Art to art

Posted 27 June 2016 by Richenda Oldham

Do your homework first and buy for love. WhatHouse? investigates how to build an art collection…

Buying art is a highly personal affair and if you are starting from scratch, the prospect of building your own collection can be a little daunting. The important thing is to be honest with yourself about your motives. Are you buying for pleasure or purely financial investment?

Both reasons have their own benefits…the satisfaction of looking at a beautiful painting or a sculpture in the comfort of your own home is equal to any potential financial gain from a piece, but then again the thrill of seeing your affordable investment increase in value is exciting and rewarding, too.

The sensible way to approach art buying is to be selective and go for quality, not quantity. A few key pieces with excellent provenances will stand the test of time and give you long lasting enjoyment.

Whatever your reasons for prospective purchases, here are a few tips from three experts on what to think about when shopping for art.

Should you buy art as an investment or because you love the piece?

Luci Noel, Affordable Art Fair director says:

"Art is a complete expression of ourselves and can provide an escape from our everyday stresses. For a lot of people, it makes a house a home. So when choosing a piece of art, the most important thing is to find something that you want to live with. It may be a significant purchase, but you’re going to spend years looking at and enjoying it, and so my advice is to buy what you love and what excites you."

Where should I be looking to buy art?

Ruth Wilkinson, creative director of gallery Scream London, says:

"Visit exhibitions and see big shows. Learn what you like without the pressure of buying by going to galleries and exploring different types of art and artists, from pop art to portraiture there is something that will inspire you. For example, with contemporary art look back to the roots – if you are considering a Tracey Emin piece, for example, study artists who influenced her and the movements that inspired her to give you a deeper understanding of where her works comes from.

"Look on social media – Instagram is a great way to find inspiration. Search relevant hashtags, look at auction houses and look at artists own profiles, sometimes looking at who they are following is a way to broaden you knowledge of a particular type of art.

"Seek advice and form a relationship with your favourite gallery. A good gallery will allow you the chance to meet the artists and you may enjoy finding inspiration from them directly."

What sort of pieces should I consider when starting a collection?

Sophia Kisielewska, content curator at says:

"If you have a low budget, you might want to consider looking at prints, drawings or posters, which can be just as impactful and beautiful as large oil paintings or sculptures, but can be snapped up at a fraction of the cost. Investing in art can be a risky business. Generally people recommend buying for pleasure rather than investment. But if you happen to like contemporary British artists, you might succeed in making a good investment. Try and catch contemporary artists' work when it starts entering the secondary market. In the past few decades, some buyers who have done this have seen big returns. In the 90s, a painting by the British artist Ken Howard could be brought for £500-£700, now at auction his pieces can fetch more than £30,000.  You want to invest in artworks, which have a good and complete provenance and are in perfect condition, these will fetch higher prices than those without either."


1. Harvest Moon by Sally Elford, screenprint, limited edition of 50, £85, Rostra Gallery,

2. Purple Lolly by Rosha Nutt, four-colour screenprint, limited edition of 50, £95,

3. 'Twiggy', Gelatin silver print photograph by Barry Lategan, £260,

4. Wild dog ceramic sculpture by Nick Mackman, £1,950,

5. City Memories by Alison Johnson, original oil painting, £2,000,

6. Challenging the lines by Sally Lancaster, original oil painting, £7,500,


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