7 Tips on Buying Artwork

OK, so you want the ABCs on buying art? It takes time to gain the needed experience to feel comfortable acquiring artworks.  When you purchase pieces of art, you are also investing in the artist and sending the message that you support what they are doing.  The better you know the artist, the more connected you will feel with the work you buy. Jano Lapin offers personal art advisory services and can help you with what you are looking for and feel confident in your purchase.   To get you started, we have gathered the basics you should know!

1. Know the difference between an original, a limited edition signed print, a print with authentic markings and print.

So many options but what do they all mean?  The growing market of artworks is becoming more varied in options but offers more choices to fit everyone’s needs.  Here are the ones you should know about:

  • An original art piece is when the artist himself created the illustration you see.  Regardless of the format (canvas, paper, wood, it doesn’t matter). An original is one of a kind, the rarest and sustains the most value.   Of course, it is also the most expensive.
  •  A limited edition signed print is what it says it is.  It is a printed copy of an original piece of artwork that has been approved by the artist and numbered.  For example, if the artist decides to create ten prints of one artwork,  all ten pieces will be counted on ten (1/10, 2/10, etc.).  This marking, as well as the signature, will be noticeable.  This assures the buyer that the artist is aware of the art piece but also reduces the value of it significantly compared to an original.  The popularity of this form has grown in large part to lower the price tag of expensive original artworks that are high in demand!  Limited signed prints, though not the same as having an authentic, keep some desired authenticity!
  • A print that has original markings is a relatively new product in the art market.  In fact, the artwork is a print of an original that was marked by the artist with whatever medium they see fit.  It could be paint, markers, collages, pastels, etc.  The goal is to use the printed design as a starting base for creating a new piece.  For the artist, this significantly reduces the time spent on the artwork but creates an original feel for the buyer.   Again, in this situation, the price tag is lower than an authentic piece sometimes significantly.  Contrary to a limited edition print, the copies do not need to be numbered since they are all unique.  Stikki Peaches has been known to do these, and you can find his full story here).
  • A print is, as you guessed it, the lowest form of an art product that you can get.  Think of IKEA, Home Sense and other large companies who sell canvases for wall decor.  The artist does not need to have a direct input in the production of the product with the image of the art.  The primary goal of a print is to decorate or as a keepsake.  There is limited value to the product itself since it is created as the demand grows.  Copies can be sold by the artist as well, but it does not increase the importance if they are not signed or limited.  It comes down to raw materials and the cost of printing the artwork which can sometimes be costly based on the quality of the supplies.   This is, of course, the cheapest way to buy a form of artist created work but it can add a subtle enhancement to your home or office.  In some cases, it fits the need!

2. Who is the Artist? 

So many questions come into play when discovering a new artist.  The price tag on the artwork will also vary significantly based on some of these factors. It can be overwhelming and confusing! However, it is up to you to decide if it is deserving to invest in and your collection.

Here are a few guidelines you should keep in mind when you are looking to purchase art:

  • Origin of the artist. The culture and style of the artist will be influenced by his surroundings and will have an impact on their work.  We are all affected by our surroundings, so depending on where the artist is from, your artwork will probably look a lot different!   If you compare Montreal artists’ work to other cities in the world, you can often find similarities or themes in their output versus artists from elsewhere.   It’s a lovely aspect to notice and cherish.
  • Education.  Like in any profession, the artist’s training has an impact on his professional career.  The schools he went to or the awards he won can all play a role in the overall success of the artist’s career.  Specific educational institutions have been known to produce considerable talents, and buyers are aware of these.
    • Of course, many artists are self-taught and have impressive achievements nonetheless.  You can have a meaningful mentor or teacher who guides you through the process and helps you tremendously!  Especially in street art where artists tend to get discovered in an urban setting; their success comes from the support of their peers and public who appreciates their work.
  • Experience and past successes: How long as the artist been working? Is it part time or full time? What exhibits have they done? How many solo shows have they had? Who was hosting them? All these questions and answers are part of where the artist is in his career and their overall success.  An emerging artist is someone whose experience is limited, but can still show high potential!  The artist’s past success and future projects are part of who the artist is and who they are becoming.  Knowing these aspects can help you decide on investing in the artist or not and for what price?
  • Patrons.  It’s a great sign when prominent art collectors have already acquired artwork of an artist you fancy.  For example, a museum, a corporation which has an in-house art curator, or just a well-known collector who has already acquired prominent pieces.  The art market is influenced by these details because the story behind the art is and always will be an essential factor in the value the art piece holds.

