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Where to Buy Art

Where's the best place to find art to buy? Here are some places to look, with their principal pros and cons:

Galleries

  • Pro: Personal service. Can keep you posted about new works for sale by artists whom they represent. More leisurely purchase decisions than at auctions. Eager to advise you about integrating art with your home décor.
  • Con: Some can be stuffy and intimidating to novice buyers. Not for bargain hunters. Expect to pay top dollar in this low volume, high margin business.

Auctions (in person)

  • Pro: If the competition is light, you can pick up a bargain.
  • Con: Narrow time window (usually only a few days) between inspecting an item and deciding whether to bid. If you are impulsive, you can overpay.

House Sales, Estate Sales, Flea Markets, etc.

  • Pro: If the seller is unsophisticated or desperate to raise cash, you can get a bargain.
  • Con: If the seller is a huckster, you can get stuck with a fake. Lots of time needed for driving around and picking through debris.

Artist Studios

Some artists sell directly to the public, out of their studios (also called ateliers).

  • Pro: It’s fun and informative to meet the artist and perhaps see him or her at work. You may or may not get a better price than if the same work were sold through a third-party gallery. See our article about art pricing.
  • Con: May be restrictive on forms of payment accepted.

Online Sellers (includes online auctions)

  • Pro: Saves time. Offers great variety. Established galleries and auction houses increasingly post their sales catalogs online and accept orders or bids online.
  • Con: Cannot inspect items before purchase in most, but not all, instances. Dealing with unknown sellers can be risky.

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