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Collecting art intelligently is not exclusive to seasoned art collectors. If you’re new to collecting art, the process can be fun and enjoyable because you will be able to find a work of art that both appeals to you AND offers a solid opportunity toward investment.

First, realize there’s a difference between buying art and collecting it. Buying art happens in the moment and is driven by personal preferences while collecting art has a strategic purpose and a focus on the long term.

Finding artwork that you love and that will accrue value beyond its aesthetics is a winning proposition. To ensure these goals align, spending some time researching the art and the artist will go a long way toward making intelligent purchases. By doing your due diligence, you can assess the artist’s reputation or rising recognition in the art world. Today’s up-and-coming artists may be tomorrow’s stars. Research the provenance of the artwork in question, as every artwork has a story. By conducting effective research, you’ll be able to clearly evaluate and make an informed purchase that adds to your enjoyment and return on investment.

As an art consultancy firm, we recommend you consider the following questions when you begin acquiring art:

What Do I Like?

Which artworks grab you? Which pieces do you find yourself revisiting and pondering? If your preference is for abstract art or pop art, find galleries in your area that curate these types of works. Inquire about the artists, and follow them online. Be where the art is. Attend art fairs, gallery openings, and museum shows. Of course, websites and social media offer unlimited sources of artwork. By utilizing both real and virtual expeditions to find artwork, you can educate yourself about the genre of art you prefer, the art movement, the artists working in the genre. In addition, you can meet experts and curators who can lead you to artwork that suits your tastes and investment goals.

What Do I Know About The Artist?

Learn as much as you can about the artist. The artist herself, a dealer, or a gallery representing the artist’s work can share insight with you. Also look to online and print information, such as bios on the artist’s and gallery’s websites, exhibition reviews, art reference books, and art databases. Take note of important information, such as:

  • When the artist was born/died
  • Where the artist lives
  • Where her artwork is exhibited
  • Awards and recognition the artist has received
  • Who owns some of the artist’s works
  • The artist’s credentials and career history
  • The artist’s educational background
  • Is there a good auction history?
  • Is the artist already established as “collectable”?

This information can help you paint a picture of the artist and assess how accomplished and respected he or she is. It also adds up to the provenance of the artwork and should be documented to provide a record and history of the works you buy from that artist.

What Is The Significance Of The Art?

To gauge the significance of the artwork, you’ll want to consider a number of factors:

  • Has the artist has sold similar works?
    This can offer some insight into how attractive the market finds the artist’s work as well as provide a consistent selling history of the work.
  • Is this the original painting or part of a limited series?
    In most cases, an original artwork is a unique piece; no other like it exists in the world. Its singularity is one factor that determines its value, amongst other aspects such as the renown of the artist, and the importance (in terms of historical context) of the work. In specific instances, the paintings may be a part of a series, in which the subject matter, style, colors, genre, and tone are similar. Each piece in the series is almost always priced as a sole work. As a collector, you may consider the advantages of buying more than one work in the series—weighing the current value against the speculative investment.In photography, for example, a photographer will usually create limited editions from his or her original print. You’ll see that noted as a ratio in a corner of the print. For example, 2/20 indicates it’s the second print from a limited series of 20 prints. The more limited the series, the more valuable the works. Some photographers elect to sell their work as open edition prints, meaning there is no limit to the prints produced. Open edition prints are priced lower than limited edition prints.*This is true of Paintings, sculptures and many other forms of art, as well.
  • Is this an original work or a reproduction?
    An original work by an artist typically appreciates in value more and consequently commands a higher price than do reproductions of a work.
  • Will you be the first owner of this piece or buying it from someone else?
    It’s critical to retain all documentation from the sales transaction. Save your bill of sale and documents of provenance (more on these below). All of these will serve as a written record of the artwork’s history of ownership. Even as the first owner of an artwork, the documentation creates a clear paper trail of the work’s provenance.
  • What style is this artwork?
    Does it contain original methods in application, approach, and use of materials, or is it rendered using traditional methods? Art that has unique qualities and brings a fresh perspective will often become more collectible over time than art that replicates famous styles made popular by other artists.

What Documentation Exists About The Art?

This is important when you’re considering buying a piece of artwork and also when you’ve started collecting works of art. Detailed documentation will help you verify the artwork is what it is claimed to be. By confirming a piece of art’s authenticity, good documentation can increase art’s collectibility and market value.

