A beginners guide to buying art

A Beginners Guide to Buying Art

Becoming an art collector is no longer the preserve of the elite. If you love art and want to adorn your walls with it, here are a few tips for building a collection that you’ll come to treasure. The art market can seem like a daunting world, especially if you are starting from scratch, but everyone has to start somewhere. We hope this acts as a sensible guide to get you out of the blocks.

  • Buy what you love and trust your instinct

Buy artwork that you love looking at – it’s as simple as that!

Part of the joy of this journey in the art world is finding, and honing, your own style and taste. You will be naturally drawn to a style or medium, which will lead to an interest and knowledge in this area. That’s priceless! If you are always trying to look for the next art investment, regardless of whether you like it or not, you’ll miss out on enjoying artwork that speaks to you. We suggest buying a mixture of both – some investment pieces and others that you simply can’t live without! As Cath Kidston says of her own art collection, ‘Although over the years I’ve come to recognise certain artists, on the whole I don’t buy for an artist’s name. It’s actually a matter of falling in love with a picture, buying on impulse.’

  • Buy artwork in person – wherever possible

Lockdown saw a boom in art sales, many of which were online and from social media. The phenomenon that was the ‘Artists Support Pledge’ spawned a new generation of younger collectors picking up incredible artworks for a song, whilst supporting artists during the pandemic. Whilst supporting art sales, we would always suggest seeing the artwork in person for obvious reasons – the palette will look completely different, does it spark an emotional response? You’ll be able to see its true size and presence and stand right in front of it. When you know, you know!

  • Build a relationship with your local gallery

Don’t be intimidated by galleries! Long gone are the days of snobby and dismissive gallery owners. There is so much joy to be found in finding a local gallery that you love and making regular visits to discover new artwork, talk about art, learn about art and build a long-term relationship with your gallery manager. We should all take the time to connect within our community in the same way we might with our hardware store or corner shop. In this way, you will learn about artist provenance, price structures, the time involved in creating a piece, limited edition prints, framing options and so on. You’ll be invited to socialise with gallerists, artists and industry specialists. It will open you up to a rich and diverse community. If you are looking to make savvy art investments, this is a great place to start the journey. My paintings are available to buy from Otter Gallery. Find out more here.

Otter Gallery offers an Art Advisory Service, sourcing contemporary artwork for your home in a highly personalised way. Their website also uses clever technology to show you what a particular painting would look like hanging in an interior. Galleries are there to help connect you to artworks that you love and will treasure – it’s an intimate and invaluable service.

  • Do your research

Apart from the obvious joy of learning about the provenance and personal story of an artist, you’ll be broadening your understanding of the value of a collection. Their narrative brings an intimacy and value that goes beyond the visual stimulation and will help you to grow your knowledge base. Follow artists and contemporary galleries on Instagram and get to know their process. Make it your business to find out about as much as you can. Who is the next big thing? Who is everyone talking about? Which anniversaries are coming up? Which artist is going to shoot up in value posthumously?

  • Get Out & About

Go to as many exhibitions and openings as you can. We are lucky enough to live in a culture steeped in the arts and in a country that understands its importance. To that end, we have many regional institutions that host open exhibitions from the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, to the Royal Academy of Scotland, art societies across the country – all of which are fantastic places to buy and start collecting.

One of the best places to pick up established and emerging artworks is at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. England has a proliferation of art fairs with an increasing fan base – the appetite for buying original artwork is growing. The London Original Print Fair is a favourite amongst collectors.

Original watercolour paintings by Sarah Middleton, available to buy from Otter Gallery
  • Consider buying Original Prints & Reproductions

Many major artists produce limited edition prints which can be an affordable way to start your collection. These can be created in a variety of ways, etched onto a plate, drawn onto a lithographic stone or engraved from a block of wood. Many are sold through non-profit making organisations like the Royal Academy or the Whitechapel Gallery. Independent galleries often have the opportunity to exhibit collections of original lithographs, silkscreens and monotypes – also high quality reproductions – by well known names such as Sir Terry Frost, Patrick Hughes, Barbara Rae, Sandra Blow, Bruce McLean, Keith Haring, Peter Blake and so on. 

Pick up a copy of A Buyers Guide to Prints by Helen Rosslyn here;


  • Own Art

Own Art is a government scheme which enables people to buy artworks with the help of an interest free loan. Many galleries and art fairs offer this service and it’s a brilliant way of paying for an artwork incrementally.

  • Keep an eye on the Graduates

Go to the graduate shows of the major art schools and get to know the names of the work that inspires you. Those names will keep popping up on your radar as they get picked up by galleries for representation, so investing early is a savvy move. Graduate shows are a fantastic way to meet the artists, talk to them about their work and even arrange a studio visit. You could become their first personal client!

  • Open Studios – a real treat

Far from being colloquial events, Open Studios is a bone-fide way of discovering high- quality professional artists and makers in your region. For a few weekends of the year, you’ll have the rare opportunity to step inside their studio and pick up work from new and archived collections at studio prices.

Find out more about Otter Gallery Services here: https://ottergallery.co.uk/services/