If you are umming and ahhing over a piece, do your research. It's always worth getting to know more about the artist or the motivations behind their work.

Are they starting out in their career? Are they showing signs of becoming a household name? Or are they already established and well represented? Depending on your inclinations this may affect how you view the piece and what you're willing to spend. Indeed it may have an affect on whether the piece in question has any promise of growing in value.

With the power of the internet, once you've chanced upon an artist you like, it's also now much easier to find who sells their work! In this way you can ensure you find the perfect piece for you. Some platforms such as ArtsHaus aggregate the work of artists across many galleries in one single place so it's easy to compare what's available where and at what price.

Buying Artwork

5 - Be conscious of added costs

Always take into consideration the additional costs of framing, commission (at auctions) and shipping. Will the piece need to be professionally framed? Is the artwork from a local gallery where I can collect it or will it need to be shipped with insurance?

These factors can effect how much you pay to get an artwork from the gallery onto your wall, possibly sending you over budget. It's simply a matter of asking the necessary questions!

It's important to note that if the price of a framed artwork is putting you off buying it compared to an unframed option, consider how much it would cost to get it professionally framed yourself. The unframed version may end up costing you more money and time than the framed original - especially given galleries usually have their own more favourable contracts with framers!

6 - Caring for & Hanging your artwork

Positioning, hanging and caring for your artworks are all important factors to remember before and after you buy.

When you purchase your first artwork, you probably will have an idea of where you want to place it in your home, however you should bear in mind positioning factors like direct sunlight, heat and damp.

Putting your new, much loved artworks in spaces where the conditions are temperamental could damage them. Ask the seller or framer what they would recommend if anything to keep your artworks in the best condition. (Don't use any chemical cleaning products for one!)

When hanging wall art, consider fixtures and fittings. Heavier pieces may need different fixtures, especially if you’re hanging work onto plasterboard or crumbling walls. Picture hooks are a much better solution than nails in the wall and will leave less of a mark also.

7 - Keep records of your purchase

Finally, it’s useful to get into the habit of keeping a paper trail of the artworks you buy! Keep any receipts, certificates of authentication or artist information which you are provided with by the vendor. This will help with authenticating your purchase in the future, if you ever do come to sell it! Most dealers or auction houses will require this information to value the piece.