|Collecting Art on a Budget…|
Every artist was once unknown
until the point they earned the badge we call, discovered. Of course, some
never do quite reach the heady heights of discovery no matter how hard they
work for it, and that’s a real shame because the world is really missing out on
some great art by ignoring the small businesses run by the many independent
creatives who are not only contributing so much to the arts but supporting
local economies too.
If you are thinking about
becoming an art collector on a level that’s a little more than just a casual
buyer, it’s often said that you will need a keen eye, a budget that you are
able to stretch on demand, ideally a few spare walls and an expectation that
once you step on to the art collecting path the bug for collecting is likely to
bite you very hard. It’s at this point that the budget will have to stretch even
From experience, that advice
is probably good advice. You can become hooked on collecting and spend an
insane amount of money feeding your newfound passion, but collecting art doesn’t
have to break the bank. If you don’t mind missing out on hanging a genuine
Matisse on your wall, there are much more affordable ways to collect great art on a budget that most people can probably afford, even when economies shrink.
That’s the real joy of art, there’s something literally for everyone to enjoy.
|Circuit – One of my most recent releases and one of the most challenging abstracts I have ever created!|
I am a big believer in making
art accessible to everyone. Art isn’t something that should only ever be
enjoyed by the world’s most affluent people, it should be enjoyed, cherished,
and celebrated by anyone and everyone who wants to either produce it, collect
it, or support the arts in general.
So, this week we will be
looking at some of the options you have to not only build up a great collection
on a budget but also make sure that what you are collecting is way more unique
than you might find if you were purchasing mass-produced prints from the big
box stores or even original works from one of the many mega-galleries that seem
to have become more about corporate than they are about art.
We will also take a dive into
the world of art collecting a little more broadly. There’s a great deal of
information that you will need to know even when you are collecting on a budget
and with a little homework you can avoid many of the pitfalls that new collectors
face. Working out what’s marketing hype and what’s worth collecting can be
challenging to the uninitiated, but the good news is that learning to avoid the
pitfalls isn’t at all that difficult.
It is, as they say, all
relative. Whether you are spending a Million plus on a Banksy or a hundred
bucks on Etsy, the same principles, issues, and challenges can often apply. It
is all relative to what you can and can’t afford to lose, and ideally, if you
follow some simple steps and carry out your own due diligence, you shouldn’t be
Before you decide on
collecting anything or even coming up with a budget, it’s worth spending some
time working out firstly, why you want to collect art, and secondly, you need to
figure out what you love. You also need to decide whether an artwork’s future
value will be a determining factor in your collection, or whether you can live
with the likelihood that finding a bargain Matisse at a yard sale is a lot like
your chances of winning the lottery over and over again.
I can answer this in a single paragraph.
No. Art isn’t generally a good investment if you are collecting it on a tight budget,
or looking to get rich quick. It’s not even a great investment when budget isn’t
an issue. Art is a risky business where prices can be swayed by a single critic
You can make a successful
investment in art, and there’s little to no love needed towards a piece of art
if the outcome you want at the end is purely monetary. But, art is mostly, and for most people, a
really bad investment if you want to get rich quick or get rich at least
anytime soon from the proceeds of the art alone. Personally, I have never been
convinced that collecting art with its future
investment potential at the front of your mind is a great reason to collect art
at all, even if you can afford top tier artworks from the world’s most elite
galleries there is never any guarantee that you will see any kind of financial
return on your investment.
The value of art is based on a
very simple model of supply and demand. It’s also a model which also brings
with it, huge swings upwards in value at times, and equally and more likely,
huge swings in a downward direction too. That can be the case if the art receives
a bad critic review or when there are downward shifts in the economy, although
the economy is often less of a factor.
If you want to fully
understand whether art is a good or bad investment, you only need to look at
the number of art galleries that have shuttered their doors for the last time
in the past decade. About ten years ago, I remember asking a gallery owner
friend of mine if they would set up another gallery if they could start all
over again and the answer was a resounding no. It had never dawned on me before
then that galleries are essentially making continued investments either in art
or artists that may never sell, whereas collectors are purchasing the work because
they want it and don’t necessarily want or need to sell it on.
For wealthy investors, art is
perhaps more of an alluring investment opportunity, particularly if art is just
a single strand within a much broader investment portfolio where you are not
too dependent on one particular investment opportunity coming through. With some artworks from some artists, there’s
much less of a risk that the artwork will depreciate in value over time, but
that kind of art tends to already be at the upper end of the scale when it
comes to its value.
Art at the tens of thousands
to million buck plus level is less likely to lose money than art that is more
affordable to the masses but that doesn’t always mean even at this level, that
the artwork will always increase in value. A critical review from a
professional art critic can make or break an artist’s career and the value of a
collection, as can a misstep by the artist or any number of other factors.
Art isn’t like the stock
market, it can increase in value when the financial markets are performing at
their worst, so for some people, it makes sense to diversify their portfolios
by adding in a pricey art collection to their portfolio in the hope that it
increases in value. Very little about collecting art at this level is really
about collecting art, it becomes more about managing risk. It’s all about
scarcity, supply, demand, and knowing when to make a move.