Knowing these four crucial things will help you understand the artist better. It will give you a sense of who they are, how dedicated they are and where they stand in their career.  It’s a good start

3. KEEP IT PERSONAL! As much as it’s important to educate yourself on the artist before you invest in their work – the most important thing is that you love your selected art piece.  The chosen artwork brings energy into your environment wherever you decide to install it so, make sure it gives you positive vibes.  Every time you look at it, it will make you feel something.  Not all artwork is cheery, and that’s fine, you can still feel something meaningful, and that is what is essential.    Art is an excellent form of therapy and can help soothe your soul when it is around you.  The art on your walls tell a story and shows off your personality.  Make it meaningful, choose wisely and always, with your heart!

Image result for jim dine heart
Four Hearts by Jim Dine

4. Investment.  Many art buyers are interested in if their artwork will gain value or…not.  The reality is that most artworks do not increase in value over time.  I think it is essential to be aware of that because it makes point 3 even more important.  Art is something to be enjoyed during your lifespan.  If it gains value, it should be an added benefit and not a goal.  Of course, if you are investing in significant pieces at a Christie’s or Sotheby’s auction, then you have different objectives.  However, in a primary art market (where a piece of art is available to the market for the very first time) then as much as we can all speculate, the reality is that nobody knows where the value of the artwork is going.  Some considerations can be taken, but as a guideline, it is not the way to buy art as a first objective.  As I mention in point 2 – many factors come into play in the pricing of the artwork, but it does not guarantee a future value.  All in all, I understand if you want to dream of owning the next Mona Lisa but don’ let it affect you too much at the purchase level.

Image result for mona lisa
Mona Lisa by Leonard DaVinci

5. Time is money.  We all know that saying but it can be overlooked in the art market.  When looking at the price tag of artwork, please acknowledge the time of the artist and materials used in the piece you see.   Depending on the technique, style of the painting and supplies used,  the value of the work of art can differ.  Very detailed work using oil paint is indeed a lot more time consuming (and requires more supplies) than creating a small drawing.  Don’t be fooled though – if it looks easy, it doesn’t mean it is!  Some things take a lot more time then you might think so keep an open mind when analyzing.  Of course, an experienced artist will often be quicker at his own expertise, but their estimated “hourly” rate will also be higher.  Most artworks are priced using a calculated square inch method (based on the size of the piece) which includes all these factors.  Keep in mind these peculiarities when shopping for art!

6. Choose your framing wisely.  As I discuss in my blog 5 tips on picture framing you can read here – framing plays a role in the preservation of your piece and helps enhance some of its natural attributes!  Always choose the right frame according to your needs and goals! It will also solidify the style and look you want to portray with your artwork. If the frame is already installed for the piece you are buying, educate yourself on the specifics of it and find out what you are buying.  Read my whole blog to find out how.

7. Colour Coordination or NOT.  Even though I understand interior designers and their need to have everything “match,” when it comes to buying art, it should not matter so much (sorry!).  Sometimes, it can help you get started on your research process but don’t let it be the primary objective!  Yes, we can always look for specific palettes (or avoid some) but when you buy a piece of art, consider that where you put it will probably change in time.   The furniture might evolve as well!  The frame can also play an essential role in the overall characteristics it portrays.  Don’t get caught up in the details – trust your gut feeling and select the art on a stand-alone basis.  The rest will follow suit.

Conclusion. It’s tricky but a lot of fun!  Regardless of your budget, space or style, the possibilities are truly endless.  At Jano Lapin, we offer to help you in the process by offering art advisory services and can guide you in your decision to buy art.  Regardless if you are an entry-level (or first time!) buyer, we can help you understand the basics and make you feel comfortable in your selection.  If you are a busy bee, love art but don’t have time to learn about new artists than this is also a valuable service for you!

We have an extensive network of artists and would be happy to share with you our knowledge and do the research for you.  We understand that decorating the walls of your home or office is an essential part of your life but buying art, can be complex!  Art gives you a story to tell your guests but also, investing in artists you love is a great feeling.

Contact us at hello@janolapin.com, and we will be happy to explain to you how we work, send you our quick art survey and offer you the best option for your needs!

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Paysages en sursis_03 Bernard Janody
Bernard Janody


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