Want to make your home a work of art? Then follow these inspiring tips from our experts.
Story: Kara O’Reilly

The gallerist: Caroline Wiseman has more than 25 years’ experience in dealing the work of modern masters

You should buy art because you love the work. If you buy through an established dealer, you know you will be buying something that has lasting decent value with all the supporting documentation. You want to have really fallen in love with it. Don’t buy something because you think you should or because you think it is good value. It’s got to look good in your house, so think about where you are going to put it.

Make friends with a dealer – if they know what kind of work you are interested in, they will invite you to appropriate show openings and let you know when they have new pieces in by artists you like.
Go along to an art fair – such as the London Art Fair – because it’s a good way to see a lot of decent galleries in one place. Wander around and pick out the galleries that are showing the kinds of work you like. The good thing about fairs is that they vet the dealers who take part.

Buy art because you love it and invest in a major name

Never buy anything without looking at it – certainly not from auction or over the internet – as condition is terribly important. The internet is OK for something fun and cheap, but you shouldn’t buy a piece by, for example, Terry Frost, off eBay. 

 Original prints – which are original works of art made in an edition – are a good way to buy art inexpensively. I’m a bit of a purist and I would say to go for prints, such as etchings, where the artist has got their hands dirty making it. Don’t buy prints that are in runs of more than 100-200.


Terry Frost at Caroline Wiseman

Invest in a major name – the problem is that if the artist isn’t well-known, the work won’t have a lasting value, other than to you. If you go off it or move house, there is nothing you can do with it. If you buy something by a name, it will have a value, even if it is what you paid for it, and you can often sell it back to the gallery you bought it from or via auction.

The print expert: Mark Wilson of the Cross Street Gallery in Islington specialises in original prints by some of the best known modern British artists

Go for limited-edition originals. These are original works by the artists themselves. Artists do prints for a variety of reasons. Some are fascinated by the printing process itself, while for others prints are their way of making their work more accessible. For example, you can still get a Picasso print (from a large edition, un-numbered) for around £1,000 because Picasso was a prolific print-maker.

In terms of authenticity and paperwork, the print itself is generally the paperwork. As far as modern prints go, they will be signed and they will be numbered and that number will be a limited-edition, number ten of 100, for example. As a rule you should be looking for editions that are not too big. There are no hard and fast rules, but you should only buy something you like.

You can still get a Picasso print for around £1,000

If you want to safeguard your money, look for big names – there’s no two ways about it. But you don’t need to spend a fortune. You will not get an original work for £1,500, but that will buy you an original print. Just be a little careful with prolific artists – if an edition is of 500 or the price is under £1,000, be wary.

Gallery openings can be a good place to buy as the gallery will have made an effort to source a variety of work for the show. And if you want to try for a discount, do it in low-season – basically school holidays and post-Christmas. That’s when the dealer will be worrying about whether they are ever going to sell anything again. I am always happy to let people pay in installments.

The internet entrepreneur: Sarah Ryan founded New Blood Art to showcase and sell the work of art school graduates 

Trust your instincts when buying art – I often hear people say ‘I don’t know anything about art’ and they therefore feel they are not in a position to trust their judgment. But if you feel drawn to something and curious about it, then have faith and buy it. It’s so much nicer to have a selection of boldly selected original artwork than a safe collection of reproduced images.

To find new artists, start at the art schools

To find new – and potentially great – artists, a good place to start is at the art schools. Whilst an artist may have innate talent, really good art comes from those who have also been rigorously trained, who are disciplined, passionate and committed to their practice.

Buying art by emerging artists is a great entry point to collecting. In a way, buying a student’s work is buying at the best value in the market – as long as they are pricing their work reasonably, there is nowhere for it to fall. I think £500 should get you a decent-sized oil on canvas from a graduate.

The fine artist: Justine Asprey is a sculptor. She takes commissions

If you are thinking of commissioning a piece from a sculptor, look at the other sculptures the artist has made and make sure you’re familiar with his or her style. A sculptor won’t want to compromise his or her artistic integrity, so it’s important that you commission someone whose style you love, rather than trying to encourage a sculptor to create a piece in a totally different style (an approach that’s likely to lead to frustration and disappointment all round). Always meet the artist and don’t hesitate to ask questions about the creative process. Even if you don’t know precisely what you want (the size, material, finish etc), it’s worth speaking to the artist because you’ll gain a clearer idea after proper discussion. Be prepared for the process to take time, but it will be well worth the wait.

Commission someone whose style you love

One of the great things about owning sculpture is the many different places you can display it. There are endless possibilities. A doorway can create a natural frame for a sculpture, ensuring that it’s the first thing the eye is drawn to upon entering a room. Consider how you’d like light to fall on the sculpture to really bring out its angles, curves and colours. You might also want to ensure that people are able to walk around it to view it from all aspects. A piece of sculpture can introduce a welcome splash of colour or a contrasting shape to a room, really adding visual appeal.


Most Read