When it comes to collecting
art at the level where you are talking about spending tens of thousands or
maybe millions of dollars or pounds rather than buying a small original from
your favourite Etsy seller, your budget will need to also stretch to caring for
the work. That care will most likely need to include things like having to have
temperature-controlled environments with detectors that measure humidity
levels or making sure that any lighting doesn’t create harmful UV rays that
could make the paint fade or crack prematurely. As art ages, it becomes needier and needier.
This is a level of art
collecting that can quickly become more expensive than owning and operating a
private jet, in some cases a fleet of private jets, and oh, don’t forget the
insurance, management fees and the team of preservation experts that you’ll
need to have on call. If you then want to move the art from A to B, you might
also need a team of specialist art movers to take care of things. If you think about
the cost of sending regular parcels around the world, think about sending
multi-million dollar works on an aircraft in a temperature-controlled container
along with a team of experts who know how to look after work in transit.
The simple fact that we can’t
get away from is that art collecting can be expensive, but for those of us who
are unable to drop down eye-watering budgets of between $5000 and $500,000, or
possibly even more, art collecting tends to be something that won’t necessarily
make you mega-rich in monetary terms, but it will certainly make you richer in
Risks to artists can be just
as high as they are for collectors, art is generally expensive to create and
there are very few guarantees that anything created will sell. It’s not uncommon
for many artists to always have a collection of their own work on hand, and
that goes for some of the most prolific and popular artists too.
There was one piece of career
advice I remember getting from my mentor when I first started creating art
professionally and that was to never become an artist. Instead, he told me that
there would be way more financial benefit if I became one of the supporting
cast. I had no idea what he was talking about until my first gallery gig when I
handed over 50% of the sale to the gallery, after spending 30% on art supplies,
and giving 20% away to the tax office. It is though, the one piece of advice I
am glad I never took.
|Out of Order – A follow-up work to Circuit – Mark Taylor (2022)|
Art is filled with jargon, so
understanding what some of that jargon really means is perhaps one of the first
things you need to get on top of. Art is either sold in the primary or
secondary market, regardless of who created it and where it’s purchased from.
Primary sales of artworks are
sales that originate from the artist, their agent, or the artist’s studio or
publisher. There is a link back to the artist in the primary market so if you
buy through this route, it’s a safe bet that the artist will receive some level
of benefit or payment. But never assume that the artist will receive the bulk
of that benefit or payment, most of what an artist earns will go immediately out
of the door as soon as it lands in their bank account.
The secondary market is
usually a sign of a growing interest in an artist’s work where work is resold,
usually through secondary galleries and art brokers, and even at auction
houses. The artist doesn’t usually directly benefit from secondary market
sales, other than those sales solidifying the artist’s worth and adding to the
artist’s sales record. Things might change as we progress towards blockchain
technologies becoming more mainstream, but we’re a way away from that right
If you are serious about
collecting, even if you are on a budget, it’s worth understanding the
differences between primary and secondary markets, and it’s also worth noting
that prices on either market are not
always lower or higher than the other, you can pick up art on the secondary market
sometimes for considerably less than the price it would sell for on the primary
market, equally, you could pay significantly more. This is where it all starts
to get really complicated.
The secondary market can be a
really good indicator of potential future value and often defines the true
value of the work as prices are driven directly by market forces rather than
galleries, or even artists. Any art is only worth as much as whoever wants it,
is willing to pay for it. Of course, that’s also true of the primary market, no
matter how many conversations an artist has with themselves about what their
art is worth, it’s the market who will decide what to pay.
It’s worth pointing out here
that artists don’t always have the option of setting the initial price,
especially if they are represented. That might be the case for some artists who
work in the print on demand space too, their prices are usually a combination
of production and material costs, shipping, and usually only a smaller
percentage goes back to the artist in the form of a commission.
If you are buying from a
secondary market, discounts are rarer than unicorns. The market decides what
any particular work is worth and if you are not prepared to pay what someone
else is, you won’t be able to secure the work. Galleries, art brokers and even
artists might try to influence this, but ultimately the buyer decides. However,
if you regularly purchase from the primary market, discounts are less rare.
Many galleries will look after regular collectors and might offer discounts of
between 5% and 10%, but it’s also worth remembering that this discount isn’t
usually available from an artist directly if they are represented by a gallery.
Any professional artist will
never undercut the gallery they are signed with. It makes little to no sense in
discounting the work and jeopardising any future representation from the
gallery, but if you are buying enough works via their gallery then don’t be
afraid to ask the gallery if a discount is available on works sold through the
primary market. It’s not unusual to find galleries that will offer some
significant discounts on complete collections, and this is something that is
often agreed with the artist before the work even goes on sale.
|Fractured Peace by Mark Taylor|
If an artist offers to sell
you work at a discount on the premise that you don’t say anything at all to
the gallery, it should be seen as a red flag and you should buy a new pair of
sneakers and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.
