Rules of Buying Art

Life drawing (detail) by Paul Watson

Life drawing (detail) by the author

The consensus amongst artists I’ve spoken to is that British people very rarely buy original artwork.

It seems to be a particularly British thing: in general people in the US and continental Europe seem much more open to buying original artwork they like. There are numerous theories about why this is. Based on some of these theories I’ve formulated…

Paul’s Rules of Buying Art

  1. Despite what you may have heard, buying art is not a financial investment - you should buy it for your own enjoyment just as frequently and as spontaneously as you buy books, music, and DVDs, without worrying whether they’ll be worth anything in 20 years.
  2. Because buying art is not a financial investment, you don’t need to be an expert - the art market is not like the stock exchange. Instead you simply see something you personally like, buy it from the artist or a gallery, and hang it on the wall of your living room, bedroom, study, office, etc. The more pieces of art on your walls, the better.
  3. Just as some people will judge you on your taste in books, music, and films you will probably be judged on what art you buy. You should ignore these people in the same way you ignore people who judge you on what you books you read, music you listen to, or films you like. If you like it and you can afford it, then buy it.

I may add new rules as and when I think of them. Meanwhile if you fancy doing some art shopping…

Addendum: I should add that I think that the concept that “buying art is an investment” is the thing that has damaged art sales and financially hurt artists more than anything else.

Investments are complicated things that need to be carefully considered with advice from experts. Buying a piece of artwork should be as care-free as buying a CD, DVD, or novel, but unfortunately some idiot tried to be clever with the whole “investment” idea, and made a simple purchase of fun and pleasure feel like something frightening and complicated. It’s not - buying a piece of art is as easy and uncomplicated as buying a DVD box-set that you like.