How to Buy, Collect and Invest in Art

By Rebecca Gordon, Head Curator of Rise Art.

There has never been a better or more easy time to buy art and think about starting a collection! The ever rapid rise of the online art world, independent artists using social media channels to showcase their work, and the growing art fair scene means that there is an inflation of aspiring collectors and art lovers.

More and more of us are looking to take the plunge and gone are the days where the cold, sombre art gallery was the only place to go looking. However, with all this accessible art, we still have the challenge of finding ‘the perfect piece’, which frankly, can be as difficult and frustrating as trying to find the perfect partner – art is personal, it’s all about the connection!


Below are some tips to consider before embarking on your search:


  • The Secret To Buying Art

The secret is there is NO secret. If you see a piece of art that you absolutely love and you want to buy it, then buy it. You don’t need special credentials or a degree in Art History, all you need is the desire to buy and the means to do it. There is no right or wrong when it comes to buying art.


  • Buying Vs. Collecting

There is a significant difference between the two. Buying is a random activity which comes about through individual tastes and attractions as and when the individual comes into contact with an artwork they connect with. Collecting art is a purposeful act which through certain research and evaluation skills results in the owner forming a meaningful and coherent collection of artworks that speak to each other individually and as a whole.


  • Art as an Investment

Whether you should buy art for art’s sake or as an investment is consistently a big question. The good news is that the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The first rule of thumb is to buy what you like, because you will be living with this work – it should intrigue, excite, challenge, and uplift you. And if, in addition, you are interested in collecting up-and-coming artists whose work might appreciate, then firstly buy early. Try to familiarise yourself with the artist’s résumé and background, like what art schools they have attended, the awards they have received, any collectors of note who bought their work and also what they have planned for the future – solo or group exhibitions, residencies, and the like.


  • Be Prepared and Informed

Regardless of the motivation behind buying art, you can help yourself by being prepared and informed. Do some research: visit galleries and museums, read reviews, and train your eye. Know your taste and budget, and take your time – but not too much time! The wonderful thing about art is that much of it is one of a kind. Excluding prints and multiples, an artwork is a unique object – so if you hesitate for too long you may miss out on something you love.


  • Know the Factors that Affect the Price of Art


Primary vs. secondary market: Pieces bought on the primary market (that is, you are the first owner) tends to be less expensive than those bought on the secondary market (that is, previously owned works being sold privately, through a gallery or at auction).


Rarity: Is the piece one of a kind, or one of an edition of 100?


Medium: In most cases a work on canvas is more valuable than one on paper – however this is not an absolute, rather it is contingent on the artist and the market for their work.


  • Where to Find Art


Traditional Galleries: The best way to train your eye – and it’s free! Take as many opportunities as you can to visit commercial galleries and see what is new and on view.


Art Fairs: Art fairs are a great hunting ground. Within them you are provided with a huge selection of curated artworks, all under one roof.


Graduation Shows: Some of the most exciting locales to view contemporary art are at art school graduation exhibitions. Prices are reasonable, there is often an exceptional range of works on view, and you often get to meet the artist whilst looking at the work. However, please bear in mind that this is very immature work; the artist may change their style radically as he/she develops. That being said, we love the adventure of it all.


Auctions: Familiarising yourself with an auction house’s buyer’s commission is essential. Auction house pre-sale exhibitions are usually exceptional displays of art – and they’re free to the public! We think they are a wonderful way to train your eye, so plan a walk through the galleries each auction season and relish the visual feasts on offer.


Online Galleries:

Unlike the fashion and music worlds, the art market is yet to be wholly revolutionised by online buying, however, there is no doubt that it is just moments away, as the art industry continues to rapidly grow and gain momentum on the internet, with the medium being recognised for the transparency and democratisation that it provides to this new wave of art collectors. The Hiscox online art trade report has recently been released and the findings confirm that despite the slowing global art market, online art market sales are up 15% from 2015. Therefore, it is time to familiarise yourself with the online marketplaces and some of their benefits over the bricks and mortar establishments:


  • Exceptional selection of artwork available in one place where you can search with the aid of specialised filters from the comfort of your home.
  • Not intimidating and often there is a free ‘Speak to a curator’ service available for you to consult with a professional for added support and suggestions, and to allay any fears of the unknown.
  • Try-before- you-buy, rental and often free returns services are offered in order to give the customer reassurance when purchasing an unseen work.
  • Trusted sites are generally curated by a Selection Committee to ensure a high quality of art.
  • Professional and affordable framing service is often available so the customer avoids this extra step and receives the artwork looking it’s best.


  • Embrace Instagram

Instagram is the holy grail of visual aesthetic right now, confirmed by Hiscox to have overtaken Facebook as the preferred social media platform for visual art. It is a great and powerful tool that artists as well as auction houses and museums are using to showcase their work to increasing effect in the best, most immediate light possible, and collectors in turn are responding by buying works that they find through this pictorial platform. Follow commercial and online galleries to discover the latest emerging artists and find the hashtags that you love, it’s a great place to explore, and explore you should! The more time spent looking, the more you’ll get to know what you like or don’t like.


  • Follow Your Gut

The golden rule, follow your gut and buy what you love! Do not overthink it or try to follow trends, identify the latest breakout artist or invest purely for a monetary return. Art was not created to become an object of speculation. Instead, collect art that brings you joy and speaks to you personally – that is where the real value of collecting art lies, regardless of whether you are buying in person or online. If you follow these guidelines, do some exploring and a little research, have the added comfort of discovering the art you love through a reputable, trusted source and lastly choose from the heart, you will never be disappointed.

Rise Art 

Rebecca Gordon is the Head Curator at Rise Art. She is predominately focused on recruiting talented emerging and established artists to the site and managing Rise Art’s board of art world insiders. She also advises corporate companies and private individuals on their art collections.
She has previously worked for a London based Modern British dealer in 20th century art, as well as for a 17th century Dutch Old Master dealer on Bond Street before moving her expertise in to contemporary art. She has an M.A. in History of Art from Edinburgh University.