Any artist who undercuts the
gallery isn’t thinking about their existing collector base, and nor are they
protecting the investments of current or future collectors. If a work is for
sale in the gallery for $10,000, the artist suggests they will cut a deal for
$5,000 if you keep the sale quiet, the art at that point has lost 50% of its
You might think you have a bargain but what the artist has essentially
done at this point is to halve the value of previously collected works that
were purchased for the full price. New sales rely on the price of previous
sales and future demand and if you remove value via a discount, generally all
sales, past, present and future could be put at risk.
It’s worth pointing out right
about here that the art world, even the art world that doesn’t come with
high-end price tags, can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to placing value
on works. Flipping is a word that you will need to be on the lookout for. This
is when art is purchased and then resold in the secondary market for higher
prices over and over. The result is that the work looks more popular than it
really is and therefore it appears to be more valuable than it really is, and
yes, it happens a lot. It’s an unregulated market and whilst it’s a legal grey
area, little can be done to stop it while people continue to buy the work.
The idea is to create bubbles
of speculation in the market to heighten expectations for a particular artist.
As with most dubious practices, the bubble can, and eventually will burst as
the market corrects, not only diminishing the value of the work but also
seriously harming the potential worth of that particular artist in the future.
Shill bidding is something
else that you will need to keep an eye open for and this is something that
doesn’t only happen in prestigious auction rooms, it happens every day on
platforms such as eBay. This is where fake bidders place fake bids in order to
escalate the value of the work and the ultimate sale price. You might also find
shill reviews or even just comments naming the artist placed strategically
online to ensure the artist appears to be more relevant than they really are.
Be wary of private auctions
where this is more likely to happen in the art world. The best auction houses
will have already vetted potential bidders before the sale so as not to run
foul of the many new laws that have been introduced in recent years, but that
doesn’t at all mean that the practice doesn’t continue to happen, it happens in
any area that attracts buyers and collectors regardless of whether the item is
an artwork or not.
I frequently buy retro and
vintage computers and recently even video games have been subject to some
dubious practices of late. A sealed copy of Super Mario Brothers sold for a
million dollars, albeit a graded copy. This suddenly puts a game cartridge
available unsealed for less than sixty dollars in the same league as a genuine
work of art from an old master. The only rare element is that the game was
sealed in shrink wrap which will probably never be opened.
Unlike other investments where
there is often a level of protection when things go wrong, art is an
unregulated market. Buy a fake and you are generally on your own with a crater-sized hole in your pocket and an art sized gap on your wall. What you get with
art is at best, something beautiful, and at worst, an unregulated asset that is
illiquid and that also happens to come with high running costs and financial
performance that only ever pays out when you sell the piece on for more than
Just one more thing about
fakes and forgeries without going completely down that rabbit hole, never think
that fakes and forgeries are exclusive to those pieces with high-value price
tags. Believe me when I say that a good proportion of print on demand works
will find their way onto the market from third party cushion covers to poorly
reproduced prints which are then sold by rogue sellers on online platforms, and
mostly without the original artist ever being mentioned, in most cases, the
original artist will be totally unaware that their work is being distributed
Some of my work has been available
for a number of years from unscrupulous sellers and there’s very little that can
be done when the sellers remain unidentified and uncontactable for anything
other than a sale. They mostly originate in countries where British and US laws
have little to no reach. The responsible marketplaces are usually great at
taking products down and blocking sellers from their stores, but they reappear
often within minutes with the same products available from a seemingly
different seller. Those HD wallpaper websites that turn up in Google searches
are filled with digital prints, the prints usually being scraped from official
online channels with many of them still bearing the watermark of the official
|Fence Panel Mountain is a follow-on work to my earlier ‘Mountain’ artwork which is still my best selling work ever! Mark Taylor (Copyright 2022)|
For digital work which is
arguably the easiest work to copy, blockchain and NFT (Non-Fungible Token)
technologies will begin to make things more difficult for the bad players, but
for now, the technology that has the potential to mitigate some of the risk isn’t
mainstream enough, or anywhere near as accessible enough for busy working artists
and a majority of their collectors.
I don’t particularly have any
issue with so-called vanity galleries, physical spaces where the artist often
pays to place their work in a bricks and mortar retail environment. It can be a
useful marketing exercise to sell into local markets or to gauge public
perception of your work as an artist, but there are differences that are worlds
apart between the good ones and the bad ones.
Where I do have a problem is
with vanity galleries that offer no form of curated experience, or those that
have been set up to take advantage of local artists without providing anything
other than wall space.
Let’s cut to the chase here, there
are many vanity galleries that are simply in place so that artists can pay to
display with little to no ongoing support or marketing available to the artists
who are often putting everything into a model where the only real winner is the
person who collects the rent.
This pay to display model takes
money from the artist rather than the buyer, if the art doesn’t sell, the
artist still has to make rent and that’s not good for the buyer or the artist.
As a buyer, you will certainly discover some great art, you might also discover
a lot of not so great art, but finding the good will be a challenge as most of the good pieces will be buried beneath the bad.
It’s worth being clear here
that there are other models that might initially look like pay to display
models, but there is a difference between an artist’s collective or local art
group and a corporation basing their model completely on funding directly
coming from the artist.
