Art Collecting Tips for Profit and Pleasure (6-Part Series) Part 4-Know The Art Market


Great collectors know the marketplace, and the marketplace knows them. They are plugged into the grapevine and are among the first to find out when a choice work becomes available. They are active in the hunt for quality pieces to add to their collection, so they make it known that they want to be kept informed.

Cultivate Relationships With Good Dealers

Did you know that not all newly-available art is displayed by galleries, whether

brick-and-mortar or online? Quite often, the best items are offered and sold to

favored customers without any publicity or exposure. The most sought-after pieces

often exchange hands privately.

Find out who the good dealers are and cultivate a relationship with them. Let them

know what you like, what your preferences are and what kind of budget you have.

Naturally, dealers like to cultivate loyalty so they tend to reserve preferential

treatment for their best clients.

Let the dealer know that you are a good candidate for this special treatment. Be

responsive when the dealer contacts you. If you trust the dealer and he or she offers

you an artwork which meets your specifications and your budget, accept it with

minimal negotiation. Avoid haggling just for the sake of getting a lower price.

Dealers find this annoying. Of course, if you have a valid reason for asking for a

lower price, then let the dealer know.

Do your part to be a good customer and favor will come your way.


Now, what about buying at auctions? Auctions can be a lot of fun and you can pay

less than retail prices but, in order to make really worthwhile buys, you must do

your homework. Be particular about the auctions you patronize. Many auctions offer

inferior or, worse, problematic pieces which are not worth bidding on.

You should be especially careful with charity auctions; people who donate to such

events often do so for social or tax reasons. In other words, charity auctions can be

a dumping ground for inferior art. If you were a dealer, would you donate highly-

marketable art that can easily fetch a good price to a charity auction? You’d

probably be more willing to part with art which is unpopular, flawed, minor and so


One red flag is the price. If something seems like an unbelievable bargain, too good

to be true, it probably is. Good-quality, collectible art will have many suitors, so that

will tend to chase the price up.

The auctions most likely to yield valuable finds are those which offer art owned by

highly-regarded entities such as museums and other institutions, respected artists,

collectors and galleries. These bodies sometimes do a ‘spring-cleaning’ of sorts, to

focus on their core interests or collections. In the process, they may actually let go

of some great art, simply because it does not fit in with their long-term plans.

Once you’ve spotted something of interest to you, the same rules of art acquisition

apply. Find out as much as you can about the piece and check its condition before

the auction starts. If it meets your criteria, you can proceed to make a bid.

Buying On The Internet

With the advent of the internet, anyone can be an armchair collector today. For

convenience and choice, the internet is hard to beat. Just by tapping a few keys, you

can view art in the comfort of your home and find out everything you need about a

known artist and his or her artwork. Try this, for instance:


Of course, the internet has its hazards, just like the ‘real’ world. If you’re thinking of

purchasing art via the internet, check whether the online dealer:

  • is accredited by the artist(s)
  • specializes in a certain genre or artist (this reflects expertise)
  • runs a proper, professional website, with all necessary information
  • provides contact details (do a test by calling or e-mailing)
  • is transparent about costs
  • ensures all pieces are covered by insurance
  • has a return / refund policy
  • has a secure online transaction system

Just like for conventional dealers, it’s possible to establish a ‘favored client’

relationship with an internet dealer. Send out your feelers and let the dealer know

what you like.

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