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How to choose art like a pro

The type of art you choose for your home says a lot about your personality. If your walls are looking a bit bare but you’re not sure where to start, here are a few professional tips on what you should be looking for when buying art.

woman browsing art

Art is a great connector. Not only can beautiful artworks provide a topic of discussion but the art in your home serves to communicate your personality to the world.

But buying art is a big investment and often not the first thing on a homemaker’s shopping list. Yet art is what gives your home its soul and its energy; it provides enjoyment for you and your visitors and gives your home its sense of personality.

So, where to start?

Buy for love

“Go for something you love, every time,” says Magda Pakulski, former manager at Handmark Gallery.

Michael Brown, senior display technician at the Art Gallery of NSW, agrees.

“Buying art is a little like collecting wine. Some buy wine as an investment, while most of us just buy it because we like it and it tastes good. When it comes to purchasing art you need to make the decision as to whether you are buying for investment potential, because it complements your decor, or because it moves you emotionally enough to want it hanging on your wall,” he says.

What to look for

When you’re buying art for your home you should be looking at pieces that resonate with you. “You should love it,” says Magda. “Or at the very least think it will look great in your home,” she suggests.

On the technical side of things, if you’re looking at buying a print, consider the print edition number, advises Magda. “The more prints out there, the lower the price should be,” she says.

If you’re buying a painting, look at the finishings. Is the canvas stretched correctly? Does the back look finished? And if you’re buying a sculpture, ask about edition numbers and care instructions, says Magda.

Michael suggests taking things on face value. “First impressions count,” he says. “Any artwork that you intend to live with must have that special ‘x’ factor. And any artwork you buy should be signed and include a record of the title, date and the medium used,” he advises.

Where to look

Art is all around you so where you look really depends on what you’re after.

A good starting point is your local gallery. “If you find a piece you like, ask the gallery for a background on the artist and where they have exhibited before. You can also ask for a list of recently paid prices for the artist’s art,” suggests Michael.

There are a number of wonderful independent galleries throughout Australia in both the inner city and regional areas. You can buy both in Australia and overseas through art auction houses, though these are generally better for more experienced buyers, says Michael.

You can even buy online, though this can be a risky business. “When buying online, it depends on how much you like what you see and whether you are confident you are getting an adequate depiction of the real thing,” cautions Magda.

“The problem with buying online is that art is all about texture and subtlety. The beauty of buying from a gallery is the experience — you should be able to ask questions, take a close look and get all the information about that work before you buy. And there’s a confidence that comes with seeing the scale of a work and knowing the colours exactly.”

Michael wholeheartedly agrees.

“I would hesitate in buying online as you really need to see the art face-to-face to view the colour and form. When you’re face-to-face you can also see the quality of craftsmanship; anything that appears cheaply done will deteriorate a lot quicker,” he says.

Don’t break the bank

Buying art isn’t just for the rich and famous. While you’ll always get what you pay for, there are some fantastic ways to score a bargain if you know where to look.

“Visit art colleges like the National Art School,” suggests Michael. “Each year they have a graduation exhibition open to the public and it’s a great way to check out new art by young artists who will be more than happy to part with their works for a reasonable price,” he says.

Magda’s hot tip is to look at the apple isle. “Tasmania has a scheme where the government will give you an interest-free loan for a year to buy an artwork,” she confides. “So if you can afford 1/12th of the price of the work each month for 12 months then it’s a pretty amazing opportunity,” she says.

Also look at Etsy for works under $100.

Top picks

As for artists you should be looking out for, Michael’s bet is on Sydney artist Nigel Milsom while Magda favours printmakers Mandy Renard, Justin McShane, Madeleine and Nic Goodwolf, Jonathan Partridge, and Kit Hiller.

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