You’re now aware of at least
some of the risks so we can now have a think about what we want to collect. Knowing
what to collect very much depends not only on budget but also what you like
and what you can realistically afford. I would love to collect original
Banksy’s, my budget is more original Etsy.
When you are collecting art
you should be collecting something that you can live with and maybe for a very
long time. With that in mind, it is worth taking some time before you even
begin collecting to work out what kind of art resonates more with you. You
might already have a subject or style in mind and that will certainly make
things easier, but if you are after something that isn’t generic, something
that’s a little more unique, and something that will provide a talking point,
then it’s definitely worth exploring the wider art world and also look at
genres, mediums, and subjects that you might not have thought about before.
Many people get into collecting
art only to become quickly limited in what they can then collect. Popular
genres and subjects are a safe place to start particularly if you intend to
sell them on fairly easily down the line, but if you’re after something that very few
other people have hanging on their walls you might want to consider looking at
more niche subjects and mediums and even sellers.
You could also start with
collecting small works or prints from well-known names but that too can quickly
become limiting, not least in that you might fast run out of affordable options
to continue collecting and once again, well-known artists are already being
collected so if you are after that more unique talking point to hang on your
wall, the work of these artists is going to be a lot less unique than something
from a relatively unknown artist.
Your art collecting might be
to create a more aesthetic space rather than it being a collection that needs
to provide a return on your investment down the line, and there are plenty of options that
will allow you to change the décor without changing the art. My advice is to
take in and research as much art as you can regardless of the subject, medium,
or artist, and take some time to discover what you are drawn to (excuse the pun).
If you look beyond the safe
options that everyone else is collecting you will find artworks that just work
regardless of the setting and if you are looking to fill limited space with
artworks you could consider something like a gallery wall of smaller pieces.
This will allow you to grow your collection without having to consider that all-important other kind of budget that you will need, which is wall budget.
If you only have a small space
for your collection, think about periodically resting some works and swapping
them out for new additions to your collection, or go with a single signature
piece surrounded by lots of smaller works.
|The Retro Collector by Mark Taylor (Copyright 2022) Available from my online stores!|
It’s worth pointing out at
this point that buying the work of an unknown artist or at least work from an
artist who hasn’t got anywhere near the same provenance as artists with a long
track record of sales, doesn’t make the work any less of an artwork. What it
does mean is that you might just be at the forefront of discovering that artist
and there is a possibility that your new work will indeed increase in value at
some point in the future if the artist eventually goes on to earn that badge we
There is practically, as much
risk in collecting works of unknown artists in the hope that they will one day
increase in value as there is in collecting anything else, but these risks are
heavily mitigated in comparison to buying big-buck collections. You can
mitigate the risk a little more by buying from artists who you can see are
working hard to develop their provenance and career, checking out whether they
are active on social media channels, whether they are involved in any art
communities, and by listening for online chatter. I would be less inclined to
base any collection on the merits of online reviews, just as I would if I was
spending money on art from any mega-gallery where I am being steered towards
what the gallery want or indeed, need to sell.
There is also an opportunity
to collect outsider art, although it is a term that is used in multiple ways, it’s
generally thought to describe work from self-taught artists or those who have
no formal touchpoint with the art industry or are naïve to the nuances of the
Art Brut is another term often
used interchangeably, yet there are exhibitions specifically for outsider art
and it would be completely disingenuous to describe every currently unknown
artist as an outsider in the context of thinking them to be naïve or from
outside of the art world. If you fall in love with a piece of art then it
shouldn’t matter if the artist was self-taught, many of the very best artists throughout
history have never attended a prestigious art school.
When I speak about unknown
artists, some may be self-taught, some might not attend every exhibition or
turn up to the opening of an art world envelope, yet there are thousands upon
thousands of unknown artists who are probably more alert to the nuances of the
art world than many established artists are.
There will be many, many,
unknown artists who might never quite find their way to wearing the ‘discovered’ badge,
and many who might not find the moniker of ‘discovered’ until after they’ve
passed. None of this means that they won’t ever be discovered, many will, nor
does it mean that their art is any less. This is a group of artists who often
work even harder than many of the most well-established artists, and maybe often
produce dare I say it, at times, much better art.
It’s worth remembering that
unknowns are usually at least a little known too! There are many unknown artists
who are well known within their own niches, geographic areas, and on platforms
such as Etsy, eBay, or any number of print-on-demand services, all good
examples of platforms that are filled with work that regularly sells, and some
of these artists might already have a significant following within their own
creative communities. Yet to those outside of those circles in the wider art
world, these artists are unknown. An unknown is often almost anything but, so maybe
a better term for these artists might be, not yet fully discovered.
You could throw your money
towards emerging artists, artists who have maybe a number of sales and shows
under their belt, some of whom might have been newly signed up by galleries,
but bear in mind that at the point of emerging, the value will be on the rise
and the more budget-friendly pieces will have long ago been sold.
