Tips for buying art online

T he Internet is a wonderful place that gives us access to a global shopping experience. With just a credit card, you can go on a round-the-world shopping spree in an evening – no passport required! Convenience and variety make this experience what it is. However, beware the lure of instant gratification while shopping online, especially when shopping for more valuable items like furniture or artwork. If you intend to buy art online, here’s some valuable advice before you whip out your credit card to make a purchase.

1. For better or for worse

Out of every one piece of art that is worth your time and attention, there are 100 others that are not. Be very aware of the opportunistic “online art galleries” trying to sell “authentic” art, since these aren’t curated like the real-deal galleries. These back-door galleries sell art that can best be described as amateur. They release bad quality art in a space that has the potential to really promote great artists, leaving a blemish on the market as a whole.

2. Location, location

One way to identify the good online galleries is to find out whether they have physical addresses or are linked to physical art galleries. The purpose of the online galleries would be to extend the exposure for the artists and turn their local reach (the physical gallery) into a global one (the online gallery). The online gallery should also have a physical address, postal address, and phone number along with the email address, ensuring that there are actual people behind the art sales.

3. Insist on authentication

When purchasing art from a physical gallery, it’s part of the process to receive a document that authenticates the original art you are buying – especially if your purchase is one of a series of prints. If a website doesn’t have an authentication policy or statement by default, be wary of what you expect to receive if you decide to buy from them.

4. Know your reason for buying

If you know exactly why you want to buy art, you can also establish a budget. Auction estimates can only give you a rough idea of how much to expect to pay for art, especially if purchased on auction. If you establish a budget, you can avoid emotional bidding and ensure you don’t end up paying too much for an artwork you may not have wanted that much to begin with. Level with yourself about whether you’re buying art because you love the look of it, or buying investment art.

5. Do your research

Before you make any large art purchases, do your homework about the artist, the website you intend buying from, and the piece of art you’re interested in. Ensure that the website and/or curator has a firmly established returns policy so that if you receive the art you’ve bought and you don’t like it, they’ll be happy for you to return it. Most sites with fair returns policies state a less than 2% return rate because purchasers are happy with the art.

Don’t forget that artists, galleries and auction houses also need “real world” support, and while buying art online may be fun and limitless, there’s usually free wine at gallery openings and art events!

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