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Where do you buy art?

Updated: Feb 5, 2020

I often think people think owning art either equals spending lots of money, or filling your walls with posters or prints which have no lasting financial value. However, this does not need to be the case. There are a number of galleries and websites selling original works of art with price ranges from £20 - £5000 and in this article Post Prentis Design will recommend entry level and high brow galleries where you can begin your collection.

Sweet Chestnut by Roy Wright

Living in London, which is awash with galleries from the big names of Mayfair to the smaller galleries on your local high road, it's hard to know where to start. As an ex art dealer, with more than a decades worth of experience in the art world, I have attempted to fine tune my knowledge and put together a list of galleries and websites which I can recommend. With a focus on British artists, I hope this article helps to narrow the huge minefield that buying art can be.

To begin with, I often recommend clients look at graduate galleries such as New Blood Art, or Degree Art where you will be able to pick up the names of tomorrow at the more affordable end of the spectrum. From sculptures, to paintings, prints and more there is a huge selection to choose from, but the user friendly websites make the search very easy to navigate and the process both simple and rewarding.

Captured Moment vii by Rod Macintosh, £400 (including the frame).

Once you have seen the emerging artists of today and begin to focus your selection, it is then worth visiting some smaller London based galleries such as Cynthia Corbett Gallery; Grandy Art; Caroline Wiseman; Rowley Gallery; CCA Galleries; James Kinmont Fine Art. These are good entry level galleries, where you will be able to find a variety of works, with a variety of prices to suit your budget. These include paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs and works on paper. When beginning your search, don't be afraid to ask as many questions as you like, and the remember the key things to find out before agreeing any sort of deal are:

1. The provenance of the piece of art, ie where it came from.

2. If the piece is signed or unsigned and if it is from an edition, where in the edition it falls.

3. Ask the dealer to provide substantial knowledge of the artist and his career. However, this maybe difficult with young artists whose careers are just beginning.

Henri Matisse 1869 - 1954 , 'Six birds' Florilege des Amours des Ronsard, 1948, £500 (inc VAT) (left)

Henri Matisse 1869 - 1954'Hearts' Florilege des Amours de Ronsard 1948, £700 (inc VAT) (right)

When you feel you are ready to be a bit braver and or have more wall space to fill, there are a huge number of famous and established West End galleries worth visiting. The prices at these galleries tend to be more expensive, but not in all cases. It is worth noting that most artists made prints and studies for their paintings and sculptures which are still very valuable, but more affordable, and worth investing in. Prices will begin at £500 and go up to £100,000 +.

There are dozens of galleries in Mayfair to choose from, but I have whittled down the selection to those I know personally and can vouch are run by good dealers, with expert knowledge who will give you a pleasant and friendly gallery experience.

To begin with there is Huxley-Parlour Gallery which specialises in photography, sculpture and modern & contemporary art. One of the few specialist photography galleries in London Huxley-Parlour have a huge range of works and you will be sure to find something to suit your style and budget. Osborne Samuel are also based in Mayfair and are a very reputable and established gallery who have particular expertise in the famous Henry Moore and Lynn Chadwick estates, as well as a vast selection of Modern British Prints, paintings and sculptures. Cristea Roberts Gallery is another well known British Gallery holding the estates of some of our greatest artists including Howard Hodgkin, Patrick Caulfield and Patrick Heron. With a huge collection of prints and paintings you will be sure to find something. Lastly Sims Reed Gallery specialises in modern, post-war and contemporary original prints and works on paper and there walls are always filled with eye catching works. Each of these galleries are within ten minutes of the other and easily accessible from Bond Street or Piccadilly tube stations.

Patrick Caulfield, Paris Separates , 1973, Edition of 72

When it comes to knowing what to buy, you may be limited by your budget, or you may feel unsure about buying limited edition prints or photographs as you feel they are easily replaceable and less unique, or that there is no way of confirming they won't be reproduced at the drop of a hat. However, there are a few truths I can share, hoping to alieve those worries, having been in the industry for over a decade.

Firstly, the value of either a print or a photograph is in the object itself. For example, you may own an Andy Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe. This is a very famous image that has been produced as a painting, as a limited edition archival screen print, and also on mugs, postcards and even on t-shirts (see below).

Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, 1967

Museum of Modern Art, New York

Yes this is the same image being reproduced in a number of ways, but having the picture on the t-shirt won't de-value the original artwork. This is because, the print will have been signed and numbered and was authenticated by the artists estate. The t-shirt will not be signed or authenticated and therefore won't hold the same financial value or worth.

Equally, let's compare two photographs of the same image. The first photograph has been signed and printed by the artist within the same year of the photograph being taken. The second photograph has been printed years later, after the photographer has died and it has been signed posthumously by the artists estate. The one that was signed by the photographer in the same year it was printed will always hold more value and significance and will not be de-valued by the production of the 2nd print.

It is also worth understanding that it is expensive to make photographic prints. Photographers and archives pay for their own printing and they don't have spare money to endlessly print pictures with, so they only print their works on demand or for an exhibition when they will only print one of each piece. Therefore a photograph which is meant to be an edition of 50, will often only ever be an edition of 1 or 5 or 10 out of 50, as if there is little demand for the image it will not reach it's limit of 50.

Terence Donovan, Pure Glamour Brides Magazine, 1996, Edition 1/50

Moving on from photography, some of you might have seen my own gallery wall hung with British Ilustrator Paul Thurby's alternative alphabet. I first saw these prints at The Tate Britain and hoped one day I'd have them in my own home. Each are a limited edition of 200, all varying in edition numbers as they can be brought individually or as a whole series. They bring daily joy to our lives and for the cost of this whole collection (£450 excluding frames) I could have bought a small painting by an unknown artist, but instead I have filled my entire wall with prints by an interesting and influential artist.

Illustration is another medium which is hugely valuable and Chris Beetles Gallery also in Mayfair, has a vast treasure trove one could spend hours looking through, feasting their eyes on original works by Quentin Blake, AA Milne and or Beatrix Potter. With regular monthly exhibitions, there is always a wonderful array of works on the walls to inspire and enjoy.

Quentin Blake, Big Birds Chatting, £6500

Lastly, if you don't have time to visit specific galleries and want to see a huge selection of art in one place, it is always worth looking at the Saatchi Art website, which is very easy to navigate and let's you browse art by price bracket, style and subject. Artsy website is another great portal, showcasing current gallery exhibitions, auction house sales and the international art fairs. Again it is very easy to navigate and you can choose your artwork by size, colour and even medium. Lastly, if you don't want to immediately own the art work. butter bored of empty walls, Rise Art is a unique website which let's you rent art. This is a brilliant way of living with something before you fully invest in it and the picture can also be used for home staging for either short term rentals or when your house is on the market. If you are worried about financing something straight away as well, Own Art is a brilliant platform letting you buy a painting on credit and you pay back the funds in monthly instalments.

Rio Vaupes, by Philip Vaughan, £443 per month. I will save the auction house and art fairs for another article, but I do hope this helps give you a little more knowledge when it comes to buying art and when you're next in Mayfair pop in to some of the galleries I have listed here and feel free to use this article as your guide.

I know people often say they’d rather own an original painting by a nobody than a print or photograph by a famous person, but my advice would be that the print or photograph by the famous artist will on the whole be a better investment and give you a better return in the long run, unless the unknown artist is the next big thing and you hit a goldmine! Just remember the image and the name of the artist are key in what you buy, but the most important thing is that you love the work, whatever it is and whatever the cost. 

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