It’s a sort of middle ground
between buying from a completely unknown artist and an artist with provenance,
an established career and a high price tag. In my experience of being
previously (I still think, incorrectly for that moment in time) labelled as an emerging artist, this is where the high-end
hype also starts. Sometimes for good reason, other times the hype is
self-driven by an inexperienced ego or as a product of a carefully crafted
There is no defining moment
when an artist officially gets to wear the emerging artist badge, many artists badge
themselves with this label without any provenance to back it up at all. You only need to look through Instagram and
other social channels to see how egos are crafted on a web page and you might
still end up paying over the odds for work that has zero provenance. Word to
the wise, make sure you carry out your own due diligence.
If you are looking for a truly
emerging artist, my advice would be to look towards artists who are just about
to graduate from art schools. Most of the schools will exhibit the work of
their students and this is often where you will be able to pick up work that
could potentially have some significant future value. Art school exhibitions
are frequently attended by professional art critics and these shows can be
incredibly important to the artist’s future career. It’s an ideal opportunity for
those collecting on a budget to maybe find something that will have some level
of potential for a future financial return.
Another mistake many first-time
art collectors make is in collecting works that will match existing home décor.
That works if you need to find temporary art that will only be relevant while
your walls are painted a certain colour, when you eventually change the colour
of those walls or change the carpet you will then probably want to change the
art. Collecting to match a colour scheme often means that the art becomes as
temporary as the next home décor trend.
Whilst you might not be
collecting with any future value in mind, you will want to at least protect
your initial investment and make sure that the art that you purchase isn’t just
a fashion statement for the here and now. There’s little to no collectability
value in doing that even when prices are low. If your hope is that the value of
the collection increases over time, here and now trends are sold in volumes
that automatically diminish investment potential because everyone else is
following the same trend and buying the same art.
|Eight Bit Eighties by Mark Taylor (Copyright 2022) Available Now!|
Considering price and
It’s easy to think that the
art world is the one place you can rely on to see sales figures that look more
like telephone numbers than price tickets and generally, that is kind of all we
will see in the media. We never, or at least very rarely get to see any news
about independent artists who could very well be contributing more to the local
economy than the not quite so local mega-gallery. An artist making a living out
of one hundred buck prints is much less interesting to read about than a Banksy
work shredding itself, but look towards the artist’s story and you might find
something even more compelling to read about.
In part, the media bias is because
the small numbers involved in many local sales, of which there will be
thousands every day, simply don’t make great headlines. The media has been at
the forefront of portraying the art world as a single, often exclusive, market,
when in fact, the art world as a whole is made up of many components.
It’s not just the way the
media like to do things, the mega-galleries and large auction houses also like
this approach because it keeps the focus on them, but it distorts the view that
we don’t have a single, flat, global art market.
If we identified and included
the other markets such as the local Etsy seller and the multitude of other
sources of art sales such as the artist who sells from the wall of their local
coffee shop, or the artist who sells through an independent retailer, what we
would see is an art world where the big numbers suddenly stop looking quite so
big. More art is sold in the non-high-end markets than is sold on a Tuesday
night in auction houses around the world and every day in the mega-galleries.
My advice to any new art
collector is to start small. If you have a limited budget, starting small means
that you’re not putting your all into something that you might find you want to
change fairly early on in your collection. It also means that you can quickly
build up a collection before committing more budget to more valuable pieces.
Rather than scrimp and save,
buy good quality works from lesser-known artists rather than buying something
that just about falls within your available budget or even stretches it beyond,
just so you can own ‘something’ from a more well-established artist. A second
rate work from a well-known artist is going to limit what you can collect in
the future if the artist’s other works are more valuable, and that’s if they’re
available for sale. Besides, you can find a heap of satisfaction in supporting
the next generation of artists.
Consider starting out with
prints. An art collection for some people can be a collection of original
Matisse and for other people, it can be a collection of comparatively low-cost
prints. If it is about having art on the wall, there’s nothing at all wrong in
going down the route of collecting prints, there are a multitude of options
available from exceptionally budget-friendly right the way through to archival
quality prints that can in themselves become highly sought after, especially if
they’re limited editions or signed by the artist.
Even some open edition prints
can become highly sought after, especially if you do your homework on the
artist. In the print on demand space, it tends to be everything or nothing.
Some of these print on demand services print thousands of copies of the same
work, others might only sell in very small numbers and in some cases, the
artists will retire works rather than have unsold pieces in their online
portfolio. If you are looking for work that no one else has, especially when it
comes to prints, then print on demand is where you are more likely to find
those kinds of works.
What that means for the savvy
collector is that as crazy as it sounds, you could find yourself with an open edition print that’s way
more exclusive than an artist’s limited edition. If you are looking for an art
collection that very few other people have on their walls, doing your homework
in the print on demand space could see you landing a collection that is very
unique for a very wallet-friendly price, and if you can get the artist to sign
the print, it could even increase in value. Remember, print on demand means
that whilst there may be the option of unlimited prints, it’s quite rare to
come across prints only available on that platform available in significant
numbers, prints are only produced to order.
