How to make buying art not so scary

Buying art for the first time can be scary! But it doesn’t have to be. Here are some things that scare new art buyers and what to do about them.

Where do you start? What if you don’t know anything about art, just that you want your space to be more attractive and represent what you want to be? What if you’re just tired of having blank walls or generic furniture, or handed-down artwork you don’t care about?

You know beautiful art is out there. On the walls of someone’s apartment on TV, in restaurants, or on someone’s Instagram profile. You say, “How can I get me some of that?” You walk into a gallery, or pull up an artist’s online shop, and you’re overwhelmed.

Just like all nice things in life, getting into art can be a little intimidating.

Photo by Andres Urena on Unsplash

Many “unnecessary” things in life are considered luxuries. Especially “gourmet” foods. Luxury doesn’t always have to equal outrageously expensive, either. Gourmet coffee or gourmet donuts cost more than their “everyday” counterparts, but the average person can still enjoy them.

Since art isn’t necessary for daily survival like food or water, it’s considered a luxury, but I would argue that it’s important to our humanity. Art says something about who we are and where we are going. Humans are about much more than survival. We take the time to enjoy things we don’t necessarily “need.”

My own “luxury” experience

Brad Blackman examining works-in-progress while drinking coffee

Speaking of coffee, I’ve become a little bit of a coffee snob. It has been a bit of an educational journey! At first, it was a bit overwhelming. There are so many types of coffees and ways to brew it.

Likewise, getting initiated in buying art can be a little intimidating. I’ve put together a list of some of the things that scare people about buying art, and what to do about them.

“I know nothing about art!”

A lot of people are intimidated by the art world because they don’t know how to talk about art. They lack the vocabulary or language. They’re afraid they will look dumb. Or they think modern or postmodern art is too complicated and exclusive and they aren’t “in the know.”

If you want to talk about art, you just need to know a handful of terms about art to talk about it, such as form, color, and contrast. And it helps to understand the context in which it was made.

But if you want to buy art, you just have to know what you’re looking for. It can be as simple as having a blank wall of a certain size and you want to put something there. Or you want more of this color in your house.

Or you just had a transformative experience and you want a piece of art that reminds you how you came through it. Just having that information on hand can help you find what you want.

“Am I over-paying for it?”

Only if you don’t really want it. If you’re buying art just to impress someone else, you probably won’t enjoy owning it.

If money is a concern and you find a piece of art you have to have, you might be able to negotiate with an artist or a gallerist. Many artists accept payment in installments.

Or you can commission a smaller, less expensive version of a work you love. I have done commissions where I painted something similar to a previous painting in a different size or a slightly different color scheme.

“What will _____ think?”

A lot of people worry about what other people will think about their art purchase. “Will my spouse like it?” or “What will my friends say?” If you’re sharing your space with someone else like a spouse, it is worth getting their input since they will be seeing it, too.

That said, I feel like it’s ultimately a personal choice what art you purchase. It’s part of your self-expression.

“How do I take care of it?”

Paintings on canvas need to breathe, so storing them vertically by hanging them on a wall is ideal. You can periodically dust them lightly. I don’t make sculptures, but I imagine they need to be dusted frequently. Don’t be afraid to ask the artist or gallery you buy your art from. They’ll appreciate that you want to take care of it.

“Where am I going to put it?”

Sometimes you fall in love with a piece of artwork without having a place in mind for it. But isn’t that part of the adventure of buying art? If it moves you and you can pay for it, get it. You’ll figure out where to put it later. 😉 Alternatively, you can commission something similar in a different size, like I mentioned above.

“Rumble,” acrylic on canvas. 8 x 8 inches

“Is it a good investment?”

Some people buy art as an investment. Those people have lots of money to spend and advisors helping them decide what to buy based on a variety of factors, with the intention of reselling at a higher price later to make a profit.

But for most people, buying art is an investment in themselves. They want to say something about themselves to other people, or to remind themselves of something important. They buy it so they can tell their friends, “I bought this painting the year I had five different surgeries and it reminds me of the divine strength that sustained me.”

Conclusion

Buying art for the first time can be intimidating, but it can be a lot of fun. Remember that every piece of art has a story behind it, which adds tremendous value to your life. If you’ve got your heart set on buying some art, but you’re still nervous, don’t be. Decide what’s best for you, and make it something you’ll enjoy for years to come.