How to buy art online without getting stung

Buying art online can take courage. Here's some tips to make you feel brave.
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Buying art online can take courage. Here's some tips to make you feel brave.

Browse through Trademe or eBay and there is a vast array of art (although some may debate this label) for sale.

Selecting something worthy can be like unearthing an unseen Goldie. So if you are serious about starting, or adding to a collection, we wanted to know what you should you look for when buying a piece online?

We talk to Sanderson Gallery owner Kylie Sanderson about this predicament, and what possible pitfalls to avoid.

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P J Paterson is making photo-realist paintings, and manipulated photographic and video works. His work, 'Revelation 8:7'.
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P J Paterson is making photo-realist paintings, and manipulated photographic and video works. His work, 'Revelation 8:7'.

 

When buying art online, what should you look for?

Collectors should look for established, reputable galleries who are respected within the industry. The reputation of the gallery will usually ensure good service. 

Unless you are already very familiar with the work of the artist you're considering and the gallery you're buying from, a right of return is the primary thing I would look for.

Artworks often look very different in person - usually better - but it is best to have the option in case the images are not indicative of the actual piece.

If the right of return isn't possible, ask the gallery to send you pictures of the work in situ (to show edges, finishing / framing, scale, etc) and perhaps some close-up details within the work.

'Same as it ever was' by artist Josephine Cachemaille.
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'Same as it ever was' by artist Josephine Cachemaille.

Apart from that, use common sense - never buy anything from an unsolicited email and don't pay any other way except credit card unless you already have a relationship with the gallery.

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What's a good indication of an artist's success?

This is the ultimate question but really is unanswerable. However, there are some markers that almost all successful artists will display - although not all artists who display these traits will make it big, these are indicators that you have a chance at least.

Sanderson says Josephine Cachemaille is an artist to watch. This is her acrylic on board piece, Manoeuvre 8.
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Sanderson says Josephine Cachemaille is an artist to watch. This is her acrylic on board piece, Manoeuvre 8.

Look for artists who have:

- A strong exhibition history including exhibitions in publicly-operated spaces with independent curators

- Featured in articles in independently edited art publications 

- Support from at least one reputable gallery

- Conceptual integrity rather than just technical proficiency - an original voice, something that is not merely a competent copy of work that has gone before.

Having said this, the first three things are unlikely to be present for artists who are just starting out - if you want to support an emerging artist and you're not being asked for too much money for the piece, look for good training, an experimental approach to their work, at least some projects / exhibitions, and whether you think it is saying something new. 

Other than loving an artist's work, what else should you look for? For example, where they trained, awards, scholarships, etc?

There are schools with better reputations than others but there are good artists coming out of less well-known schools and poor artists coming out of the best schools, as well as self-taught artists.

In terms of awards, residencies and grants, there is a vast difference in the weight that these carry - larger national / internationally open awards and residencies will attract a higher quality of entries and attention than smaller, regional awards. 

What up-and-coming artists do you think are worth following?

P J Paterson - he is making incredible photo-realist paintings, and manipulated photographic and video works. He recently won the Pingyao International Photography Festival Supreme Art Photography Award and the Auckland Festival of Photography Commission for 2015. With works from a few hundred dollars, this makes him an affordable choice.

Josephine Cachemaille has playfully-dark sculptural works to interact with and hand-stitched draperies have made her a favourite of other gallerists and artists who have added several of her works to their personal collections.

She is super-active in public exhibitions, and winner of The National Contemporary Art Award - Merit Award (2016); and The Wallace Art Awards - Jury Award winner (2016), along with an upcoming feature article in Art New Zealand.  

Karyn Taylor's stunning sculptural and light-based works definitely don't show their full potential online; but Taylor's selection for inclusion in international Art Fairs and public sculpture exhibitions, along with her warm reception from critics and curators, bodes well for her future. Works are visually engaging but also conceptually bold.

All these artists have that key factor - an original voice - and all are deeply committed to their practice. They are lifers - artists who would keep making work even if there was no one watching, just because they are driven to.

In a sense all artists need to have that aspect as there are always times when no one is interested in what you do, particularly when starting out.

 - Stuff

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