Keep an eye open at special
events too. My all-time best bargain buy was an open edition Disney print
purchased from Disney World but signed by the five animators responsible for
creating the image. Maybe not quite as valuable as the original cell would be
if it were to be signed by the animators, but in this instance, they never
collectively signed the original cell and they only signed two open editions by
mistake. Just over twenty years later, that twenty buck open edition is now
worth four figures and I own both of them.
If you are starting with
prints it’s probably best to avoid the box store variety and look beyond the hype
of editions. Some limited editions are so huge that an open edition would sell
fewer works, and in some cases, a limited edition might even mean a limited
quantity available in a specific size, other sizes might be selling in their
Buy good quality prints. The type of medium the work is printed on will not only make a difference to the price, it
will also make a difference to the longevity and quality of the work, and even
its future value. An archival quality print in a quality frame can still be an
amazing focal point for your collection many years after you buy it.
It’s worth remembering too
that quality art prints are usually crafted by master printmakers and at this
level, prints become their own medium. As such, in some cases you can expect to
pay a considerable amount of money to own an archival quality work that has
been skilfully put together by a master printmaker, usually working alongside
the artist who will be overseeing quality.
If you are buying editions,
unless you are buying a very early print from a copper plate, don’t fall for the
lower number is more valuable sales pitch. A long time ago prints would be
created from plates that would eventually wear out meaning that the later
print runs would be significantly poorer in quality.
Today, where print plates are
used they tend to be created from steel-plated copper, meaning that the plate
doesn’t wear out like they once did and all prints in the edition are generally
the same quality. Numbering of these prints is rarely issued in print order,
the last print of five hundred pieces could be numbered 1/500 or 500/500, and
it makes no difference at all to the value.
Another thing to look out for
is when the work has been signed by the artist, but not created by the artist.
Some artists will use assistants to create the work in the artist’s style,
usually overseen by the artist but that is the only interaction that the artist
will have had with the work. You are less likely to see this in the independent
|Insert Coin – Mark Taylor (Copyright 2022) Every element was painstakingly hand-drawn using digital mediums, including each strand of the woodgrain!|
Some of the best work I have
picked up for my personal collection over the years has never seen the inside
of a typical gallery, it was discovered hanging on the walls of a coffee shop
or a seaside gift shop selling the work of local artists alongside seaside
souvenirs. Some of the works I have picked up over the years have been from
artists who have since been through their own emergence and have now been
discovered and there is simply no way that I would be able to afford some of
their more recent work.
Keep an eye open for local
events where you are more likely to come across local artists who have a wealth
of artistic experience. Many of these artists might also be working in other
spaces and using the local market as a way of supplementing their income from
other art sale sources. There are bargains to be had even for great quality
work and for a lot of people, it’s not the collection that drives them to
collect art, it’s the hunt from potentially picking up a real undiscovered gem.
Supporting a local arts scene
with independent artists who for whatever reason, don’t typically follow the
traditional gallery path is where a lot of the most unique work will be found.
For me, a collection isn’t so much about monetary value, it’s the emotional
patina that comes attached to a piece of work that has been created by someone
who is the lifeblood of a local community.
When you purchase from an
independent artist you not only help them, you help their local economy. As I grow
older (or more mature – because that sounds so much better), I have a very
different mindset to the one I had as my younger self who would yearn for an
original Hockney. If I invest $300 in a mega-gallery, I am going to get the art
that they want me to own, (and not very much of it for that kind of money). If
I invest the same in a local artist, I’m going to be looking at a piece of work
that has that uniqueness and emotional connection to the artist that I want
hanging on my wall.
I’m likely to also get a lot
more from the art, not necessarily on the canvas, but definitely in terms of
knowing that the $300 went towards feeding the artist’s family and a portion of
it was probably spent in their local economy supporting another independent
business. I will have also given an ‘unknown’ artist a real boost of
confidence, probably much needed for those who work around the clock for less
than a living wage, and I might have encouraged them to carry on creating art.
I don’t feel as if I get anywhere near that level of value add from a
mega-gallery, although one of them did offer me a free cup of coffee once in
return for a few thousand dollars that I wish I had never spent.
Not only that, the $300
artwork is more likely to create a bond between the buyer and the artist who
created it, and in some cases, a lifelong friendship. At any level, you’re
never going to get that kind of value from a mega-gallery but you will nearly
always get it from an independent creative. For $300, I can feel valued as a
buyer, I can be taken seriously as an art collector who collects art, not in
the hope of future resale value, but in the hope that the artist goes on to
forge a career out of doing what they love.
In no particular order, the
ten most valuable lessons I have learned from more than three decades of
creating and buying art are:
If you like a piece of art,
buy it, regardless of what anyone else thinks or says. Learn to trust your gut
feeling when it comes to selecting work, it will be more attuned to the art you
love than listening to a sales pitch.
It’s not always possible to
build a relationship with the artist when you are buying from a gallery. It is
the gallery, not the artist who owns the relationship with you and I can tell
you from experience if they can keep you at arm’s length from the artist, most
will. At best, you might be invited to a meet and greet, but there’s little
chance of developing the relationship further because the artist will have
signed a contract with the gallery that puts the power of the transaction in
the gallery’s hands.
