How Things Work: Buying Art for Beginners

Art is a great way to fill your home with personality and color unfortunately it is often an even better way to empty your wallet. Your first apartment is an awkward time between having worn out dorm posters and a Warhol lithograph in a gilded frame. Even the “affordable art fairs” are usually a joke since putting $1,000 down on a Hearst may be a great deal but it is still more than your rent. Most people I know have stepped away from the heavy hitter art and instead focused on framing. Movie and concert posters have gotten a serious update since coming down from our dorm room ceilings and since they’re meaningful we don’t mind that they won’t be passed down to future generations. But what if you want something epic? What if you want something to pass one, a piece of art you sit and happily stare at while you sit in the dark with a NEST beach candle and drink pink champagne for no damn reason at all?

Step 1: Pick a price point. Maybe $1,000 is within your budget, even if you do feel it in your core. I wouldn’t start “investing” in art in your 20s, unless you’ve already bought yourself a brownstone – then yolo you lucky son-of-a-gun. Art doesn’t always appreciate in value and it can take years. Personally, my “art budget” would have to max out at $250.

Step 2: Pick a deciding factor. You can find a piece you love. And you can find a piece by an amazing artist, but the odds of these overlapping within your price point is slim. Is it imperative that your piece be large? Match your headboard? be signed? Do you want a lithograph or a painting? This certainly isn’t an organic method of finding your new piece but it is effective. *When selecting where your piece will go check for beams, if you can’t get a screw in, it can make hanging a small piece difficult – more below.*

Step 3: Don’t be afraid of galleries. Gallery girls are scary and the price tags seem ominous but I’ve popper into a few and found Dali sketches for $300 or very cool paintings but unknown (to me) artists for about $800. There are also auctions online that can help your track down a specific piece. If you love a painting there may be a study (sketch or small painting) that you can own yourself.

Step 4: Go shopping! Ultimately the art in your home should be something you love and that you won’t have to sell a month later when you’re starving.

Step 5: Decide on scale and aesthetic. Generally the frame is dictated by the piece but you may decide that a baroque frame is just too much for your decor, even if it is a baroque painting you just purchased. Take measurements and a photo of the piece to a framer who will help you choose a frame. If the painting is dark and gloomy isolate colors within the artwork and bring them into the frame. This will brighten the work up a bit. You also need to decide if you want a shiny finish or matte and wood versus metal. An easy guidelines in matte and wood for pre-1920 and lacquered metal post-1920. Also don’t forget to include the price of framing in your purchase price. Framing and matting (don’t skimp on the mat!) is super expensive, plan $150-$500 depending on the size of your piece. ALSO: Consider lighting. If you frame in glass beware of glare and tell your framer about your lighting situation. Is it overhead and bright? Hold a frame your already own in your intended hanging spot and see if you can make out the images details. (You may need to add a step 7: lighting if you’re up for it!)

Step 6: Mounting. If your piece is small and very light use a power drill, wall anchor, and screw instead of your usual picture hook. Use two screw so the piece won’t tilt. If you have a small piece and that pesky beam is mucking things up re-imagine your framing. Get a double mat with the larger and outermost mat being the color your frame would have been, then choose a frame the color of your wall or in a neutral. This will make your piece bigger and you should be able to put a screw on either side of the beam and anchor your art.



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