Art Newbie: 5 Things to Consider Before Buying Your First Artwork


Starting and building an art collection – no matter the budget, no matter the size – is a task best met with confidence. Be confident that you know what you like and with a bit of extra care and research, you can build something of quality and value. Find a piece you can’t live without: it should be love at first sight.

OK, perhaps this sounds like the start of your mother’s romantic advice. But hear us out!

You’ve flirted with the idea of buying art for years now, flush with a bit of savings, you’ve decided to jump in and commit to buying original artwork. We applaud you! Finding a piece that you love, especially the piece to start your collection, relies on instinct and doing your due diligence. The below information assumes that you’re purchasing from reliable, established sources – art fairs with proper vetting, notable galleries and dealers, or directly from the artist.

Here are Lofty’s five tips to consider before flashing the green for your first work of art:

1. Physical Attraction

Like a first date, you want to feel a spark, a connection to what you’re looking at. The art should strongly appeal to you. It should encourage you to want to discover all of its meaning and presentation. This one of the most important things to consider when choosing art – whether it’s for your first purchase or your 100th.

banner1b Image Left: Roy Lichtenstein, That’s The Way-It Should Have Begun! But It’s Hopeless, 1968 Image Right: Robert Indiana, Fur K.v.F, 1990


2. Budget

It’s your first purchase, so don’t be afraid to stick with a conservative budget. Anticipating costs such as shipping, taxes, and installation are important when building an estimate. If you’re buying a print or painting, factor in the cost of framing if the work is unframed. You want something of the highest quality in terms of investment and condition, but don’t go too crazy on the spending if it’s more than you can afford. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for a friendly discount, especially if you’re buying through a gallery or dealer. Shipping and installation, for example, are often negotiable costs. Some sellers may even offer you a payment plan if they’re convinced of your passion for the artist and the particular work (really…this happens more thank you’d think).

3. Knowledge is power

If you’re buying your first piece of art and see it as the start of a collection or investment, it’s important to research the artist whose work you are considering. Start with the artist’s CV, which can be found either by request to the representing gallery or on the artist’s website. What collections is the artist in? Has he or she been featured in any major exhibitions? Studying these factors will help you see which level of talent an artist is associated and help predict their growth in the market.

If the artist is local, we highly suggest scheduling a studio visit to meet the artist to speak about his or her process as well as to see other works. This helps you feel more personally invested in the purchase and get first-hand knowledge from the artist who produced it. If the artist is deceased, a reputable gallery or estate should be able to speak thoroughly about the work and its history.

banner2 Images (Left to Right): Edward Hopper, Temptations of St. Anthony, ca. 1900-1910; Bruce Conner, Still Life, 1963; Milton Avery, The Break, 1956


4. You Break it, You Buy it, or Vice-Versa

Before you make a purchase, inspect the condition of the work to note if any upkeep or restoration is involved or anticipated. This is particularly true for installation art involving technology or work using delicate craftsmanship such as gilding. Take your time to understand the condition of the work and how best to store and install it. The artist or their representation typically includes instructions to aid in this but don’t be afraid to ask if you want further advice. They, like you, are interested in preserving the character of the work.

5. Shipping, tax, and installation

It’s very important to understand the recommended art handling, packing, and transport for your artwork. Certain shipping companies specialize in art and antique storage and transportation, such as Gander and White Shipping or Cadogan Tate. They are excellent resources to make sure your work is properly packed for maximum protection. If you’re buying internationally, research the applicable taxes and properly declare the work to U.S. Customs.

Featured Image: Edo Murtić, Untitled, 1978