Where does one buy art? Good question. Although a few common sense answers immediately spring to mind (such as, galleries, auctions, dealers, art fairs, artists etc), you may not be entirely familiar with the nuances of each and the vital role they can play in shaping your collection.
In our series "Where To Buy Art" we'll take a closer look at some of the most common (and not so common) places where art can be found, as well as the pros and cons of each. Today we begin with the most familiar of them all, the art gallery.
The Truth About Art Galleries
The art gallery is the first place most people think of going when considering an art purchase. Why? Because if it's in the gallery it must be good, right? Not entirely. An art gallery is a business like any other and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Galleries usually specializing in a certain area, whether it be art by price, style or quality. Although their primary function is to exhibit and sell art, it doesn't necessarily mean that by purchasing from a gallery you are getting the best work out there. Galleries have massive overhead (rent, staff, exhibition parties, art fair, PR, fees and many other operation costs) which means they need to make money to keep the doors open and the lights on. And, like most businesses, their main interests are in representing what sells. This can be a double edged sword because, as you may have already guessed, what sells isn't always necessarily the best. Now that's not to say that there aren't artworks of high quality, value and cultural significance at art galleries, quite the contrary. There are a lot of galleries which represent incredible art and artists and do quite well for themselves. We just want you to consider this reality so that you can make an educated decision when deciding where to making your art acquisitions. In any case, its always best to do your research so that you can approach each new purchase from a place of knowing and power.
The gallery's main offering to you as a collector is their ability to exhibit and introduce you to work from artists that have been hand selected by the gallery professionals themselves. The art exhibition itself is a work of art, on par with a musical concert. The meticulous hanging and displaying of artwork in a cohesive and concise manner is an event worthy of celebration. Art galleries invite you to experience the spectacle and immerse yourself in art culture and lifestyle.
Art Gallery Pros
An art gallery can be a great option for collectors looking to get specialized assistance with their purchase. In a gallery you will experience face-to-face interaction with a knowledgable staff member who can walk you through your new acquisition from start to finish.
Not only can a gallery introduce you to new things, they can also help you understand what you're looking at by educating you on the artists mission, process and technique. This can be very helpful if you're still undecided as to what kind of art to include in your collection.
Also, important to note that galleries usually represent artists who have made a career of art so you can feel more confident that the artist you are considering will be around in the future, and have a potential upside from an investment standpoint (We'll discuss the details of what makes an artist's work increase in value in a later post).
1. One-on-one customer interaction
2. Most galleries specialize in certain types of art which can make it easier for you to see a variety of work in a specific style or medium with the convenience of doing so all in one place.
3. Galleries typically represent "career" artists. These are artists who have made a career selling and exhibiting their work and could be considered more of a "a safe bet" when it comes to investing in them than artists whom have not yet established themselves and have little to no credibility in the art market.
4. Galleries host exhibitions and other events which can help introduce you to knew works of art.
Art Gallery Cons
Over the years, many art galleries have gotten a bad rap for being highly selective when it comes to whom they sell their art to, some may even go so far as to say that they are discriminate against some of their "would-be" buyers. Most galleries are very particular about where their artists work ends up, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for the artist (placement of work is hugely important in the career of an artist i.e. museums, high profile collections, celebrity collectors etc. all can help propel an artist to art world stardom) however, this may not play in your favor when beginning your collection. You wanna get a fair deal and know that the gallery isn't holding out or taking unfair advantage of you because you aren't on the same level as some of their more illustrious clients.
Another downside to art galleries is the distance they put between you and the artist. Some galleries have been known to aggressively protect their business by limiting the collectors ability to reach the artist directly. This is only an issue if you have an interest in getting to know the artist personally and building a relationship centered around their work.
One of the most talked about cons of the gallery is their lack of transparency. This may be on price, information or other aspects of the art they are selling. It's very important to do your research before making a decision to purchase.
1. Preferential treatment to special customers (i.e discounts, access to more and better artwork than what is available to general public etc.) and negligible treatment to those with little to no social status, wealth, or relevance in the art world.
2. Zero access to the artist. Most galleries likes to keep a distance between the artist and their collectors. If you're interested in establishing an amicable relationship with the artist(s) you collect, this may be something to consider.
3. Not everything in galleries is the best, and just because it's on the wall doesn't mean it's good. Do your research. It's important to learn as much as you can about the artists you're interested in before enlisting the help of a gallery.
See For Yourself
As you can see, when it comes to finding art at galleries there's definitely more than meets the eye. Although we've only touched on it lightly, we hope that after reading this you feel more confident walking in to a gallery and experiencing all that they have to offer.