If you want to connect with
the artist and where their contracts with galleries allow, most artists will be
more than delighted to talk to potential collectors or even people who are just
interested in the work they create. Reach out to artists on social media, send
them an email, speak to them at shows, and get to know not only them but how
they work. Many will come back to you, but be mindful that some artists will
have a team of people running their social accounts and they might not get to
see your email, but that shouldn’t stop you from reaching out.
If you do intend to buy work
from a gallery, support a local independent gallery, they’re less likely to
push you into buying work they need to move so they can inflate sales for the
next big show. You are also more likely to have meaningful interactions with
their artists, and many independent galleries put the artist front and centre
of their operating strategy and from experience, not all galleries do this.
|Snake Pass by Mark Taylor – Copyright 2022. This was originally created as a commission. The snake is almost leaping out of the canvas!|
Frames don’t just look pretty,
they’re invaluable aides in protecting your investment for years to come. A
good quality frame that protects the art can also add significant value, take the
work from so-so to wow, and well-chosen frames can bring your collection to
life. Even cheap prints in a quality frame can suddenly feel and look much more
Use a mount that is the same
colour as the paper or any exposed canvas, this will protect the art even more
especially if placed under glass, and make sure that the frame itself doesn’t
become the artwork. Keep it simple so as not to distract from the content of
the work and think about tones that match and complement rather than distract
from the work. Professional framing can be much more expensive than shop-bought
mass-produced frames, but think of a frame as additional insurance and as much
a part of the investment as the artwork itself, good quality frames can pay
back over and over in time.
I’m not sure if I have ever
met a collector whose tastes haven’t changed as they have become more exposed
to more art. It’s a natural part of the process involved in becoming a
collector. The great thing about collecting alternative subjects, mediums and
niches is that you have the unique ability to be able to afford to swap works
out when they ebb in and out of favour, and they will.
Right now, my Disney
original cell collection is resting while I enjoy computer and video game
ephemera, a collection of curiosities from rare arcade game flyers to even
rarer point of sale materials used for a short while in retail environments
which were originally destined to be thrown away after use. The design aspects
alone are a snapshot of the eighties and are rapidly on the rise in collector
circles. Remember, art adorns other
things aside from a canvas so if your budget isn’t quite at the level you need
right now, look at alternatives.
You have to set some ground rules
when you begin collecting art and you also have to set an immovable budget
because art collecting will suck you in. If you are buying works that need to
be shipped to you, remember to include shipping costs and taxes in your
calculations and you may have to pay more for home insurance. Always let your
insurer know about the value of any work you collect as you might not be
covered if anything goes wrong.
As I said just now, tastes
will change, but you will want a solid foundation on which to start building
your collection. Take as much time as you can looking at all sorts of artworks
from all sorts of artists, subjects, and mediums and learn about what you like.
Particularly important if your
intention is to eventually move the art on in the hope of making a decent
return on your investment. If it has been written down, there is one rule, it’s
important. This might include obvious documentation such as sales receipts,
press cuttings, work in progress photos, and general documentation that
supports the provenance of the artwork back to the artist’s studio, but don’t think
that the documentation that might come with a print is any less important than
if it had come with an original work.
Sales records and anything
written about the work will add to the significance of an artwork and its worth, as will
certificates of authenticity, although these are often a source of frustration
with some being worth little more than the paper they are written on.
Before you embark on a
spending spree it’s essential for the health of your bank balance that you
carry out some research and figure out the market. This is especially important
if you are buying from the secondary market. Sadly, there are unscrupulous dealers
who love a newbie arriving on the art-collecting scene and they’re mostly
willing to sell at inflated prices. It not only benefits them to escalate a
price, it also drives up the value of other works from the same artist.
Take a look through past
auction catalogues, online galleries, and websites, especially those that have
forums that the community can engage with, you will learn so much about
everything from after-sales service to the artwork itself by ignoring the
mostly fake reviews that litter the online space and going straight to the
people who are buying artworks every day.
Another useful piece of
homework that could inform your collecting is to visit multiple galleries or
other venues that sell the kind of art you might be looking for and you can do this without you
needing to spend a dime. Just observe
what other collectors are buying, and how much they are paying and get a feel
of what is and isn’t popular. This should give you a much better sense of what
holds the most value now and what’s likely to in the future.
No one should enter the world
of art collecting without having formed at least a small number of relationships
within the art world first, and at whatever level you are collecting. If you
make visits to local galleries, especially the independent ones, gallery staff
and curators will often be more than happy to impart nuggets of wisdom or
explain a piece of artwork and its history. It’s worth visiting museums too,
they will have many connections that could help you navigate this complex
business we call art.
It’s a good idea to join local
art groups in your community too, they will often have arrangements with local
galleries and museums to offer special tours or experts will come along to
events to give insightful talks. These events are useful not only for the
information you will gain, but you can often be amongst the first to preview
new exhibitions or benefit from some of the best offers on new artwork. Even
aside from those benefits, the biggest benefit will be in the relationships you
can build, some of these local art groups have vast swathes of useful
If your intention is to
collect works that might increase in value in time, it’s definitely worth
knowing what makes the artwork more valuable. It’s not always about who painted
the work, although that could be a determining factor in any future investment
potential, it’s about a whole collection of things that are not always obvious
to the new collector.