Examples of documentation you might obtain or prepare for this purpose include:

  • History/provenance – Essentially, this is a biography of the art from when the artist created it until present.
  • Documents that verify authentication – A document of certification shares various facts about an artwork—such as, the title, date created, size, medium, and artist’s signature—to verify the authenticity of the work. The document may be drawn up and hand-signed by an artist or an authenticator. Other documentation that bolsters the authenticity of the work may be photographs of the artist with the work, or original bills of sale, or correspondence from the artist. With older works, more documentation from multiple sources can strengthen authentication of a piece.
  • History of sales – This should show all individuals and/or companies who owned the artwork before you and when they bought and sold it.
  • Bill of sale – When you purchase the artwork, this will serve as your receipt. A bill of sale gives you proof of ownership—documentation you’ll need if in the future you decide to sell the art or pass down the art to heirs of your estate.
  • Appraisal – An appraisal is a legal document that states the value of a piece of artwork. If information exists about how much buyers paid for other works by the same artist, an appraisal may not be necessary, but still a primary document to have that establishes a fair market value.

Another piece of documentation that may be required when buying important pieces of artwork is a “letter of intent.” A letter of intent may be part of the paperwork when negotiating significant works, like those of Modern Masters and Old Masters. A letter of intent gives the seller confirmation that you intend to purchase the art barring any unwelcome discoveries (inauthenticity, damage, etc.) during your research of the piece.

Is The Asking Price Reasonable?

Many new collectors don’t realize the price of artwork is often up for negotiation. Before starting that conversation with the seller, you’ll need to do some research to discover how reasonable the asking price is.

Your due diligence should include:

  • Comparing the asking price to the previous prices the art has sold for (usually found in the sales documentation).
  • Researching other works sold by the artist or similarly sized works in the same genre of the art you’re buying.
  • Tuning into prices paid at auction sales of similar works.
  • Researching galleries (brick-and-mortar and online) to compare pricing. (The same artwork might be listed on multiples sites at different price points. Consider which source will offer the most informed purchase.)

Buy With Confidence By Doing Your Homework

At Emillions Art, we truly believe anyone can buy art and begin collecting with confidence. A little time and effort to understand an artwork’s appeal and value will give you peace-of-mind as you begin collecting notable art.

Ready to begin or expand your art collection? Please visit our online gallery to view the works of our featured artists who represent an array of styles and media. And if you have any questions or need guidance, feel free to contact us.


  • Kyle Winters says:

    Buying art online can be quite difficult, so it is nice that the article gives some advice about making sure the price is reasonable. After all, no one likes having to pay too much for a piece of art. Ideally you’d want to know how much similar works have sold for before you agree to any price that the seller is asking.

  • Joy Butler says:

    I remember when I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming a painter as I really love to paint! I’ve been using crayons, watercolors, pencils and even charcoals from the fireplace. But it turned to be a different story after I ended up being a teacher. However, my passion for art and painting remain the same. That’s why I keep on collecting paintings that I really like! Thanks for sharing this very awesome article, BIG thumbs up!

  • Sophia Slate says:

    Thank you for your great article on buying art. My sister loves art, so I want to buy her some for her birthday. I will definitely utilize all of your great tips and information when buying art for my sister.

  • Ellie Davis says:

    I liked that you mentioned you need to consider the type of art that you liked to start your research. My husband and I just finished a remodeling project in our living room, and we are looking for advice to decorate it. I will make sure to follow your recommendations to buy the best art for our living room.

  • My uncle has been thinking about building an art collection so that he can appreciate that art and have his own collection. He would really like to get some help from a professional so that he can find the best stuff. I’ll be sure to tell him about how he should ask and learn as much as he can about the artist so that he can display it properly.

  • Thank you so much for your tips for buying and collecting art for your home. I love how you recommend doing research on other works of art by the artist of the work you are considering buying. I think that it would also be very beneficial to invest in an art appraisal service to make sure you are getting the best deal out of the art.

  • Charlotte Fleet says:

    Thanks for your tips on buying art for your collection, especially how you suggest making sure an asking price is reasonable by comparing it to past prices. My mom and dad love collecting art to hang on their walls. I will make sure that they look for art pieces that have reasonable asking prices.