The story of the artist is just
as important as the art. If an artist has a captivating story to tell, buyers
will buy into the story as much as the art in some cases. Popularity of an
artist really links back to the fundamental model of art sales, it’s all about
supply and demand. Popular artists will generally be more collectable than
lesser-known artists, but as I said earlier, a lesser-known artist of today
could very well be tomorrow’s Matisse.
The medium of a work is a
factor that you will need to consider, it’s not the case that works on
canvas will always be worth more than a work on paper. Canvas will indeed be more
expensive for some artists, but where an artist produced almost all of his or
her work on canvas and very few pieces on paper, the collectability of the
paper-based work could have quite a dramatic impact on its value.
The subject matter of a work
could also have an impact on the value, either making the work more valuable or
less valuable. A good example is that a far higher number of my retro works
have appeared on the secondary market over the past few years, whereas my
landscapes tend to be sold more often than not through the primary market. This
is due to me only having recently made my retro works available through print
on demand, previously they were sold directly to the buyer.
Right now there is an uptick
in the number of people buying into retro but if I think back to the years
pre-2010, artworks depicting vintage technology really were very niche and
there was a much smaller demand for them from anyone other than hardcore retro
collectors hanging on to the nostalgia of their childhoods. Today, I sell those
works to people who would historically have only purchased my more traditional landscapes.
The point is, looking beyond
the usual subject matter in an artwork could turn out to be another great
investment opportunity, although as with any artwork purchased with potential
future worth in mind, this is still a strategy with baked in risk and you
really do have to carry out your own due diligence just as you would with any
Art history is filled with works
that were once considered too niche to be desirable to collectors and investors
but later went on to become highly sought after.
There’s an important point
here, never dismiss an artist who suddenly veers from one style to another
thinking that the change will significantly reduce the value or collectability
of any of their work. Art history has taught us over the years that swapping
genres, styles, or mediums, doesn’t always have a negative effect on the
future value of the work, and it might make some works even more desirable. If
you think about Jackson Pollock, his drip-style probably springs to mind, yet
his works in other styles will be much more attractive to some collectors.
|Ordered by Mark Taylor (Copyright 2022) Another new abstract work that will give a sense of bold to any space!|
I think it is fair to say that
with the majority of working artists not working in the space we call the
high-end fine art market, there is inherently more of a risk in securing a work
that will go up in value. There’s simply a lot more work from artists working
in this space meaning that there’s less of a supply and demand issue overall.
That doesn’t at all mean that you will never potentially see a return on your
investment, it does however mean that you are less likely to see an upward
return on your investment unless you happen to come across an artist who is
suddenly in demand.
I also think it’s worth taking
some time to carefully think about why you want to collect art though, art
collecting isn’t and shouldn’t be all about flipping a canvas to make a profit.
You can grow a culturally valuable collection that will provide you with
enrichment rather than riches and especially if you are buying from a local
Their art can give you a real sense of value in helping to
keep an artist’s career alive, you might also help the local economy, and above
this, you will be contributing to an area of the arts that is consistently underrepresented, and massively underfunded. You’re helping a small business at a
time when small businesses need all the support they can get.
For me, there’s as much, if
not more value in doing that if you are passionate about the arts. The arts
aren’t all about the mega gallery, the huge shows that attract billionaires in
private jets, the arts have firm roots on the complete opposite side of that
world. It’s a world that for centuries has existed as much in the shadows as it has in the light, it exists on
print on demand, or Etsy, or your local independent gallery, it exists all
around you and what you might find once you realise that the arts are right
there in affordable touching distance, are works that are filled with passion,
uniqueness, and dreams, and those are the very things that are definitely worth
Sorry to those who have missed
me over the past month or so, I have been literally inundated with work and I’ve
been working on a series of e-waste art commissions. Hopefully, things might
become a little quieter over the next few weeks and I can get back into the
habit of writing more regularly!
And a big thanks must go to
everyone who has been continuously supporting me by purchasing works from my
new retro-inspired art collection, and a really special thanks to those of you
who have been sending me computer and video game magazines from the eighties
and nineties so I can continue to pictorially document the dawn of the home
computer age that made today’s technology possible. It has been brilliant to
discover some of these old magazines from the USA too and how very different the
tech scene was in the States compared to here in Blighty! Not only that, I am really enjoying being transported back to my favourite age, so please don’t throw any of your old magazines away!
On that note, look out for a couple of special features where I will be deep-diving into the technology that has been supporting digital artists for years and I will also be exploring some of the digital art disciplines already using the tools of the future such as Unreal Engine 5!
I am an artist and blogger and
live in Staffordshire, England. My days are filled with art, dog walking and
Teams Meetings, while still being stuck somewhere in the eighties. You can
purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here: https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com and
you can purchase my new works, special and limited editions directly. You can
also view my portfolio website at https://beechhousemedia.com
If you are on Facebook, you
can give me a follow right here, https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia
You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at https://pinterest.com/beechhousemedia